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Chapter 33: the national election of 1848.—the Free Soil Party.— 1848-1849.

The invasion of Mexico proceeded with uninterrupted success, and in less than two years from its beginning ended —as such a war between two such powers was sure to end in the acquisition of an immense territory by the conquering power. During the hostilities tills extension had appeared inevitable to men of political foresight; it would spread our empire on the continent, always an American aspiration; and territory was all that the conquered nation could give as an indemnity. In February, 1848, Mexico ceded to the United States Upper California and New Mexico, a region extending from Texas to the Pacific Ocean.1 It was a domain which, even without its hidden treasures, might well be coveted, and it has wonderfully promoted national development. At the same time its acquisition aggravated a sectional controversy which was to close in blood. The question of its future condition—whether to be free or slave, to increase the number of free or slave States— was one of transcendent import, involving the welfare of the whole nation for generations to come. It appealed to moral as well as political interests. It could not, from its nature, be excluded from politics until it was settled, and settled justly. It pressed upon the attention of large masses of citizens, thoughtful and sober-minded, who had hitherto regarded the conflict with slavery as one of sentimental and speculative rather than practical interest, and who now recognized the supreme importance of electing a Congress and President who could be trusted to exclude slavery forever from the newly acquired territory.

It had been long a scheme of the slaveholders to extend their power to the Pacific Ocean, though the wiser heads among them [159] shrank at the last from an extension which might after a struggle leave them relatively weaker. The purpose of Polk's Administration to acquire territory from Mexico was manifested early in the war, and even before. The President, in August, 1846, signified to Congress that a cession from Mexico was a probable mode of concluding peace, and with that purpose in view called for two millions of dollars. An appropriation bill being reported in the House, Wilmot of Pennsylvania moved, August 8, an amendment, known afterwards as the ‘Wilmot Proviso,’ prohibiting slavery forever in the territory to be acquired. It passed the House with the general support of both Northern Whigs and Democrats, but a vote was prevented in the Senate by ‘the unseasonable loquacity’ of John Davis of Massachusetts, who was still talking when the session expired.2 The struggle was renewed at the next session, 1846-1847, on appropriation bills providing the means for negotiating a treaty; but though the Proviso at different times passed the House, in which the Northern members were largely in a majority, it was as often rejected in the Senate, which was more equally divided between the sections, and less susceptible to popular pressure. Uniformly the House receded from its position, and the Proviso was lost. Thus the question was left open for the national election of 1848.

When the issue of freedom or slavery for the new territory had been sharply drawn, a considerable body of the Whigs—the Southern generally, and the Northern to a large extent—sought to escape it by a declaration against any acquisition from Mexico. This proposition was made in the Senate by Berrien of Georgia, a Whig, in February, 1847, expressly, as he said, in the interest of the South; it was favored by other Southern men as a mode of allaying sectional agitation; and in the North, Whig politicians accepted it as a, device for keeping the peace within the party. Webster earnestly advocated it;3 Corwin gave it later his sanction as a way of avoiding a direct issue on the Wilmot Proviso;4 Winthrop in the House supported it;5 and the Northern Whig press very generally adopted it as a politic solution of a vexed question. The proposition, as it came from Berrien in the Senate and from Winthrop in the House, was lost by a vote [160] which was rather party than sectional. The advantages of the acquisition were too apparent, and the passion for territorial expansion too strong, to admit of this feeble expedient for resisting the course of events. Sumner from the beginning believed the acquisition to be inevitable, and treated the ‘no more territory’ makeshift as altogether impracticable. Indeed, he never accepted the Whig idea of keeping the republic within its ancient limits, and was ready—as his welcome to Alaska and Canada late in life shows—for any extension on the continent which came naturally and justly.6

Contemporaneously with the debates concerning the exclusion of slavery from Mexican territory to be acquired, there was a similar contest as to a territorial government for Oregon. After a discussion prolonged from the previous session, a provision interdicting slavery in that territory passed the House, Aug. 2, 1848, mostly by a sectional vote, and was rejected by the Senate; but the latter body, which had on similar occasions carried its point against the former, receded August 13, and the bill received the signature of President Polk,—his approval being accompanied with the apology that ‘it was not [on account of the latitude] inconsistent with the terms of the Missouri Compromise.’

