Chapter 58: the battle-flag resolution.—the censure by the Massachusetts Legislature.—the return of the angina pectoris. —absence from the senate.—proofs of popular favor.— last meetings with friends and constituents.—the ‘Virginius’ case.—European friends recalled.—1872-1873.
's health as the season opened was no better than when he left the country in September, and a sad winter was before him. Complying with his physician's directions, he asked to be relieved from service on committees.
He attended the Senate only for the first sixteen days, during which he spoke briefly on pending matters,1
and pressed without avail his civil-rights bill and his bill to enforce equality in the schools of the District of Columbia.
His last words for the session were on December 18, when he paid a tribute—one of his best offerings—to Garrett Davis
He did not appear in the Senate after the next day till the beginning of March, and then not to take part in the proceedings.3
At the special session which followed in that month he went only once to his seat, and then to present the credentials of Mr. Boutwell
, who had been chosen to succeed Mr. Wilson
,—leaning on his cane when conducting his colleague to the Vice-President
's desk to be sworn.4 Sumner
held at the time the position of ‘a man without a party.’
The call for a caucus of the Republican
senators was drawn in novel terms, inviting those only who had supported the platform and candidates of the party at the late election.
A copy was sent to him, probably as notice that he was not expected to attend.
The caucus assigned no places
to those who had supported Greeley
The Democrats placed Schurz
on the committee on foreign relations, of which he had been a member, notwithstanding his disclaimer of a political connection with them.
A proposition made by Sumner
in the Senate, a few moments after it met on the first day—it was the first time that he asked the attention of the chair—led to an excitement which is a curious illustration of the passions of the period.
He asked leave to introduce a bill as follows:—
Whereas the national unity and good — will among fellow-citizens can be assured only through oblivion of past differences, and it is contrary to the usage of civilized nations to perpetuate the memory of civil war; therefore, be it enacted, etc., that the names of battles with fellow-citizens shall not be continued in the Army Register, or placed on the regimental colors of the United States.6
This proposition accorded with the practice of civilized nations, ancient and modern.7 Sumner
, with the approval of high military authority, had twice before made efforts of a similar intent,—one in 1862, against placing on the regimental colors the names of victories obtained over our fellow-citizens; and another in 1865, against placing in the national Capitol
any picture of a victory or battle with our own fellow-citizens,— without incurring criticism or indeed attracting any general attention.8
What had been done without censure and with little
observation in the midst of the intense heats of the Civil War
strangely enough now provoked indignant protests in the name of patriotism, at a time when there had been an opportunity for the passions of war to subside, and the policy of restoration and reconciliation to take their place.
Time and circumstance showed that the professed sentiments were unreal, and that the occasion was taken advantage of to punish the senator's divergence from his party at the late election.
was thought to be rather reckless in opening fresh wounds anew; but it is not likely that he foresaw the clamor he was to provoke, and it is certain that he would not have hesitated in his purpose if he had foreseen it. Hale of Maine
offered, a few days later, in the House
, a counter proposition, which was passed, without debate, by a party vote.
This, as well as Sumner
's bill, was laid over in the Senate on account of his illness, as he expressed his desire to take part in the debate.
, though yielding to a postponement, avowed his earnest opposition to Sumner
At the time Sumner
introduced his bill the Legislature of Massachusetts was holding an extra session, called solely to meet exigencies growing out of the great fire in Boston
A member of the House
), who had been a soldier, but not one remarkable for any service, introduced a resolution condemning severely the senator's bill.
The committee to which it was referred heard him and two of his friends in its behalf, but advertised no public hearing and gave no opportunity to remonstrants.
Three members, not a majority (three being for and three against the resolution), made a report on the day before the final adjournment; but the fact that the report was not submitted by a majority was overlooked in the confusion.
The one colored member of the committee, be it remembered to the honor of his race, stood with Sumner
, saying cleverly that his only offence was that what he had done was fifty years too soon.
The committee's resolution condemned the senator's bill as ‘an insult to the loyal soldiery of the nation, . . . depreciating their grand achievements in the late rebellion,’ and ‘meeting the unqualified condemnation of the people of the Commonwealth
The debate began the same afternoon, and continued the next morning.
There was no critical or historical treatment of Sumner
's proposition; but instead of this, the partisans of censure indulged in loose rhetoric and
Here and in other quarters Sumner
was coarsely accused of seeking the overturn of soldiers' gravestones, the ploughing up of the national cemeteries, the discontinuance of pensions, and the obliteration of Union victories from histories and school-books.9 Colonel Charles R. Codman
, who had served his country in the Civil War
, and Willard P. Phillips
, led the opposition to the committee's report.
The sober sense of the members was adverse to the proposed censure; but too many of them were of a type of men who yield readily to clamor, and they feared, quite erroneously, that the veterans of the war were watching them.
The sense of responsibility was weak, as less than one-fourth of the members had been reelected to the next Legislature, which was to meet in a few days.
The roll-call on a motion to postpone indefinitely showed a tie, and the Speaker
) gave the casting vote in the affirmative; but a recount slowed a majority of one against it. The resolution was then hurried through the House
, and the same afternoon, after a brief debate, it was carried in the Senate.
Its passage was thus forced in two days, and those the last two days of the session.
Members freely expressed in conversation their regret at being compelled to vote on the resolution, but they shrank from making a different record.
One or more wrote to Sumner
, confessing remorsefully that they had voted against their better judgment.10 Sumner
wrote to W. P. Phillips
, December 21:11
I cannot comprehend this tempest.
The resolution which is treated so severely is an old inhabitant.
I have already brought it forward in substance twice before this last motion, and received the warm commendation of General Scott, General Anderson, etc. ... I know that I never deserved better of Massachusetts than now. It was our State which led in requiring all safeguards for liberty and equality; I covet for her that other honor of leading in reconciliation.
First in civilization, Massachusetts must insist that our flags shall be brought into conformity with the requirements of civilization.
The action of the Legislature at once called out a popular protest, not confined to those who had acted with the senator in the late election.
There was a general feeling among sober-minded people that the Legislature had not behaved in a decent
and honorable way towards a public man who had rendered illustrious service to the State
Whether they had joined with him or not in the contest with the President
, they felt that he was not without justification for his course, and it was their purpose to keep him in the Senate.
Rev. James Freeman Clarke
promptly denounced from his pulpit the legislative resolution, and justified Sumner
As soon as the session of the new Legislature began, in January, 1873, a movement for rescinding and annulling the resolution of censure began under the leadership of John G. Whittier
It was supported by more than five thousand petitioners, the number of whom could have been easily increased many fold.
