His letter to citizens of Nantucket
written after the election, ascribes it to other engagements, pursuit of health, and additional constraint since Webster
's death,—reasons which alone are not quite satisfactory.
Another and better explanation is to be found in his nature, and in his view of a public man's position.
He had recently spoken at length.
Nothing fresh had come to his mind, and he did not care to repeat what he had recently said.
Unlike many extemporaneous speakers at the bar, in the pulpit, and on the hustings, who can vary with ease their vocabulary and arrangement of materials, so that the same speech repeated at a hundred meetings appears each time a different one,— Sumner
, when he had put his thought in the shape which suited him, was averse to putting it afterwards into any other less satisfactory.
His position was one which, according to usage, might in his view exempt him from continuous speaking in a campaign.
, and Choate
were accustomed to treat public questions at length in a convention, or other meeting specially called for the purpose of hearing them, without being subjected to the drudgery of passing night after night from one audience to another, repeating in substance what they had said twenty-four hours before; and they followed in this respect the English
But the condition of things in Massachusetts
was at this time novel, and the emergency pressing.
To say nothing of the obligations of good fellowship recognized in politics as elsewhere, the Free Soilers
had at command no voice like Sumner
's; and its power had been increased in manifold degree by the position in which after a long and memorable struggle they had placed him. Later, when he became more used to men and a life of action, he was more heedful of such obligations, and no occasion again occurred for the repetition of the kind of criticism which he encountered at this time.2
He wrote to the Earl
, Nov. 9, 1852:—
I will say that nobody but Mr. Webster could have made the Fugitive Slave bill in any degree tolerable at the North, and he is now dead.
In his tomb that accursed bill lies buried.
The Lawrences have returned full of warm regard for you and England.
Mr. Ingersoll, his successor, is an amiable