Among the incidents of the conflict was the Clayton compromise, reported in July, 1848,—a insidious device for establishing slavery judicially. It prohibited the territorial legislatures of California and New Mexico from acting on the subject, and referred the question of its legal existence in those territories to the Supreme Court of the United States, then a pro-slavery tribunal. the measure received the support of Calhoun and Jefferson Davis, with no Northern Whig senator supporting it except Phelps of Vermont. It passed the Senate, but was lost in the House,—its defeat in the latter body being accomplished, strangely enough, by Alexander H. Stephens, who, from whatever motives acting, did the country a good service on that day.7

The debates in the years 1846-1848 in relation to the Oregon and Mexican territories brought the opponents and partisans of [161] slavery into a closer and fiercer conflict than before. The latter, emboldened by recent triumphs, set up with greater audacity than ever their pro-slavery theory of the Constitution, maintaining that it carried slavery into all national territories, and established it there beyond the power of Congress or of the inhabitants to abolish it; and they were turbulent and defiant, threatening disunion and armed resistance if their alleged right of dominion should be denied. In the midst of this turmoil and uncertainty, when Northern votes in Congress were shifting, and political leaders were hiding behind subterfuges, there was an uprising in the free States which defeated the Clayton compromise, forced the organization of Oregon as a free territory, and reserved the question as to California and New Mexico for a popular agitation.8

The Democratic national convention meeting at Baltimore in May, 1848, nominated Lewis Cass for President. He had been an unhesitating partisan of the annexation of Texas and of the Mexican War; and though professing himself at one time to be in favor of the Wilmot Proviso, he avowed a change of mind as the time for the selection of a candidate approached, and was now fully committed against any legislation by Congress on the subject of slavery in the territories. No Northern politician was ever more abject in his submission to Southern dictation. The convention abstained from an explicit declaration on the vexed question, but its resolutions in their general drift indicated an entire accord with the opinions and purposes of the slaveholding class. Its proceedings met with a vigorous protest from a contesting delegation from New York,—the ‘Barnburners,’ as they were called, who immediately after its adjournment organized a formidable revolt in that State. This division of the Democratic party was compounded of uncongenial elements,—some of its adherents acting under genuine antislavery convictions, while others (the larger number, as it was proved by their action four years later) avowed them only as a cover for a purpose to revenge Van Buren's rejection in 1844, or were inspired by partisan animosities growing out of the strifes of New York politics. [162]

The Whigs, while strong with capitalists and conservative citizens, did not attract the masses of the people; and they had little hope of success except with a candidate who could inspire popular enthusiasm and draw a considerable body of voters from the rival party. this accounts for their setting aside in three elections—1840, 1848, and 1852—their historic representatives, and taking in their stead candidates prominent only as military men, and having little or no identification with the policy of the party. Their convention meeting at Philadelphia in June, 1848, nominated on the fourth ballot General Zachary Taylor. His selection had become probable for some months, though other candidates did not yield without a contest. Henry Clay, identified with the history of the party, and more than any one representing its general spirit, received considerable support. General Scott, distinguished as a soldier, and like Clay inclined to a moderate course on the slavery question, was thought by a respectable body of delegates to be both a worthy and an available candidate. A small number of delegates from New England stood faithfully by Webster. The convention put forth no platform of principles and measures, and rejected resolutions which approved legislation by Congress for prohibiting slavery in the territories. Two delegates from MassachusettsCharles Allen and Henry Wilson—announced, amidst demonstrations of disfavor, their determination to oppose the candidate because he did not represent the party or the principles of liberty,—the former declaring that the Whig party was from that day dissolved, and the latter saying with emphasis that he would do all he could to defeat the candidate. Their protests had an immediate effect on the vote for Vice-President, which resulted in the defeat of Abbott Lawrence, of Massachusetts, and the success, by a small majority, of Millard Fillmore, of New York.

