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The battle between Slavery and Freedom had been waxing hotter with every debate during the spring of 1854. On the 22d of June, Mr. Rockwell, of Massachusetts, presented the following memorial, numerously signed, chiefly by the citizens of Boston, and moved its reference to the Committee on the Judiciary:
To the Honorable the Senate and House of Representatives in Congress assembled: The undersigned, men of Massachusetts, ask for the repeal of the Act of Congress of 1850, known as the Fugitive Slave Bill.

Mr. Sumner spoke on the reference of the memorial two days later. We extract portions of his remarks:

Mr. President: I begin by answering the interrogatory propounded by the Senator from Tennessee [Mr. Jones]. He asks, ‘Can any one suppose that, if the Fugitive Slave Act be repealed, this Union can exist?’ To which I reply at once, that if the Union be in any way dependent on an Act—I cannot call it a law—so revolting in every regard as that to which he refers, then it ought not to exist. To much else that has fallen from that Senator I do not desire to reply. He has discussed at length matters already handled again and again in the long drawn out debates of this session. Like the excited hero of Macedonia, he has renewed past conflicts,

And thrice he routed all his foes,
And thrice he slew the slain.

Of what the Senator has said on the relations of Senators, North and South, of a particular party, it is not my province to speak. And yet I cannot turn from it without expressing, at least, a single aspiration, that men from the North, whether Whigs or Democrats, will neither be cajoled nor driven by any temptation, or lash, from the support of those principles of freedom which are inseparable from the true honor and welfare of the country. At last, I trust, there will be a back-bone in the North.

This memorial proceeds mainly from persons connected with trade and commerce. Now, it is a fact too well known in the history of England, and of our own country, that these persons, while often justly distinguished by their individual charities and munificence, have been lukewarm in their opposition to Slavery. Twice in English history the [226] ‘mercantile interest’ frowned upon the endeavors to suppress the atrocity of Algerine Slavery; steadfastly in England it sought to baffle Wilberforce's great effort for the abolition of the African Slave-trade; and, at the formation of our own Constitution, it stipulated a sordid compromise, by which this same detested, Heaven-defying traffic, was saved for twenty years from American judgment. But now it is all changed—at least in Boston. The representatives of the ‘mercantile interest’ place themselves in the front of the new movement against Slavery, and, by their explicit memorial, call for the abatement of a grievance which they have bitterly felt in Boston.

Mr. President, this memorial is interesting to me, first, as it asks a repeal of the Fugitive Slave Bill, and secondly, as it comes from Massachusetts. That repeal I shall be glad at any time, now and hereafter, as in times past, to sustain by vote and argument; and I trust never to fail in any just regard for the sentiments or interests of Massachusetts. With these few remarks, I would gladly close. But there has been an arraignment here to-day, both of myself and of the Common-wealth which I represent. To all that has been said of myself or the Commonwealth—so far as it is an impeachment of either—so far as it subjects either to any just censure, I plead openly, for myself and for Massachusetts, ‘not guilty.’ But pardon me, if I do not submit to be tried by the Senate, fresh from the injustice of the Nebraska Bill. In the language of the common law I put myself upon ‘God and the country,’ and claim the same trial for my honored Commonwealth.

So far as the arraignment touches me personally, I hardly care to speak.

In response for Massachusetts, there are other things. Something surely must be pardoned to her history. In Massachusetts stands Boston. In Boston stands Faneuil Hall, where, throughout the perils which preceded the Revolution, our patriot fathers assembled to vow themselves to Freedom. Here in those days, spoke James Otis, full of the thought that ‘the people's safety is the law of God.’ Here, also, spoke Joseph Warren, inspired by the sentiment that ‘death with all its tortures is preferable to Slavery.’ And here, also, thundered John Adams, fervid with the conviction that ‘consenting to Slavery is a sacrilegious breach of trust.’ Not far from this venerable Hall—between this temple of freedom and the very court-house, to which the Senator [Mr. Jones] has referred—is the street, where, in 1770, the first blood was spilt in conflict between British troops and American citizens, and among the victims was one of that African trace, which you so much despise. Almost within sight is Bunker Hill; [227] further off, Lexington and Concord. Amidst these scenes, a Slave-Hunter from Virginia appears, and the disgusting rites begin by which a fellow-man is doomed to bondage. Sir, can you wonder that the people were moved?

Who can be wise, amazed, temperate and furious,
Loyal and neutral, in a moment. No man.

It is true that the Slave Act was with difficulty executed, and that one of its servants perished in the effort. On these grounds the Senator from Tennessee charges Boston with fanaticism. 1 express no opinion on the conduct of individuals; but I do say, that the fanaticism, which the Senator condemns, is not new in Boston. It is the same which opposed the execution of the Stamp Act, and finally secured its repeal. it is the same which opposed the Tea Tax. It is the fanaticism which finally triumphed on Bunker Hill. The Senator says that Boston is filled with traitors. That charge is not new. Boston, of old, was the home of Hancock and Adams. Her traitors now are those who are truly animated by the spirit of the American Revolution. In condemning them, in condemning Massachusetts, in condemning these remonstrants, you simply give a proper conclusion to the utterance on this floor, that the Declaration of Independence is ‘a self-evident lie.’

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