Among them were the names of those in the State
most distinguished for learning, public spirit, philanthropy, devotion to the Antislavery cause, and courage as soldiers in the Civil War
. The annals of the State
contain no paper of such import in its list of names as this one now addressed to the Legislature.12
Scholars, merchants, politicians, and veteran Antislavery leaders gladly gave their names to it. Among the signers were soldiers of distinguished rank in the Civil War
, who bore in several instances on their persons the marks of their heroism,—William F. Bartlett13
and Joseph Tucker
, each of whom lost a leg in battle; A. B. Underwood
, severely wounded at Wauhatchie and maimed for life; Charles Francis Adams, Jr.
, who led the colored troops into Richmond
, the first to enter the Confederate
capital; and Henry S. Russell
, who served in Libby prison as well as in the field.
The petitioners were supported by an appeal from other States, in which Chief-Justice Chase
, William C. Bryant
, Frederick Douglass
, Gerrit Smith
, and Governor Noyes
A remonstrance was sent in, but it contained few signatures, and those not of persons well known in the State
The committee on federal relations, to which the petitions were referred, gave public hearings.
At the first one, Ex-Governor William Claflin
, who opened the case briefly for the petitioners, was followed by Ex-Governor Emory Washburn
the jurist, and by
Rev. James Freeman Clarke
These last two gentlemen spoke with earnestness and power; but their free comments on the action of the last Legislature offended the members who by reelection were members of the former as well as the present body.
appeared, on the other hand, to object to any interference with the action of the last Legislature of which he had been the promoter.
To the surprise of the public, he was supported by William Lloyd Garrison
, who had been bitter in his censures of Sumner
for opposing the President
He was joined by Mrs. Julia Ward Howe
, who having signed the petition for rescinding now appeared to oppose it. E. L. Pierce
, at Mr. Whittier
's request, closed the hearing with a reply to the remonstrants, in which he sought to make clear the points of controversy, and took issue with Mr. Garrison
The report was adverse to the petitions for rescinding, and both houses by large majorities concurred in adopting it. The movement for rescinding, which began early in January, thus ended in failure at the last of March.
The petitioners had to encounter not only the political hostility of some heated partisans of President Grant
and a supposed ‘soldier feeling,’ but also certain technical objections,—namely, that the rescinding or expunging of a resolution is not a legitimate parliamentary proceeding, and that the expression of an opinion by one body cannot be recalled by another.
The argument, however, which had the most effect was that the rescinding resolution implied a censure of the Legislature of 1872; and the members of that body who were members of the Legislature of 1873, as well as other members of the former Legislature not re-elected but busy as lobbyists, were able to communicate their own sense of offended dignity to the mass of the members of the new body.17
No other consideration or feeling had so much influence as this in setting the current.
The movement for rescinding, however, accomplished incidental results more important than success in the Legislature.
It enlightened the public as to the true character of the senator's proposition, which was now seen to be in no sense unpatriotic or unjust to the soldier.
It revealed the hold which he still retained on the people of the State
Those who resisted the removal of the censure were driven to stand on apologetic and technical rather than on substantial grounds; and there was a general sentiment to the effect that while what had been done could not well be undone, it would not now be attempted if no action had been taken.
The fruit of the agitation was to be postponed for only a few months.18 Sumner
felt keenly the legislative censure,—far more so than he would have felt it when younger and stronger.19
He at once determined to defend his position, and gathered materials and authorities for the purpose.
He wrote on Christmas Day to James Freeman Clarke
, who had three days before in a sermon sharply condemned the action of the Legislature:—
With deep emotion I have read the abstract of your testimony.
How a cultivated heathen could differ from me I do not understand.
History is full of examples to sustain me; only the sea and tiger are as blind and senseless in ferocity as party hate.
I long to state the case.
Twice before, once in 1862, I offered this resolution with the applause of General Scott and General Robert Anderson.
Where is Massachusetts civilization?
Thus far our Commonwealth has led in the great battle of liberty and equality.
By the blessing of God she shall lead again in smoothing the wrinkled front of war. Thanks, and God bless you!
To E. L. Pierce
he wrote gratefully for his ‘effort before the committee, which was so much praised.
I feel it in my heart.’20
did not anticipate when he arrived from Europe
the prostration which was at hand.
He wrote, November 28, the day before he reached Washington
: ‘My strength is perceptibly increasing.
I have walked to-day, and with a stronger step and more natural gait than for a long time.’
The angina pectoris
now returned, and a week later he wrote to his physician:—
Two nights ago I heard the lecture of Professor Tyndall, during which I sat one and a half hours, and then walked slowly to the horse-car (two short squares); but before reaching it the pains in the heart visited me so that on reaching the car I was much exhausted with suffering.
They gradually ceased, leaving me feeble.
Yesterday I walked on Pennsylvania Avenue nearly a mile without any pain or weakness.
I mention these things that you may see how fitful is my case.
After December 19 he absented himself altogether from the Senate for the remainder of the session.
He was under the general medical direction of Dr. Brown
, then in New York, to whom he sent daily reports, and under the immediate care of Dr. J. T. Johnson
, of Washington
, who visited him twice a day. His rest was broken at night by an incidental difficulty, due to irritability in the spinal cord.
He was sensitive in his back, shoulders, and neck, so that he was uneasy in sitting.
He was weak generally, particularly in his legs, and walked with difficulty, using a cane in the house.
There were pains in his chest, running into his left arm, and at intervals of a week, more or less, He suffered severe attacks of angina pectoris
, sometimes continuing for several hours.
His record for Dr. Brown
, February 13, was:—
Before bed took bromide of potassium; did not sleep, and at midnight was attacked by the angina, which was very severe, and lasted till near morning.
The pain invaded the left arm, making the part above the elbow so sensitive as hardly to bear touching.
I got up repeatedly and walled the room took two teaspoonsful of bromide of potassium in addition to the sodium.
The pain was hard to bear.
Two nights later, however, he had better sleep than at any time for month.
In March he had severe attacks of the angina
at midnight, as well as in the daytime, calling for the immediate attendance of the doctor, who applied subcutaneous injections of morphine.
Relief then came, followed by sleep.
He wrote to E. L. Pierce
, April 12: ‘I am sorry to report that I am very feebe, and do not seem to gain strength.
The last two days I have taken to my bed. Dr. Howe
I think he understands my case precisely; but he is against medicines, especially poisons.’
The attacks of the angina
became during this month less frequent, and the last was on the 20th.
His restlessness at
night continued, and the remedies (strychnine, morphine, and galvanism) were kept up, with occasional cupping,—not applied, however, in the severe way to which he had been subjected in Europe
To his friends who observed the phials on the stand at his bedside he would say, ‘These are my poisons.’
On May 9 he reported the preceding day as follows: ‘Took strychnine not long before dinner.
