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Mr. Sumner's political life was now to begin, and he chose for its opening the occasion of the National Anniversary of 1844, which was to be observed in Boston with unusual interest. A brief glance at the state of public affairs at the time, will faintly show what significance there was in the choice of the orator, and what important results were to follow his startling utterances.

American slavery was then in the zenith of its fearful [10] and unthreatened reign. It held the whole nation bound hand and foot. It dictated every law passed by Congress, and inspired every measure adopted in the Cabinet. It controlled the Press of a free, and exulted in the sanction of the Pulpit of a Christian, nation. It was extending its dark shadow over soil then free, and claiming its inhuman jurisdiction over every Northern hearth-stone. It unblushingly boasted that it would one day call the slave-roll on Bunker Hill—And why should the menace seem so unmeaning? Had not Boston seen William Lloyd Garrison, the chief apostle of freedom, dragged through her streets with a halter about his neck, within sight of that column of Liberty, with scarce a protest from her opulent and polite citizens? Had not the Governor and Legislature of Georgia set a price upon the head of that prophet of the coming dispensation of freedom; and should not the Northern Athens obey the behest of her cotton king?

African Slavery had become as sacred in the precincts of Faneuil Hall, as it was in the slave-den of Washington, where the sound of the auctioneer's hammer knocking down men, women, and children to the highest bidder, could be heard from the steps of the Capitol itself. More slave property was owned in Boston than in Charleston—abolitionist was as odious a name in Beacon Street as it was in the St. Charles Hotel in New Orleans—slavery had become the law of the great republic.

How then could Boston regard any word of irreverence towards that all-powerful Institution, as less than a declaration of war à l'outrance against the slaveholding States? And to inflame the indignity, these insulting words had been uttered by one of the most brilliant and [11] admired of her own long-descended aristocrats! What could not be tolerated, even in so plebeian a fanatic as Garrison, no longer than a rope could be thrown to a howling mob, rose when coming from the lips of the eloquent and travelled young patrician, the most atrocious blasphemy against God and the Constitution! And yet his great theme was ‘The True Grandeur of Nations,’ and the burden of his oration was Peace,—an oration which Cobden, the most eloquent advocate of peace in Europe, pronounced ‘the noblest contribution ever made by any modern writer to the cause of peace.’ But it gave offence to the magnates of the Whig Party in Massachusetts, since it was known that they were fast drifting, body and soul, into the embraces of the slave-power, which was demanding fresh aggressions upon the territory of Mexico, with a view to wrest from her some of her fairest possessions, to be devoted to the demon of human servitude. Mr. Sumner early foresaw that this would end in a collision with our sister republic, and which, under the dictation of the slave oligarchy, would be attended with outrages and injustice. The Whigs had been greatly weakened by the death of Harrison, and the wavering policy, and final defection of John Tyler; and the Democrats, preparing to regain their lost power, were also ready to bid for the pro-slavery vote. Thus both parties would hold up their hands for any measure that would give them votes, no matter how great the demolition of principle.

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