General Taylor's declarations before his adoption by the convention were so inconsistent with the position of a party leader, in which the nomination would necessarily place him, as to preclude his selection by a party which had any confidence in its hold on the people. He had, indeed, no political record,—had not so much as exercised the right to vote, the primary right of the citizen; had confessed that he had no opinions on political questions, and said that he would not be the candidate of any party, or the exponent of the principles of any party. He [163] was the proprietor of estates in Louisiana, and the owner of a large number of slaves. His candidacy was chiefly of Southern origin. Almost with the first suggestion of his name for the office he was announced as an independent candidate in various meetings, mostly in the slave States; and he then signified clearly his purpose to remain a candidate irrespectively of the formal action of the Whig party. It was even doubtful at one time whether his special partisans would submit his name to the convention. Not only did his nomination have a Southern origin, but the main body of his original supporters in the convention were Southern men, intensely opposed to the Wilmot Proviso.9 His Southern partisans, both before and after the convention, contended in their journals that more than any other person named for the place he would be loyal to Southern interests and to the institution of slavery, and that he would put his foot on Congressional action against slavery in the territories. His selection, as all admitted, was due to the popular favor he had won by victories obtained in a war growing out of the annexation of Texas and a plot for the extension of slavery.10 With the associations and interests of a slaveholder, with a candidacy thus promoted and a popularity thus obtained, whatever might be his attractive personal qualities, he necessarily repelled the support of antislavery men who were pledged by their convictions and declarations to accept no candidate whose position on the extension of slavery was either hostile or ambiguous.

General Taylor's candidacy found quite early some support at the North,—chiefly with active politicians intent upon success and comparatively indifferent to any principles involved, and with manufacturers personally interested in restoring the protective system as existing under the tariff of 1842, which had been repealed in 1846. These classes had no real interest in the slavery question, or treated it as only on a level with, or even subordinate to, material questions. In Massachusetts the support which Webster received as a candidate at this time from many of the Whig leaders was only nominal; and they [164] gave in a quiet way, in personal interviews and wide correspondence, their countenance to the Taylor movement.11 Their real sympathics were well understood at the South, and were gratefully recognized in the large vote—almost a majority— which was given to Lawrence as a candidate for the Vice-Presidency, and in his subsequent appointment as minister to England.

Sumner awaited the result of the Whig convention with indifference. He had come to the conclusion that no effectual resistance could be made to the slave-power until one of the two parties was broken up, leaving room for a party pledged to opposition to slavery. Some of his associates in Massachusetts would have accepted Webster;12 but he had come to distrust the fidelity of that statesman, who had shown weakness in important crises, and had already interfered to arrest antislavery demonstrations which appeared to him likely to impair the unity of the Whig party. To Sumner a solid mass of antislavery voters in the free States, moving steadily and courageously against the slave-power, was of far greater consequence than the temporary advantage of a President, elected in part by the slaveholding interest, who might be more or less affected with Northern sentiment. As his convictions were altogether in favor of an independent movement, so also he was not hound to the Whig party by any tie of sentiment; nor had he any real faith in its distinctive measures. The party bond, therefore, which it cost others a pang to break, he broke without hesitation or regret. He wrote to Palfrey, April 23, 1848:—

There is a movement at the State House to nominate Webster. E. Rockwood Hoar and Charles R. Train promote it. The former invited me to favor it. I told him that I could not regard Webster as the representative of our sentiments; that he had been totally remiss on slavery and the war. It was proposed to issue an address setting forth the Wilmot Proviso as the platform, and showing significantly that Taylor would be opposed in Massachusetts. All these I welcomed; at the same time I said that if Webster were presented as a candidate on these grounds our present policy would be silence; we could [165] not oppose him, nor join in introducing him as a candidate. Hoar says that the address and resolutions are well drawn and satisfactory. He has evidently felt the fascination of Webster's presence. Webster told him that he would not oppose the nominee of the Whig convention, but that he would never call on the people to support Taylor, though he might be nominated.13