Attempting to eat, found it difficult to put food in the mouth without convulsion; this lasted twenty minutes.’
was at first restive under his enforced absence from his official duties, longing most of all to defend his ‘battle-flag’ resolution in the Senate.
His physician feared that such an effort would be fatal; but as the intimation of that result did not deter him, he was held in check by the warning of prolonged disability of brain,—a calamity which he had so much dreaded in 1856 as the effect of the assault.
From December to May he rarely left his house, taking only an occasional short walk or drive, and ‘leading,’ as he said, ‘a tranquil existence, seeing friends, and amusing himself with books.’
He kept his thoughts as far as might be from public business, and suspended annotations and proof-reading on his Works.
His mind found most relief in the calls of friends, with whom he was always ready for a talk.21
They were apt to draw him out on his last visit to Europe
, and particularly on his interviews with eminent Frenchmen,—topics which were altogether agreeable to him. Some brought their wives and daughters, to whom, while he took them through his house, he explained the treasures of book and manuscript which he had brought home.
His good nature and attractive ways at such times are well remembered by visitors of both sexes.
Once, and perhaps only once, and that was in March, he had friends to dine with him; and the same month he was present at a dinner given by Mr. Fenton
in honor of Mr. Trumbull
, who had just finished his service in the Senate.
He wrote to Longfellow
, January 27, of Mr.Agassiz
and Mrs. Agassiz
, who had been in Washington
I hope their visit has been pleasant.
It added much to my happiness, although I could see them only in arm-chair and dressing-gown.
I wish I could be as cheerful about my case as he is.
He wrote to Wendell Phillips
, February 9—
Is it true that you are to lecture here next Friday?
Then come direct from the station to my house, where you will be at home and welcome as long as you can stay.
I hope you will find me much renovated.
If not, then poisons fail in their work.
God bless you!
During these weary months he did not conceal from intimate friends his depression of spirits; and of these were Wendell Phillips
and E. L. Pierce
, who were his guests,—the latter in January, and the former in February.
For this it was easy to detect as the principal cause, in connection with ill health, his shock of disappointment that the country had decided as it had in the last election, and that his appeals and warnings had been ineffectual.
He was oppressed by the legislative censure, which in a better condition of health and in a happier mood of mind he would have treated with indifference, or repelled as an impertinence.
His friends assured him that partisan clamor never determined the permanent judgment of mankind.22
His love of life, which was weak with him in youth,23
was now weaker than ever.
, his old colleague, now Vice-President
, who called to express sympathy and urge cessation from work, he said with great earnestness, as they sat alone in his study: ‘If my Works were completed, and my civil-rights bill passed, no visitor could enter that door that would be more welcome than Death.’24
By the middle of April, as spring opened in Washington
, he attempted short walks and drives more regularly, walking two or three squares at a time; but such light exercise often exhausted him. On the first day of May he assisted at the wedding of his physician, and the same day called on Chief-Justice Chase
; it was their last meeting,—six days before the latter's sudden death in New York.
Their talk was chiefly of old times, old associates, and old conflicts, in which they had contended side by side; and they were in like agreement on current politics.25
The senator's ill health obliged him to decline the request of the chief-justice
's family that he should serve as pall-bearer at the latter's funeral in New York.
friends, now as in other days in full accord, were not long to be divided.
wrote to E. L. Pierce
, May 10:—
I shall be sorry not to see you before you go to outre-men.26 I envy you the going with health and strength.
I improve slowly, walking a little daily, and then taking to my bed. Galvanism is now the order.
I am glad to have seen Chase just before he passed away.
Our interview was intimate and affectionate.
Nothing but my bodily condition—making the journey to New York impossible without stopping, and making walking difficult-would keep me from his funeral.
Remember me kindly to Mrs. Claflin, whose visit here was very pleasant to me.
The improvement which was apparent in the latter part of April continued through May, with, however, occasional reminders of weakness at the end of his walks.
His daily drives in Washington
, never so lovely as in May, were a stimulant to health.
's horses were at his service.
Sometimes he drove to General Cushing
's suburban residence, six miles from town.
In his drives he was glad to have a sympathetic friend with him. On some of them he invited Mrs. Claflin
, wife of Governor Claflin
, both always loyal to him. On another he had for his companion on a drive to Arlington
philanthropist, Miss Mary Carpenter
Later in May, for the first time since he absented himself from the Senate, more than five months before, he resumed the annotation and revision of his Works; and on that errand began to make visits to the Congressional Library.
He wrote, June 2:‘I have gained in strength daily for the last month, and begin to have a sense of health, so that for ten days I have done a little work.’
Two days later he found himself weak again; but this weakness shortly gave way to ‘an increasing sense of health.’
The potions of strychnine ended July 11.
At the close of the month, Dr. Brown
returned to Europe
, and medical treatment for the present ended.27
During his illness he was constantly receiving letters expressing sympathy, and imploring him to rest.
They came from friends far and near,—many, indeed most, of whom had not acted with him in the late election.
Among the writers were Longfellow
, O. W. Holmes
, Wendell Phillips
, Gerrit Smith
, Henry Ward Beecher
, Lydia Maria Child
, Amos A. Lawrence
, Sidney Bartlett
, Dr. T. W. Parsons
, R. H. Dana
Jr., the brothers Bowditch, and others in great number.
None were tenderer in their expressions than his former secretaries, now members of the bar, who knew him best.
From the colored people in distant States came testimonies of gratitude and devotion, often traced in an illiterate hand, and sometimes with a long list of signers.
wrote at the beginning of the session from Boston
And again, the day after he had parted with his friend in Washington
Henry Ward Beecher
wrote from Brooklyn
, Jan. 13, 1873:
From day to day thousands look into the newspapers to learn whether your health is better or worse.
Your long life devoted to the noblest questions which can occupy the thoughts of Christian patriots; the great courage and fidelity with which in trying times you upheld the cause of justice and liberty; the large contributions which you have made in the interests of humanity to the literature of the world; your unsullied character, and long years without a spot or suspicion of selfishness in public affairs,—have made your name national, and your life a part of the best history of the noblest period of American affairs.
That your recent difference of judgment and action in political affairs—and to speak frankly, I differed with you, as you did with your life-long friends—should throw a cloud over you is natural, considering the infirmity of human nature.
But it is a cloud that your lifelong and noble service will ere long scatter, as the sun scatters darkness.
Even should it please God to bring to an end now, or ere long, your career, you have achieved a success which might amply gratify an honorable ambition though it were far greater than yours.
I hope that I do not intrude upon your private griefs by these lines, which I send hoping that they may assure you of the warm sympathy and affectionate respect of thousands as well as my own.
replied, January 14:—
Thanks, many thanks, dear Mr. Beecher, for your kind words!
What I have done has always been at the mandate of conscience, and I could not have done otherwise.
