Ten days later—Nov. 4, 1846—on the eve of the Congressional Election
, at a meeting in the Tremont Temple
to advance the cause of the Election of Dr. Howe
in opposition to Mr. Winthrop
, the regular Whig candidate, Mr. Sumner
made one of his most effective speeches, in which he said:
When in the month of July, 1830, the people of Paris rose against the arbitrary ordinances of Charles X., and, after three days of bloody combat, succeeded in that Revolution, by virtue of which the Dynasty of Orleans now occupies the throne of France, Lafayette, votary of Liberty in two hemispheres, placing himself at the head of the movement, on the second day, walked from his residence to the City Hall, through streets impassable to carriages, filled with barricades, and strewn with the wrecks of war. Moving along with a thin attendance, he was unexpectedly joined by a gallant Bostonian, who, though young in life, was already eminent by seven years of disinterested service in the struggle for Grecian independence against the Turks, who had himself listened to the whizzing of bullets, and had narrowly escaped the descending scimitar.
Lafayette, considerate as he was brave, turned to his faithful friend, and said, ‘Do not join me; this is a danger for Frenchmen only; reserve yourself for your own country, where you will be needed.’
Our fellow-citizen heeded him not, but continued by his side, sharing his perils.
That Bostonian was Dr. Howe.
And now the words of Lafayette are verified.
He is needed by his country.
At the present crisis, in our Revolution of ‘Three Days,’ he comes forward to the post of danger.
I cannot disguise the satisfaction I shall feel in voting for him— beyond even the gratification of personal friendship—because he is not a politician.
His whole life is thickly studded with various labors in the highest of all causes, the good of man. He is the friend of the
poor—the friend of the blind—the friend of the prisoner—the friend of the slave.
Wherever there is suffering, there his friendship is manifest.
Generosity, disinterestedness, self-sacrifice and courage, have been his inspiring sentiments, directed by rare sagacity and intelligence; and now, wherever Humanity is regarded, wherever there are bosoms that beat responsive to philanthropic exertions, his name is cherished and beloved.
Such a man reflects lustre upon the place of his birth; far more than any one who has excelled only in the strife of politics, or the servitude of party.
He has qualities which commend him, especially at this time.
He is firm, ever true, honest, inflexible, a lover of the Right.
With a courage that charms opposition, he would not fear to stand alone against a fervid majority.
Knowing War by a fearful familiarity, he is an earnest defender of Peace.
With a singular experience of life in other countries, he now bring the stores which he has garnered up, and his noble spirit, to the service of his fellow-citizens.
May they know how to value them! * *
The true Whig ground, the only ground, consistent with our professed loyalty to the higher sentiments of duty, is constant uncompromising opposition to the war, in all the forms in which opposition may be made.
Expecting right from Mexico, we must begin by doing right.
We are the aggressors.
We must cease to be the aggressors.
This is the proper course of duty, having its foundations in the immutable laws of God. Our country must do as an individual in similar circumstances; for though politicians may disown it—and this principle cannot be too often repeated—there is but one rule of duty for nations and for individuals.
If any one of you, fellow-citizens, finding yourself in dispute with a neighbor, had unfortunately resorted to blows and felled him to the earth, but, with returning reason, discovered that you were in the wrong, what would you do?
Of course, cease instantly from wrong-doing. You would help your neighbor to his feet.
With Christian benevolence you would seek to soothe his wrongs.
You would not, in the language of President Polk, seek ‘to conquer a peace,’ nor, in the language of Mr. Winthrop, ‘to achieve an honorable peace’ by force.
Precisely so must our country act now. We must help our down-trodden Mexican neighbor to her feet.
We must withdraw our forces to the Neuces, and then, when ample justice has been done on our side, seek justice and peace from her. Be assured these would easily follow.
Perhaps the same response might come from the Mexicans, that the Falerii sent to the Roman Senate, through Camillus:
‘The Romans having preferred justice to conquest, have taught us to be satisfied with submission instead of liberty.’
That I may not seem to found these conclusions upon general principles of morals only, let me invoke the example of the Whigs of England, of Chatham, Camden, Burke, Fox and Sheridan, in their opposition to the war of our Revolution; denouncing it, at the outset, as unjust, and never, during its whole progress, failing to declare their condemnation of it; voting against supplies for its prosecution, and against thanks for the military services by which it was waged.
Holding their example, as of the highest practical authority on the present question of political duty, and as particularly fit to be regarded by persons professing to be Whigs in America, I shall make no apology for introducing at some length the authentic evidence which places it beyond doubt.
This is to be found in the volumes of the Parliamentary Debates.
I am not aware that it has ever before been applied to the present discussion.
In the Debate in the Lords on the address of Thanks in Oct. 1775, after the battle of Lexington and Bunker Hill—the Duke of Grafton said:
I pledge myself to your lordships and my country, that, if necessity should require it, and my health not otherwise permit it, I mean to come down to this House in a litter, in order to express my full and hearty disapprobation of the measures now pursuing; and, as I understand from the noble lords in office, meant to be pursued.