The antislavery Whigs of Massachusetts, anticipating the result of the Whig convention, conferred in advance as to the manner in which they should meet it. On May 27 there was a conference in Boston at the office of C. F. Adams, where were present Adams, S. C. Phillips, Sumner, Wilson, E. R. Hoar, E. L. Keyes, F. W. Bird, and Edward Walcutt. They decided in case General Taylor, or any candidate not distinctly committed against the extension of slavery, should be nominated at Philadelphia to enter at once upon an organized opposition to his election, and to call a State convention for the purpose. At a later meeting, June 5, they approved a form of call prepared by E. R. Hoar, and agreed to issue it in the event of General Taylor's nomination. Wilson and Allen were joined at Philadelphia by thirteen14 other delegates, who approved their public protest against General Taylor's nomination, and it was decided to call a national convention to be held at Buffalo in August. The two protesting delegates from Massachusetts upon their return home addressed their constituents,—Wilson by letter, and Allen in person,—both reviewing the proceedings at Philadelphia, and summoning the people to reject them.15 The call already prepared was at once issued, with a list of signers, in which Adams's name stood first and Sumner's second. It invited the citizens of Massachusetts who were opposed to the [166] nomination of Cass and Taylor to meet at Worcester, June 28, ‘to take such steps as the occasion shall demand—in support of the principles to which they are pledged, and to co-operate with the other free States in a convention for this purpose.’ Sumner took an active part in obtaining the speakers,16 and making other preparations for the convention. Five thousand people answered to the call. It was an assembly distinguished for that loyalty to moral principle which has been the life and glory of New England. Finding no hall large enough, the multitude thronged upon the Common. The venerable Samuel Hoar, whose name is associated with the mission to South Carolina for the protection of the colored seamen of Massachusetts, was called to the chair. S. C. Phillips reported an address and resolutions; six delegates at large, with Adams's name at the head, were chosen to attend the convention at Buffalo. Among the speakers were Allen, Wilson, Amasa Walker, Joshua Leavitt, Adams, Sumner, Keyes, E. R. Hoar, J. R. Giddings, and L. D. Campbell, the last two from Ohio. Early in the day Sumner read a letter from Dr. Palfrey (then in Congress) approving the objects of the meeting, and moved a vote of thanks to Allen and Wilson. His speech at the City Hall in the evening was entitled ‘Union against the extension of Slavery.’17 Wilson has described it as ‘one of great thoroughness and force; not only enunciating the commanding principles of liberty, but foreshadowing with confidence and hope the time when they should be embodied in the actual and triumphant policy of the State and nation.’ Sumner, writing of the convention, said:—

This was the beginning of the separate Free Soil organization in Massachusetts, which afterwards grew into the Republican party. . . . The speeches were earnest and determined, and they were received in a corresponding spirit. No great movement ever showed at the beginning more character and power. It began true and strong. All the speakers united in renouncing old party ties. None did this better than C. F. Adams.

Sumner's speech was a brief one.18 He dwelt upon the growth and potent influence of ‘the slave-power,’ which he defined as [167] ‘that combination of persons, or perhaps of politicians, whose animating principle is the perpetuation and extension of slavery, with the advancement of slaveholders;’ and he contended that former issues, altogether material and economical, which had hitherto been party watchwords, had disappeared. He concluded with an inspiring appeal to all, particularly the young, to join the new movement for truth, justice, and humanity. With reference to the objection that the new party could not succeed, he said:—

But it is said that we shall throw away our votes, and that our opposition will fail. Fail, sir! No honest, earnest effort in a good cause can fail. It may not be crowned with the applause of men; it may not seem to touch the goal of immediate worldly success, which is the end and aim of so much in life. But it is not lost; it helps to strengthen the weak with new virtue, to arm the irresolute with proper energy, to animate all with devotion to duty, which in the end conquers all. Fail! Did the martyrs fail when with their precious blood they sowed the seed of the Church? Did the discomfited champions of Freedom fail who have left those names in history that can never die? Did the three hundred Spartans fail when in the narrow pass they did not fear to brave the innumerable Persian hosts, whose very arrows darkened the sun? Overborne by numbers, crushed to earth, they left an example greater far than any victory. And this is the least we can do. Our example will be the mainspring of triumph hereafter. It will not be the first time in history that the hosts of Slavery have outnumbered the champions of Freedom. But where is it written that Slavery finally prevailed?