My hope has been to help mankind, and advance the reign of justice on earth; nor do I doubt that sooner or later this will be seen by many who now judge me unkindly.
As for my health, I am hopeful.
Once before I have recovered from these severe injuries.
If I must succumb, so be it; I am content.
God bless you!
Ever sincerely yours.28
wrote, Jan. 27, 1873:—
I write just to tell thee not to believe for a moment that the people of Massachusetts have any sympathy with the “resolution” adopted by a dead Legislature galvanized into life by the governor's proclamation for a special purpose.
Not a single respectable paper of any party has to my knowledge indorsed it. It is deader than the Legislature itself.
I have yet to see the very first man or woman who speaks a word in its favor.
Depend upon it, the heart of the old Commonwealth is sound and generous, and turns towards thee with its old love and gratitude.
She has learned to value pure-handed public servants.
Dear friend of many years, be assured and hopeful!
All is safe!
Thy future is secure!
God bless thee, and have thee ever in his holy keeping!
And again, February 4:—
I hope thee will not make an effort to speak this term.
The country is coming all right as to thy “flag” resolution.
The pitiful folly of our late
Legislature is already repented of. Believe me, thee never stood higher with the best people of this State of all parties than now. Amidst the miserable muddle of the Credit Mobilier, it is something to be proud of that the smell of fire has not been upon thy garments.
To Mrs. John T. Sargent
, who invited him to be a guest, Sumner
wrote, June 26:—
That large airy room in the large house is most tempting; but you know not the size of the elephant you invite.
Beyond his own natural proportions and ordinary trunk are other trunks larger still, with supplementary boxes packed with books, papers, and documents, various, vast, extensive; you have no idea of the mass.
The porters at the Coolidge House are accustomed to this variety, and know how to deal with it. There I must go unless willing to disturb good friends beyond all right of hospitality.
You are good and kind, dear Mrs. Sargent, and I beg you to believe me most grateful.
It is pleasant to feel a sense of health, to sleep without narcotics, and to move about as other people, without effort or ache.
was stricken with paralysis May 19, 1873,— less than three months after his term as Vice-President
He had before mentioned to his colleague his premonitions of such a fate.
A week afterwards, against his physician's orders and in strictest confidence, he used his pen for the first time to communicate to Sumner
the attack, which was still being kept from the public.
He had been forced to suspend work on his history, though hoping to resume it in a few weeks.
‘I am conquered,’ he wrote, ‘and must submit.’
He closed his note thus: ‘I am glad to see you are better after your long sickness.
God grant that you may soon be in full health, and that many years of life may be given you!’
He recovered a measure of strength, though he was never after equal to any labor involving a strain on body or mind.
The two friends were each struggling in a disabled condition with a book on his hands, but neither was to live to complete his enterprise.29
wrote to Mrs. Claflin
, June 7:—
I have your kind letter with better news about Mr. Wilson.
I wish I could help him; he must help himself by abnegation.
I have often trembled for him, knowing his constitutional tendency, especially since his superadded literary labor.
His work on that book was very much that of a horse in a street-car,—one constant pull.
I fear he will be restless and uneasy in his enforced idleness.
I wish there were some very retired spot, either on the
sea-shore or in the country, where reporters could not reach him, and he could go and vegetate.
One of his penalties as a public man is that he cannot escape observation.
I hope that the printing of his book will be stopped at once.
If it is allowed to proceed, he will be under constant pressure to work on it, to re-write a paragraph, to correct a sentence,—all of which will be a draft on his brain.
But he must have solace and recreation.
The best and perhaps the only kind really beneficial will be life in the open air, as in superintending a garden, farming, or fishing.
A sea-voyage would do much by cutting the connections with care and duty at home.
If his face is soon restored, so as not to excite observation, he might travel and enjoy the heights of Colorado.
But it must be under a promise not to speak or to engage in politics.
You see how frankly I write.
A sufferer myself, I have a fellow-feeling with others in this condition, especially with the friend and colleague of many years.
I hope you will kindly let me know how he gets on. It is pleasant to think that he is in your hands.
's friends were very desirous that he should pass the recess of Congress in Europe
, but he would not yield to their persuasions.
He was always morbidly sensitive about being in debt, and this time about the debt he had incurred on account of his last journey and his heavy bills for medical attendance.
To E. L. Pierce
he wrote, April 3: ‘I am yet in debt for my European
trip last autumn, and no temptation can make me repeat this indiscretion, and reduce still more my small capital.
Evidently you do not consider my expenses,—my house, clerk hire here, salary to proof-readers at Cambridge
, my doctor's bills (two daily visits for months), with Dr. Brown
's accounts; also poor relations.30
How to meet these, even with my increased pay, I know not.’
His friends, who unavailingly urged the journey, were most anxious that he should return well and strong to enter on the next session,—the one next preceding the election in Massachusetts
which would choose his successor.
remained in Washington
till July 25, and reached Boston
His last month at the capital was free from pain, and he slept without anodynes.
He showed some effort in walking, and other symptoms indicated that he had not the full measure of health; but his face betokened a new vitality.
Daily drives, diligent work on his ‘book,’ and visits to the Congressional Library filled his time.
On his arrival in Boston
it was observed that his step was elastic, and that his former vigor had come back.
He said himself that he had not been so well for three or four years. To his physician he wrote, September 5:
‘My general health is excellent.
I have a sense of health, and a certain elasticity.’
During August and till late in September he was at his rooms in the Coolidge House
, or at Nahant
or George Abbot James
While at the sea-shore he received a call from Mr. Wilson
, their first meeting since the latter's stroke of paralysis.
He made calls in the city on the few friends to be found there during the warm season,—one of them on Henry L. Pierce
, the mayor.
Early in September, in company with Longfellow
, he took a drive of twenty miles in Essex County
, calling on Whittier
, and dining with B. P. Poore
at his house in Newbury
The same month he attended the wedding of the daughter of his friend Mr. Bird
, and passed a few days with Mr. Hooper
Late in the autumn he was for a day or two at Governor Claflin
's in Newtonville
He met there one evening the members of a farmer's club, owners of fine villas and spacious grounds, where, inspired by their presence, he talked for an hour or more on country life, the different breeds of cattle, chiefly the English
; and here, as often with those who had not been well affected towards him, prejudices vanished before the charm of his personality.
There was surprise at so full a treatment of the topic from one who had never been the proprietor of an estate, or owned a beast, except a span of horses for a few months only.
When he left Mr. Hooper
's the third week in September, declining an invitation to visit Mr. and Mrs. John Bigelow
at Highland Falls, Orange County, N. Y.
