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[337] that ‘freedom is national, and slavery sectional,’ which at the outset he affirmed with an appeal to patriotism and the moral sense. His speech lasted two hours and a half, sometimes exceeding that limit, and was everywhere listened to by most attentive audiences crowding the halls to their utmost capacity, and numbering in cities like New Bedford and Worcester two thousand persons, and in Boston considerably more.1 He treated in detail the changes proposed not only in a technical but a large way, drawing liberally on his resources as a student of history and political philosophy. Though advocating the district system of representation as the best, he defended the plan submitted by the convention as far better than the existing one; and this part; of his speech was thought to be the ablest argument from any quarter,—logical, convincing, and unassailable.2 His refined hearers were impressed with his elevation of thought and breadth of view, while all were charmed with his chaste diction, his evident candor and sincerity, and the ease with which he handled the points of controversy. While his subject excluded the profound earnestness which imbued antislavery discourses, it invited a lively and varied treatment, and he adapted himself well to the changed conditions. His miscellaneous hearers were drawn to him sympathetically as they saw him in a new light,—not now the stern prophet of a cause, but more like one of themselves, human and busied with common interests.

Wilson, not usually enthusiastic in such matters, was greatly impressed with the speech; and two months later, when the issue involved was a past one, he expressed an earnest desire to have it written out and published as the best vindication of the work of the convention. An eminent lawyer of southern Massachusetts, T. G. Coffin, who had been familiar with the efforts of public speakers in Massachusetts for thirty years, writing nearly four months after he had heard Sumner at New Bedford, assigned to the address the highest place among all to which he had ever

1 Robert Carter's letter, published in the New York Evening Post, November 15, said: ‘Mr. Sumner has perhaps reached more men than any other speaker, having spoken seventeen or eighteen times to audiences averaging at least twelve hundred. He has advantages as an orator over any other public speaker in the State, and his speech on the Constitution is the ablest I have ever heard him deliver.’ The Springfield Republican, October 31, noticed the address from a Whig standpoint. It said that the Free Soilers had many orators, but ‘only one Sumner.’

2 Boston Commonwealth, October 31; New Bedford Standard, November 5.

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