Sumner wrote to Palfrey, June 8:—

The news has come by telegraph; we have no details. Meanwhile the enclosed call19 has been printed; it was written by Rockwood Hoar. The Webster men have promised to bolt with us; it remains to be seen if they will. They say that Webster will. Our call has not yet received any signatures; indeed, it has not left my office. We await the movement of the others; we offer to lead or follow. I wish you were here. It is said that Mr. Lawrence will be ousted from the Vice-Presidential chances; this pleases many here. The Webster and Lawrence factions are very angry with each other,—almost as much as both once were with us.

To George Sumner, June 13:—

Taylor is nominated at last. A week or fortnight will disclose whether a new combination will not be effected among the free States. The effect of a regular nomination is potential. It is difficult to oppose it; but it will be opposed in Ohio, and there are symptoms now of rebellion in New York. In Massachusetts we have called a convention for June 28 to organize opposition. [168] Meanwhile the ‘Barnburners’ are shaking New York to its centre. We hope to establish an alliance among the disaffected of both parties throughout tile free States.

Again, July 4—

We of the Whigs in Massachusetts have had our demonstration at Worcester, which was very effective. We have struck a chord which promises to vibrate throughout the free States. There are many persons who say now that the nominees, of the Buffalo convention, called for August 9, will carry all the free States. Our movement does not interest the cotton lords or the rich, but the people; it is eminently a popular cause. In Massachusetts it has been successful beyond my most sanguine expectations. Wherever our speakers have been they have produced a strong impression, so that we are led to believe that all that is wanted is that the truth should be declared. Put it before the people, and they will receive it. The coming Presidential contest promises to have a character which none other has ever had. High principles will be discussed in it.

To Whittier, July 12:—

Things tend to Van Buren as our candidate; I am willing to take him. With him we can break the slave-power; that is our first aim. We can have a direct issue on the subject of slavery. We hope that McLean will be Vice-President. Truly, success seems to be within our reach. I never supposed that I should belong to a successful party.

Sumner answered briefly to a call of the audience at a meeting in Tremont Temple, June 30, where Giddings made the principal speech;20 and he assisted in arranging other meetings in July.

The popular insurrection against the nominations made at Baltimore and Philadelphia seemed formidable when the antislavery opponents of Cass and Taylor came thronging to Buffalo from all parts of the free States. As they met August 9 in the City Park under a spacious tent, their numbers were estimated by impartial spectators at not less than ten thousand, and even as high as forty thousand. C. F. Adams was called to the chair. A part of the delegates had been chosen with method, and with deference to a fair apportionment; but the greater number were chosen irregularly, or came as volunteers. With some difficulty there was eliminated from the mass a representative body of delegates or ‘conferees,’ from which proceeded the resolutions and nominations. Over this body Salmon P. Chase presided. The men marked as leaders were Chase, [169] Giddings, and Samuel Lewis of Ohio; Adams of Massachusetts; and Preston King, Benjamin F. Butler, D. D. Field, and Samuel J. Tilden, of New York. Both the nominating body and the mass meeting were animated by a profound earnestness. A religious fervor pervaded the resolutions and addresses. The speakers asserted fundamental rights and universal obligations, and in their appeals and asseverations sought the sanctions of the Christian faith.21

The resolutions, which were prepared chiefly by Chase, assisted by Butler and Adams, while accepting constitutional limitations which excluded interference with slavery in the States, declared the duty of the national government to prohibit it by law in the national territories, and to relieve itself from all responsibility for the extension and continuance of the system wherever the power of that government extended. The platform was an advance beyond the position of the Barnburners of New York, as it did not limit the issue to the freedom of the territories. The delegates were, however, confronted with a more difficult duty when they sought for a candidate fitly representing their cause, and likely to inspire confidence and enthusiasm, without exciting the prejudice of voters formerly acting with either of the two leading parties. The candidacy did not promise immediate success, and therefore did not attract statesmen with an assured position. Corwin, to whom Giddings, Sumner, and other antislavery men had turned with high expectations, was now an open supporter of Taylor. Webster, after some dalliance with the movement, was keeping aloof from it. Judge McLean, whose nomination was most favored by those who had been Whigs hitherto, withdrew his name at the last moment.22 These Whig names being out of the question, the only alternative was the nomination of Ex-President Martin Van Buren, who was urged by the well-organized delegation from New York. As a Democrat, he had shown himself to be an intense partisan; and on two occasions as President he had given just offence to the antislavery sentiment of the free States. But in subserviency to the South he was not a marked exception among the public [170] men of his time, and one of his acts was to his credit. He had refused as President to promote the annexation of Texas in any way involving war with mexico,—an exhibition of political virtue which prevented his nomination in 1844,—and he was now fully committed to the principles of the new party.23 His nomination, by dividing the Democrats in New York, insured Cass's defeat, as that of McLean would probably have insured Taylor's defeat. Adams was nominated for Vice-President.