, where Mrs. Charles Eames
was a guest, he gave as the reason for renouncing the pleasure the necessity of preparing at once to meet an engagement with a bureau for delivering a lecture in different parts of the country, appearing four or five nights a week from the middle of October to the beginning of the next session in December.
He wrote: ‘I need rest and play and friendship; instead, I commence wearing toil.’
He had undertaken the task for the purpose of paying the balance of the debt incurred in his recent journey to Europe
His subject was to be ‘The Unity of the
thought him equal to the effort; but there was a general remonstrance among his friends to this hazardous test of his strength.32 Wendell Phillips
was very earnest to arrest his purpose, and intervened to have the debt so placed that it would not be again a matter of thought.33
Yielding to the pressure, he withdrew very regretfully his name from Mr. Redpath
's list of engagements for him. He kept aloof from politics, even avoiding the subject in conversation.
If he voted at the State
election he doubtless voted the Republican
ticket, headed by William B. Washburn
, candidate for governor, who had been his associate in Congress, and was always friendly to him. It was the year of General Butler
's attempt and failure to obtain the Republican
nomination for governor; but Sumner
did not take part in the preliminary canvass as he had done in 1871.
He wrote to Mr. Bird
, August 14: ‘I do not comprehend the political maze, and am happy to be out of it.’
By invitation of Mr. Alexander H. Rice
, afterward governor, he spoke at a meeting at the Merchants Exchange
in behalf of sufferers by the yellow fever at Memphis
.34 Mr. Rice
, with the view to the senator's re-election, was desirous of keeping him in the current of affairs; and this personal reason, not however communicated to him, prompted in part the invitation.
was to have attended a bi-centenary celebration of the town of Wrentham
, October 27, but a furious gale with rain kept away guests from other places, and prostrated the tent in which the dinner and speaking were to be. He would have spoken upon Horace Mann
, who was a native of Franklin
, a parish of the ancient town; and some notes in pencil of his intended remarks are preserved.
He had been in full sympathy with Mann
in his early labors for the education of the people, and served with him in his later conflicts for freedom; and it would have been a grateful duty to have paid a tribute to him in a community where the older inhabitants still recalled his youth.
Never in his life was Sumner
more genial, more glad to see old friends,—those of his youth as well as of his manhood,—
or more ready to make new acquaintances.
He enjoyed the monthly dinners of the Saturday Club
, where were Longfellow
, J. M. Forbes
, Judge Hoar
, and others of like spirit.35
He was with the Radical Club
at Mrs. John T. Sargent
's, where, in the midst of a sympathetic circle, which included Wendell Phillips
, James Freeman Clarke
, and T. W. Higginson
, he listened to John Weiss
's paper on ‘Portia.’
He was twice on the platform at the Music Hall
when Mr. Bradlaugh
, M. P., was the lecturer (Wendell Phillips
in the chair on one occasion), and declined the call of the audience at the close of the lecture.
He was one of J. B. Smith
's guests in Bulfinch Street at a dinner for Mr. Bradlaugh
, where also at the table were H. L. Pierce
, Mr. Hooper
, Ex-Governor Emory Washburn
, William Lloyd Garrison
, and Thomas Russell
He took the chair at a lecture by Edward Jenkins
, the English
writer, and was warmly applauded when he rose to introduce one whom he commended ‘as an author who by his remarkable pen has drawn attention to the poor and lowly, awakened for then a widespread sympathy, and helped the reign of justice on earth.’
Many of his fellow-citizens then saw him for the last time.
An incident of the autumn was his election as a member of the Massachusetts historical Society, of which Mr. Winthrop
was president, where he took the vacant place of the late James Savage
This is an honor always much coveted in Boston
, and would have come to him thirty years earlier if he had kept in harmony with the conservative sentiments of the city.
During his last weeks in Boston
he dined as principal guest with three clubs, meeting at each from thirty to sixty persons, all prominent in political or commercial life.
He met at these reunions many whom he had long known, and others to whom he was then first introduced; and with all he was most cordial.
His health was drunk, and he answered without preparation in an easy and unstudied way, appearing, as was remarked, never happier or more in touch with men. He avoided partisan politics, and dwelt rather on topics apart from controversy, recalling agreeable reminiscences of the past, and expressing faith in the future of the country.36
As old friends and new friends came to take his
hand he received hearty congratulations on his improved health, and assurances of personal regard and political support.
The enthusiasm and devotion which were testified in these individual greetings, and in the responses at the tables, betokened very clearly the sentiment of his State towards him. To Whittier
he wrote: ‘Verily, the heart of Massachusetts
The most notable of these festivities was the dinner at the Commercial Club
, October 18, at the Revere House
, where A. H. Rice
, who had pressed his acceptance of the invitation, held the chair as president of the club.
Many persons now met him for the first time.
He spoke at some length on the importance of a speedy return to specie payments, the proposed centennial exhibition
and the history of clubs.
All were charmed with his manner, as well as with what he said; and prejudices were overcome with several who had been repelled from him by what they thought his too absorbing devotion to the African race.
It was a common remark along the members that it was the most delightful scene of the kind they had ever shared in. Mr. Slack
, an editor who had a critical sense of the effect of an address on an audience, wrote, two days after, of ‘the freshness, pertinency, and happy current of thought with which it was charged,’ and described it as ‘really grand, an old-time renewal of power, suggestiveness, and eloquence.’
was urged by editors to write out his remarks for publication, but he declined.
At the Massachusetts Club
November 1, after referring to some features of the Antislavery conflict before the Civil War
, and maintaining the necessity of passing the civil-rights bill, he recalled the presence of coadjutors in past contests.
‘It may seem,’ He said, ‘that I am speaking of things which I have spoken of before.
Perhaps, however, you have read of the bugle of Munchausen
, in which the tunes were all frozen up; but when the warmth had thawed it, the old tunes which once it had been accustomed to play rang out from it again.
Warmed by your presence,—the presence of my old friends and associates,—the old bugle of my life-long principles commences to play once more.’
As he recurred to ancient fellowships and
common labors there was emotion in his voice and manner.
's presence suggested some remarks on the liberal cause in Europe
, and the senator said: ‘Republicanism is daily asserting its strength in Europe
; and mark my words, that strength will go on until all Europe
is republican as America
He defined ‘republicanism’ not as a mere name, but as government which rests on the consent of the governed, and establishes equal rights for all.39
At the Bird Club
November 8 (Mr. Bird
in the chair, with Vice-President Wilson
as one of the guests) Sumner
explained his battle-flag resolution, and insisted on a return to specie payments without delay, and paid a tribute to John Bright.41
the Banks Club
which met at the Parker House
November 22, was the last festivity of the kind which he attended in Boston
Here he made kindly mention of Mr. Banks
, for whom the club was named, and who had just been elected State senator by the Democrats.
