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[333] history, was a thinly-veiled tribute to the pioneers of the antislavery cause.1 At this period of heated controversy it was difficult for either side to avoid allusions, open or covert, on festive or literary occasions to the question of slavery; and others besides Sumner, even on this occasion, assumed the right to make them.2 Mr. Everett, in thanking him for the printed copy of his ‘Finger Point from Plymouth Rock,’ regretted this habit, which he feared would break up patriotic celebrations by turning them into a party channel. Sumner said:—

Standing on Plymouth Rock, at their great anniversary, we cannot fail to be elevated by their example. We see clearly what it has done for the world, and what it has done for their fame. No pusillanimous soul here today will declare their self-sacrifice, their deviation from received opinions, their unquenchable thirst for liberty, an error or illusion. From gushing multitudinous hearts we now thank these lowly men that they dared to be true and brave. Conformity or compromise might, perhaps, have purchased for them a profitable peace, but not peace of mind; it might have secured place and power, but not repose; it might have opened present shelter, but not a home in history and in men's hearts till time shall be no more. All must confess the true grandeur of their example while, in vindication of a cherished principle, they stood alone against the madness of men, against the law of the land, against their king. Better the despised Pilgrim, a fugitive for freedom, than the halting politician, forgetful of principle, “with a Senate at his heels.”

Whittier thought the speech at Plymouth ‘a gem,’ and wrote:—

I can think of nothing more admirably conceived and expressed than the sentence, “Better the despised Pilgrim, a fugitive for freedom, than the halting politician, forgetful of principle, with a Senate at his heels.”

Receiving an invitation to attend the Fourth of July celebration by the city government of Boston for this year, Sumner sent to the mayor a toast in favor of a railroad from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean,3—an enterprise whose fulfilment seemed then far in the distance. Congress had taken the first step in the preceding March by providing for a survey, but the line was not open across the continent till sixteen years later.

Sumner wrote to W. W. Story at Rome, August 2:—

I take up this old sheet on which nearly a year ago I commenced a letter to you; if I have not written it has not been from indifference. Only yesterday

1 Works, vol. III. pp. 269-275.

2 For instance, Governor Clifford in a reference to the Constitutional convention, and R. Yeadon of South Carolina in praise of Webster's course on the Compromise.

3 Works, vol. III. p. 228.

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