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To Whittier, February 5:—

I deplored Seward's speeches.1 The first he read to me, and I supplicated him not to make it. The true-hearted here have been filled with grief and mortification. People are anxious to save our forts, to save our national capital; but I am more anxious far to save our principles, which leaders now propose to abandon, as Mr. Buchanan proposed to abandon Fort Sumter. The public pride arrested the latter; I hope the public conscience may arrest the former. My old saying is revived in my mind. Backbone,—this especially is needed here. If we are saved, it will be by events, and not by men. The inordinate demand of the slave States will make it next to impossible to appease them; even compromise cannot go so far. If they asked less we should be lost. Pray keep Massachusetts firm and strong. She must not touch a word of her personal liberty laws. The slightest act of surrender by her would be a signal for the abasement of the free States.

To John Jay, February 5:—

I am filled with grief and oppressed with mortification when I see what is going on [the surrender of principles]. But my faith is yet strong that God will guide us safely to the end, and uphold our cause even when men desert it.

To F. W. Ballard, February 9:—

I fear nothing now but compromise. “The thing I am afraid of is fear,” says old Montaigne; and he was very wise.

To John Jay, March 27:—

Everything tends, as I have foreseen, to a break — up of the Union. But Seward is infatuated; he says in sixty days all will be well.

Sumner kept aloof from the debate on the crisis, yielding with some reluctance to the counsels of friends, who thought that if he gave his views his motives would be misconceived, and he would be accused of a purpose to increase the excitement.2 But he was not altogether silent. A few days after the session began he read to the Senate, with brief comments, an original private letter of Andrew Jackson, written in May, 1833, to Rev. Andrew J. Crawford, in which, referring to the attempt of South Carolina at nullification (then recently arrested), he said that ‘the tariff was only the pretext, and disunion and a Southern confederacy the real object,’ and added that ‘the next pretext will be the negro or slavery ’

1 January 12 and 31.

2 Notes of an undelivered speech prepared in February show his tone of mind at the time. Works, vol. v. pp. 481-483.

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