He avowed his continued adhesion to his early purpose to promote, now that slavery had been abolished, reconciliation between those who had been on account of that conflict placed in antagonistic positions, and the union of all for the advancement of the common country.
He paid a tribute to Massachusetts
,—ever dear to him for her leadership in movements for liberty and civilization.
His chief topic, however, was the advantages of social intercourse, particularly of conversation as an educating influence.43
A gentleman well-known in the history of New England
journalism, Mr. George H. Monroe
, thus sketched this part of his remarks:—
Passing to the consideration of a subject more specifically appropriate to the occasion, Mr. Sumner said he had once dined in company with Daniel Webster on a social occasion, when there were present William H. Prescott, the historian of Spain and her possessions; George Ticknor, who taught the Spaniards the wealth of their own literature; Joseph G. Cogswell, the most eminent bibliographer the country had produced; Francis C. Gray, and many others of distinction.
The subject as to what influence exerted the greatest effect upon men's character and acts came up for discussion.
Mr. Prescott declared that a mother's influence was the most potent, and paid an eloquent
tribute to the female sex in this relation.
Another gentleman expressed the belief that most was owed to schools; another gave the preference in his judgment to books; another to the newspaper.
He (Mr. Sumner) sat, the youngest man in the party, and watched Mr. Webster, who was apparently thoughtful for a considerable time, but finally broke the silence to declare that, to his mind, there was more to be derived from the conversation of intelligent men than from any other source.
Mr. Sumner then enforced this view by reference to what had been said by men eminent in history.
He referred to the declaration of Charles James Fox, that he was more indebted for knowledge to his intercourse with Edmund Burke than to all other sources of information: He spoke of the statement of Dr. Johnson, that Burke could not be met under a tree in a thunder shower without impressing one with the fact that he was in the presence of an extraordinary man. He illustrated his point further by reference to the conversation of Johnson himself, as reported by his biographer, which had so long been among the classics of literature.
One evening Sumner
took tea at Jamaica Plain
with Rev. James Freeman Clarke
's family, where he talked of his last visit to Paris
, and his dinner with Thiers
After dining at Longfellow
's on the afternoon of November 12, he went to the Church
of the Disciples in the south part of Boston
to attend a social meeting, to which he had been invited by the pastor, Dr. Clarke
. Mrs. Clarke
writes as follows:—
While on his way to the church he asked a gentleman in the streetcar about the exact locality.
The gentleman told him, and then said, in a tone of inquiry, “Are you a stranger, sir?”
showing that there was a Bostonian who did not know Mr. Sumner by sight.
But a boy in the car jumped out when Mr. Sumner reached his destination, and said: “Mr. Sumner, will you please write your name in my albumn?”
They stopped under a streetlamp, and Mr. Sumner wrote his name.
Is not that a scene worth preserving?
At the social meeting Mr. Sumner with some reluctance consented to speak.
Soon “his heart warmed toward the young people present, and he addressed himself to then, telling them what great opportunities were awaiting them in the approaching years.
He said no word of the past; nothing of what he had seen and done; only of the magnificent future which was before the rising generation, and the noble duties which they had to fulfil. . . . Once or twice he said he wished he had been born later, so as to be able to take part in the events which are to come soon.
In regard to this, one lady said to him later in the evening that she thought the Lord knew better than he when he ought to have been born.”
I have taken these extracts from Mr. Clarke's sketch of Charles Sumner in his work entitled “Memorial and biographical sketches.”
But I too remember that evening at the church, and the deep pathos in Mr. Sumner's voice as he spoke of the great privilege of having the opportunities of life before us and not behind us. The address was worthy of the man. He seemed to have one single desire, to make the young people before him realize their high calling as citizens of this Commonwealth and Union, and to prove themselves
worthy of their privileges.
His true nobility of soul showed itself as clearly in that social gathering of the Church of the Disciples as it did on the floor of Congress.
A few days before leaving for Washington
dined with George S. Hillard
, the friend of his youth, already smitten with paralysis.44
Their themes were by—gone days and the books they had both loved.
An eye-witness relates the scene:—
The two friends talked till nearly twelve o'clock, recalling old and intimate days,—discussing men, books, and affairs, chiefly their European experiences, and the “Five of clubs.”
I remember an animated difference over a Latin quotation, finally settled in Mr. Hillard's favor,—Mr. Sumner saying some pleasant thing, to the effect that Mr. Hillard was as aggravatingly correct as of old. Indeed, it was an evening to be remembered; roused by the excitement, Mr. Hillard talked like his old self, with hardly a trace of weakness.
When they parted, it was almost in silence, with a long clasp of hands, as if each felt it was for the last time.
It so happened that we had colored servants.
The old cook had been a slave in Georgia, and was greatly excited over the preparations of a dinner for the man whole was to her the deliverer of her race.
Mr. Hillard told Mr. Sumner what a solemn occasion it was to her. Mr. Sumner said it was the custom in some places to send a glass of wine to the cook when the dinner was unusually good, and begged permission to do so, which he did, rendering the old woman almost beside herself with pride.
The servants had told me of their earnest desire to see the great man, and I asked Mr. Sumner if he could gratify them.
He assented, simply and readily.
I shall never forget how he looked as he stood in the doorway of the dining-room, almost filling it in height and breadth, while those two poor, homely black women, one of them scarred by injuries received in slavery, reverently kissed his hand.
It was a scene full of significance.
We looked on with wet eyes; but he was rather embarrassed, and glad to escape upstairs.
I also remember that the kitchen department was demoralized for some days following.
One day Sumner
dined with Dr. George C. Shattuck
, a companion of his youth, when, it is remembered, he made kindly mention of all on whom the conversation turned.45
He dined also with James T. Fields
, with whom, as his friend and publisher, he had long enjoyed most agreeable relations.46
He was obliged by other engagements to decline invitations to dine at Mr. Martin Brimmer
's, and also at Mr. Winthrop
's. In the late
autumn he dined occasionally at Mr. Hooper
The afternoon of Sunday, the day before leaving for Washington
, he passed at Cambridge
On the evening of the same day He dined with the son of William H. Prescott
, with whom he renewed the memories of friendly and sympathetic intercourse with the historian.
Among the guests were the young Lord Roseberry, and Longfellow
and his daughter, afterwards Mrs. Dana
His letters show how he kept English friends and affairs in mind.
To Lady Hatherton
he wrote, April 3:—
I was glad that you remembered me, although you could not restrain an allusion which I do not think I deserved.
It became my duty to set forth the wrong done to my country by England during our terrible Civil War. The pain that cost me you cannot know.
I felt it the more because of my attachment to England, and never did I utter a word which was not more than justified by the speeches of Mr. Cobden and Mr. Bright,—good Englishmen always.