I do protest, that if my brother or dearest friend were to be affected by the vote I mean to give this evening, I cannot, possibly, resist the faithful discharge of my conscience and my duty.
Were I to lose my fortune, and every other thing I esteem, were I to be reduced to beggary itself, the strong conviction and compulsion at once operating on my mind and conscience, would not permit me to take any other part on the present occasion, than that I now mean to adopt.
At the close of this Debate, a protest was signed by several peers, containing the following clause:
Because we cannot, as Englishmen, as Christians, or as men of common humanity, consent to the prosecution of a cruel civil war, so little supported by justice, and so very fatal in its necessary consequences, as that which is now waging against our brethren and fellow-subjects in America.
In the House of Commons, on the same Address, Mr. Wilkes said:
I call the war with our brethren in America, an unjust felonious war. * * * I assert that it is a murderous war, because it is an effort to deprive men of their lives for standing up in the just cause of the defence of their property, and their clear rights.
It becomes no less a
murderous war, with respect to many of our fellow-subjects of this Island; for every man, either of the army or navy, who has been sent by Government to America, and fallen a victim in this unnatural and unjust contest, has, in my opinion, been murdered by the administration, and his blood lies at their door.
Such a war, I fear, Sir, will draw down the vengeance of Heaven upon this devoted kingdom.
Mr. Fox said:
He could not consent to the bloody consequences of so silly a contest about so silly an object, conducted in the silliest manner that history, or observation, had ever furnished an instance of; and from which we were likely to derive nothing but poverty, misery, disgrace, defeat, and ruin.
Mr. Serjeant Adair said:
I am against the present war, because I think it unjust in its com-,encement, injurious to both countries in its prosecution, and ruinous in its event. * * * I think from the bottom of my soul, that the Colonies are engaged in a noble and glorious struggle. * * * Sir, I could not be easy in my own mind, without entering the strongest and most public protestations against measures which appear to me to be fraught with the destruction of this mighty Empire.
I wash my hands of the blood of my fellow-subjects; and shall at least have this satisfaction, amidst the impending calamities of the public, not only to think that I have contributed to, but that I have done all in my power to oppose and avert the ruin of my country.
In another debate in the Lords, Nov. 15th, 1775, that strenuous friend of freedom, and upholder of Whig principles, Lord Camden.
Peace is still within our power; nay, we can command it. A suspension of arms on our part, if adopted in time, will secure it for us; and I may add on our own terms.
From which it is plain, as we have been the original aggressors in this business, if we obstinately persist, we are fairly answerable for all the consequences. I again repeat, what I often urged before, that I was against this unnatural war from the beginning.
I was equally against every measure from the instant the first tax was proposed, to this minute.
When, therefore, it is insisted, that we are only to defend and enforce our own right, I positively deny it. I contend bat America has been driven by cruel necessity to defend her right, from the united attacks of violence, oppression, and injustice.
I contend that America has been indisputably aggrieved. * * * I must still think, and shall uniformly continue to assert, that Great Britain has been the aggressor; that most, if not all, the acts were founded on oppression, and that if I was in America, I should resist to the last such manifest exertion of tyranny, violence, and injustice.
In another debate in the Commons, Dec. 8th, 1785, Mr. Fox said:
I have always said that the war carrying on against America is unjust.
In the Commons, March 11th, 1776, Col. Barre, Mr. Burke, Mr. Fox, all vied in eulogies upon General Montgomery, the account of whose death before Quebec had arrived some days before.
In the Commons, April 24th, 1776, a debate arose on the Budget, containing resolutions to raise taxes to carry on the war against America.
Mr. Fox then said:
To the resolutions he should give a flat negative, and that not because of any particular objection to the taxes proposed (although it might be a sufficient ground for urging many) but because he could not conscientiously agree to grant any money for so destructive, so ignoble a purpose as the carrying on a war commenced unjustly, and supported with no other view than to the extirpation of freedom, and the violation of every social comfort.
This he conceived to be the strict line of conduct to be observed by A member of Parliament.
He then painted the war with America as unjust, and the pursuance of the war as blood-thirsty and oppressive.
Col. Barre followed, and adopted the phrase of Mr. Fox, giving his flat negative to the Resolutions, as they were calculated to tax the subject for an unjust purpose.
In the Lords, Oct. 31st, 1776, the Duke of Grafton said:
He pledged himself to the House, and to the Public, that while he had a leg to stand on, he would come down day after day to express the most marked abhorrence of the measures hitherto pursued, and meant to be adhered to in respect to America.
In the Commons, on the same night, Mr. Fox said:
The noble Lord who moved the amendment, said that we were in the dilemma of conquering or abandoning America; if we are reduced to that, I am for abandoning America.
In the Commons, Nov. 6th, 1776, Mr. Burke said:
You simply tell the Colonists to lay down their arms, and then you will do just as you please.
Could the most cruel conqueror say less?
Had you conquered the devil himself in hell, could you be less liberal?