But I forbear.
For years I have allowed misrepresentation without a word of reply, lest what I said might be tortured into some unfriendly expression.
Among my early souvenirs of English politics was the incident so clearly explained in the volume you kindly sent me.48 I have read it with great interest, and am glad that the family of Lord Hatherton permitted its publication.
It is a complete chapter of history.
I am sorry that Lord Brougham appears no better, my neighbors here, Mr.Gurney and Mrs. Russell Gurney, enjoyed it also.
I like them much, and am always happy in long talks with them about England.
Last autumn I passed a fortnight in London, which seemed more metropolitan and fascinating than ever.
Everybody was agreeable, and I enjoyed my visit much.
To Robert Ingham
, July 11:—
As I am about to leave for Boston I receive the South Shields paper, with the interesting report of the beautiful ceremony in honor of you. I wish I had been there.
Such a monument is better than a statue.
This recognition among friends and neighbors must be very pleasant.
Among those present was Miss Blackett; but where was my ancient friend, Mme. dui Quaire?
I was unhappy at not seeing her during my fortnight in England.
But I did not see you.
I have been cheered by the vote of the House of Commons on Mr. Richard's motion,;49 that is an historic event marking an epoch.
It cannot fail to exert a prodigious influence.
I know no reform which promises such universal
good as the release of any considerable portion of present war expenditure, or expenditure on armaments, so that they can be applied to purposes of civilization.
It is absurd to call this Utopian.
Nothing more practical.
Here is an open and incessant waste.
Why not stop it?
Here is something which keeps human thoughts on bloodshed, and rears men to slay each other.
Why not turn their thoughts to things which contribute to human happiness?
Mr. Richard has done a great work, and so has the house of Commons.
The cause cannot be arrested.
But why did not Mr. Gladstone adopt it at once, and place England on heights of civilization which no nation has yet reached?
I like him, and am sorry that he allowed himself to be on the wrong side.
Such a presentation of the case must have an effect on the continent as well as in England, teaching reason.
I shall not live to see the great cause triumph.
I often wish I had been born a few years later, and one reason is because I long to witness the harmony of nations, which I am sure is near.
When an evil so great is recognized and discussed, the remedy must be at hand.
Pray excuse this enthusiasm which I feel in my inmost soul.
I have not been well this winter and spring.
Care and overwork revived old injuries; but I am now better, and this news is better than medicine.
I am at a loss to understand how that wretch Arthur Orton finds a witness or a shilling.
His place is the penitentiary, quick step.
Is not the case clear as day?
But what a reprobate!
To Mrs. George Grote
, November 2, on the occasion of the publication of her ‘Personal Life’ of her husband:—
Your most interesting volume, which arrived at the end of the summer, besides its grateful souvenir of your kindness, has made me live again in pleasant scenes of the past.
Nothing has so recalled old memories.
Valued friends now dead reappear as in a magic mirror.
Besides the great author, are others,—Tocqueville and wife at his old castle, Senior in Paris and London, Cornewall Lewis, Molesworth, the Dean of St. Paul's, Hallam, Parkes, John Austin and wife, all of whom I see again!
Nor are all dead.
I was glad to read of Charles Austin,50 whose “talk” I always placed, as you do, foremost.
Why does he not appear in Parliament?
But these companions, as introduced by you, show the historian, whose serene and glorious life was passed in such an atmosphere of character and talent.
Undoubtedly he was one of the most remarkable scholars ever produced by England, and he grew as none other.
He was no university plant or graft; he was a rich seedling with an original flavor.
In his history he became the philosopher and vindicator of liberal ideas.
Posterity will hear and listen.
I have a sincere gratitude for the truth he has taught so well.
I regret that he saw so indistinctly the terrible trials of our government, struggling for national life with a rebellion whose single animating impulse was slavery.51
Why not complete your work by a volume of his miscellanies, political and literary?52 His speeches were masterpieces of scholarly politics.
much his first address to his constituents (p. 71), which seems a chef-d'oeuvre of breadth, both in mass and detail.
The essay on Mitford, which marked his original studies in Greek history, ought to be within the reach of those who admire the history.
While I write with this execrable pen and ink, I get the first report of J. S. Mills's autobiography.
The revelations of his precocious life surprise me. Here he is another Pascal, but without the faith of the Frenchman.
Among the letters in your book, those of the historian to Lewis (p. 202) and of Hallam (pp. 164-169) are most scholarly.
It is pleasant to think that G. G. succeeded H. H. as trustee of the British Museum.
The latter once told me that early in life his two special objects of ambition were to be a bencher of the inn where he studied, and a trustee of the British Museum.
I was interested in the efforts of the historian to obtain for Lewis a copy of the works of Saint-Pierre.
Four years before I had imported from Paris a complete set,—more than twenty-five volumes.
While with Tocqueville I enjoyed touch a visit to the old ancestral home of Saint-Pierre, some five or six miles from Tocqueville, in a thick wood, gridironed with roads and paths.53 This reminds me of your residence at St. Germain in the summer of 1858, and of my taking to you Professor Felton, our Grecian just returned from Athens, who seemed to refresh the historian, and came away charmed.
He, too, is dead; an admirable scholar.
I am glad that your husband declined a title.
The simplicity of his life was kept perfect to the end, when “Westminster Abbey” became his peerage.
The John Fiske54 whose article is praised so effectively (p. 294) was a young man of twenty-five at the time.
His abilities have developed since, and he is now absorbed in “evolution” and Darwinism.
His friends are pleased with this valuable tribute.
He is now in Europe, probably in England, especially to publish a work.
‘The Baron Degedrando whose works amused the historian at Harpton Court (p. 255) was no humorist.
I knew him in 1838, dining with him in the Rue de Verneuil, and receiving from him tickets for the Chamber of Peers.
The inquiry about Daunou interested me, as I have his works in twenty volumes, which I brought home sixteen years ago, my friend George V. Greene, who is much of an invalid, was cheered by the allusion to him at Rome.
I think often of your kindness when we met. By the time you receive this I shall be on my way to Washington, where I expect to find that most interesting manuscript in a binding not unworthy of it.’55
's published papers during the year were open letters on civil rights to the colored people;56
a reply to the
of Hayti, who had testified gratefully to his resistance to the annexation of San Domingo
a note of congratulation to Henry Richard
on the success of his motion in Parliament for international arbitration;58
a letter commending the scheme for the extension of the territory of Boston
by the inclusion of suburban municipalities;59
and a bibliographical memorandum on Archdeacon Walter Mapes
, an English writer of the time of Henry II.60
The seizure of the ‘Virginius
’ by the Spanish
authorities in Cuba
, with the summary execution of a large number of men on board, on the ground that, though flying the American
colors, she was on her way to assist the insurgents in that island, was made the pretence of indignation against Spain
, then a republic with Castelar at its head.
There is always in the city of New York
a filibustering interest which draws to its support a certain class of merchants and a certain class of lawyers.
This interest, ever ready to provoke or aid an insurrection in Cuba
, held a public meeting at Steinway Hall, November 17, to stimulate a war spirit against Spain
William M. Evarts
took the chair and made an inflammatory speech.
was invited to be one of the speakers; but he declined, and instead sent a letter of a spirit directly opposite to that of the meeting, in which he insisted on waiting for evidence and on considerate treatment of the Spanish
republic and its noble president, and discountenanced the belligerent preparations then under way in our navy yards, which involved burdensome expenditure and encouraged an unhealthy war fever.61
These views he expanded in an interview with a correspondent of the New York Tribune.62
It was Sumner
's characteristic to keep his mind steady in the midst of popular frenzy.
He had always the courage to challenge a universal opinion.
The sober sense of the best people was with him in this protest.
R. H. Dana, Jr.
, wrote: ‘Let me thank you for your letter; it is the wisest thing I have seen—I should not be out of the way to say, the only wise thing I have seen—in the ‘Virginius
wrote: ‘I am delighted to
learn through the newspapers that you continue to have the courage of your convictions, and do not cease to be yourself because of the insanity which infects the citizens of New York on the subject of Cuba
wrote on a postal card: ‘I like your letter to the Cubans extremely.
That is the way a statesman should think and speak.’
J. R. Doolittle
, the late senator
, with whom Sumner
had fought many hard contests, wrote from Chicago
: ‘I deem it wise and most fortunate when all the world would cry out for war, that there is one statesman left in the Senate who can speak boldly and truthfully to our people.’
’ affair was discreditable to our government.
was from the beginning anxious to do justice.
The piratical craft, as the attorney-general
of the United States
found, carried American papers which had been procured by perjury.
A show of fight against a power incapable of resistance, and that power a new republic with some hope of perpetuity, was altogether suited to the genius of the two heads of the war bureaus, Robeson
The former spent five millions of dollars in his unseemly preparations of a naval armament against a friendly power, and the latter's subsequent career is well remembered.
Behind all was the greed for Cuba
and the watching of an opportunity to seize that possession of Spain
The whole transaction, reviving the memory of the Ostend manifesto of Buchanan
, and Slidell
, ended in a fiasco.
’ was delivered up by the Spanish
government; and while being towed as a trophy by one of our war ships to New York, she went to the bottom off Cape Fear
I left Boston
, May 20, and was absent till November 13.
For the few days after my arrival home Sumner
remained in the city.
I sought his rooms at the Coolidge House
as often as each alternate morning, reaching his door before he had completed his dressing, and remaining till after his breakfast.
I brought him a can of honey from Hymettus
; told him what I had seen in Europe
, the Danube
, and the exposition at Vienna
,—and described the spectacle I had witnessed when John Bright resumed public activity after a season of prostration, in an address to an immense audience in Birmingham
He listened with interest, and thought I had seen much.
On Monday morning, the 24th, I happened to be going by the same train with him to Palmer
, less than twenty
miles short of Springfield
, at which latter city he was to remain a few hours to be received by citizens at a club and dine with S. R. Phillips
, in company with Governor William B. Washburn
and Henry L. Dawes
We passed two hours or more together in the drawing-room car, during which he was looking over parliamentary blue-books, except when I interrupted him. Once I said, ‘Do you not see how the heart of Massachusetts
is with you?’
‘Yes,’ he quietly answered, after a moment's thought; ‘I expected it, but not so soon.’
Leaving the train at Palmer
, I saw him again but for a minute or two in the evening at Springfield
when he was taking the train for New York.
As he stood on the platform of the car, we shook hands, he saying, ‘Good-by; God bless you!’
and we parted for the last time.
In a few moments he lad left forever the State
he had loved and served.
He was in New York two days. It was always his instinct to seek the relatives of his deceased friends, and this time he searched without success for the widow of Dr. Heber
, who had died October 2.
He paused for a day in Philadelphia
to see the Furness family, and here Mr. Forney
called on him.63
He reached Washington
on Friday of the same week.
It was evident during the summer
that the hearts of the people of Massachusetts
were with their senator.
The heats of the Presidential contest of 1872 had subsided.
Reasonable men, though not voting as he had advised, recognized that after the indignity he suffered when removed from the committee on which he had so long served, he could not, without loss of manhood, do otherwise than he did. The Credit Mobilier scandal had ruined some public men, hitherto of high consideration for integrity, while it had tainted the reputations of others whose apologies, in view of former good service, were accepted.
The unseemly greed which had prompted the last Congress in its closing hours to vote itself ‘back pay,’—an unearned salary which the senator, one of a small proportion of senators and representatives, declined to receive,—added to the distrust of public men.64
Among all classes in the country, however they differed
in politics, religious faith, sectional traits, or personal likings, there was accord in the belief that one life and character stood unassailable,—the life and character of Charles Sumner
He might have this fault or that; he might overdo in some things or fall short in others; but he had, as all men felt, upheld in the Senate for well-nigh a generation a lofty standard of fidelity, dignity, and unblemished virtue.65
Such a career is a capital which the American
people know how to value.
It would have been natural for Sumner
to expect when he came home in August to see some averted faces among the people he had left eleven months before with a deliverance which grated on their feelings; but these he did not see. As he walked the streets of his native city, citizens whom he had known and others whom he had not known stopped him to inquire eagerly for his health and to express their warmest interest in him. This cordiality was most noticeable among men of mercantile pursuits, who as a class had never been much attracted by his devotion to the uplifting of the African race.
Their friendly greetings in the clubs have already been mentioned.
At no time had he felt so sensibly the warm breath of popular favor, always grateful to a public man. It was everywhere the talk that he would be elected for a fifth term by the Legislature to be chosen a year later.
This public feeling found expression in the newspapers, and if there was dissent anywhere it was cherished in perfect silence.
The repeal of the legislative censure was already assured.
As things then looked, he was to receive the unanimous support of the people, again nominated by the Republicans and voted for by the Democrats,—not standing so much now the leader of a party as the first citizen of the Commonwealth
In the contest, if there had been one, the voice of his old colleague, now Vice-President
, would have been heard in his behalf,—not with youthful vigor as in 1851, but still potent and inspiring.
If in any quarter opposition had developed,—and this would have come only under stimulus from Washington
,—the members of the Legislature would have been chosen with sole reference
to his re-election, and without regard to party lines; and a result in his favor would have been certain.
When therefore he resumed his duties in the Senate for what proved his last session, he enjoyed the consciousness that his people loved and trusted him never more than now, perhaps never as much.