In the Commons, Feb. 18th, 1777, Col. Barre said:
America must be reclaimed, not conquered or subdued. Conciliation or concession are the only sure means of either gaining or retaining America.
In the Commons, May 14th, 1777, another debate occurred on the Budget, in the course of which Mr. Burke said:
He was and ever would be ready to support a just war, whether against subjects or alien enemies; but where justice, or a color of justice, was wanting, he should ever be the first to oppose it.
In the Lords, May 28th, 1777, Lord Chatham brought forward a motion to put a stop to American hostilities, and said:
We have tried for unconditional submission; try what can be gained by unconditional redress. We are the aggressors.
We have invaded them.
We have invaded them as much as the Spanish Armada invaded England. * * * * In the sportsman's phrase, when you have found yourself at fault, you must try back. I shall no doubt hear it objected, Why should we submit or concede?
Has America done anything, on her part, to induce us to agree to so large a ground of concession?
I will tell you, my lords, why I think you should.
You have been the aggressors from the beginning.
If then we are the aggressors, it is your lordships' business to make the first overture.
I say again, this country has been the aggressor.
You have made descents upon their coasts; you have burnt their towns, plundered their country, made war upon the inhabitants, confiscated their property, proscribed and imprisoned their persons.
I do therefore affirm, that, instead of exacting unconditional submission from the Colonies, we should grant them unconditional redress. We have injured them; we have endeavored to enslave and oppress them.
Upon this clear ground, instead of chastisement they are entitled to redress.
If I were an American, as I am an Englishman, while a foreign troop was landed in my country, I never would lay down my arms—never—never— never.
And again Lord Chatham said:
I would sell my shirt from off my back to assist in proper measures, properly and wisely conducted; but I would not part with a single shilling to the present ministers. Their plans are founded in destruction and disgrace.
It is, my lord, a ruinous and destructive war; it is full of danger; it teens with disgrace, and must end in ruin.
In the Lords, Nov. 18th, 1777, the Duke of Richmond said:
Can we too soon put a stop to such a scene of carnage?
I know, that what I am going to say is not fashionable language, but a time will come when every one of us must account to God for his actions; and how can we justify causing so many innocent lives to be lost?
In the Commons, Dec. 5th, 1778, Mr. Hartley, the constant friend of America, brought forward a motion:
That it is unbecoming the wisdom and prudence of Parliament, to proceed any further in the support of this fruitless, expensive, and destructive war; more especially without any specific terms of accommodation declared.
In the Lords, Feb. 16th, 1778, the Marquis of Rockingham said:
He was determined to serve his country, by making peace at any rate.
In the Lords, March 23d, 1778, the Duke of Richmond brought forward a motion for the withdrawal of the forces from America.
In the Commons, Nov. 27th, 1780, on a motion to thank General Clinton and others, for their military services in America, Mr. Wilkes said:
I think it my duty to oppose this motion, because in my idea every part of it conveys an approbation of the American war; a war unfounded in principle, and fatal in its consequences to this country. * * Sir, I will not thank for victories which only tend to protract a destructive war. * * As I reprobate the want of principle in the origin of the American war, I the more lament all the spirited exertions of valor and the wisdom of conduct, which, in a good cause, I warmly applaud.
Thinking as I do, I see more matter of grief than of triumph, of bewailing than thanksgiving, in this civil contest, and the deluge of blood which has overflowed America. * * I deeply lament that the lustre of such splendid victories is obscured and darkened by the want of a good cause, without which no war, in the eye of truth and reason, before God or man, can be justified.
Mr. Fox said:
He allowed the merits of the officers now in question, but he made a distinction between thanks and praise.
He might admire their valor, but he could not separate the intention from the action; they were united in his mind; there they formed one whole, and he would not attempt to divide them.
Mr. Sheridan said:
There were in that House different descriptions of men who could not assent to a vote of thanks that seemed to imply a recognition or approbation of the American war.
Such is the doctrine of morals, sanctioned by high English examples.
Such should be the doctrine of an American statesman.
If we apply this to the existing exigency; nay, more, if we undertake to try the candidates on the present occasion by this standard, we shall find, that, as Dr. Howe is unquestionably right, so Mr. Winthrop is too certainly wrong.
In thus exalting our own candidate, I would not unduly disparage another.
It is for the sake of the cause in which we are engaged,—by the side of which all individuals dwindle into insignificance,—that we now oppose Mr. Winthrop.
We desire to bear our testimony earnestly, heartily, sincerely, against Slavery, and the longer
continuance of the Mexican war. We demand the retreat of General Taylor, and the instant withdrawal of the American forces.
And even if we seem to fail, in this election, we shall not fail in reality.
The influence of this effort will be felt.
It will help to awaken and organize that powerful public opinion by which this war will at last be arrested.
Hang out, then, fellow-citizens, the white banner of Peace.
Unfurl all its ample folds, streaming with Christian trophies.
Let the citizens of Boston rally about it; and let it be borne by an enlightened, conscientious people, aroused to the condemnation of this murderous war, until Mexico, wet with blood unjustly shed, shall repose undisturbed at last beneath its celestial folds.