Sumner was not a delegate to the convention. The delegates from Massachusetts had been appointed equally among the recruits from existing parties; and Sumner, though hitherto acting as a Whig, was not thought to have been sufficiently identified with that party to be taken as one of its representatives. He expressed his desire that some other person should be chosen, and cordially approved the selection of Mr. Dana in his stead.24 His interest in the movement led him, however, to go to Buffalo, where he was urged to address the mass meeting; but as there was a sufficiency of speakers, he declined. Unlike some of his former Whig associates, Sumner had no prejudices against Van Buren. He was then, as always, hospitable to new converts, and disposed to take men as they were at the time. He was also predisposed in Van Buren's favor by personal associations with some leading Barnburners,—as with Theodore Sedgwick, H. B. Stanton, and D. D. Field; and after the nomination John Bigelow, S. J. Tilden, and Preston King were his correspondents.

State conventions and ratification meetings of the new party now known as the Free Soil party, or Free Democracy,25 at once followed the Buffalo convention. Sumner, who had been obliged to suspend political speaking while preparing his address for Union College, Schenectady, now entered actively into the canvass. He was called to the chair at a meeting held at Faneuil Hall, August 22, to ratify the nominations of Van Buren and Adams, and was cordially welcomed by a full and enthusiastic house. He spoke briefly of the three conventions and of the candidates, giving his support to ‘the Van Buren of to-day,— the veteran statesman, sagacious, determined, experienced, who [171] at an age when most men are rejoicing to put off their armor girds himself anew, and enters the lists as the champion of freedom.’ Of the new movement he said:—

The sentiment of opposition to the slave-power, to the extension of slavery, and to its longer continuance wherever under the Constitution the national government is responsible for it, though recognized by individuals and adopted by a small and faithful party, is now for the first time the leading principle of a broad, resolute, and national organization. . . We found now a new party. Its corner-stone is freedom, its broad, all—sustaining arches are truth, justice, and humanity.26

He introduced as speakers R. H. Dana, Jr., D. D. Field, and Joshua Leavitt, who had been delegates at Buffalo. A series of resolutions was read by John A. Andrew.

The Free Soil State convention met at Tremont Temple in Boston, September 6. Sumner was present at the preliminary caucus in that city, speaking briefly, and being placed at the head of the list of delegates. He assisted in the preparations for the convention by inviting speakers and counselling as to candidates. The convention continued for two days. It nominated S. C. Phillips for governor, and an electoral ticket, at the head of which was Samuel Hoar. The addresses and proceedings were marked by a most serious and determined spirit. ‘It was,’ as Sumner wrote to Palfrey, ‘an earnest, imposing body, with an enthusiasm that rose to fever heat.’ Sumner spoke briefly in moving a committee to report an address and resolutions, of which he was made chairman.27 His name was put at the head of a State committee which was charged with the management of the campaign, and he became its chairman. At a later stage in the convention he again spoke briefly, stating the sympathy of Ex-President Adams with the movement in his last days.

Besides the work of organization and conference which fell to him as chairman of the State committee and one of the leading [172] promoters of the movement, Sumner gave a large share of his time to addressing the people. He was urged in formal invitations to attend mass meetings in other States,—Vermont, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Ohio,—and to speak in the cities of New York, Brooklyn, Albany, and Philadelphia; but except a week in Maine, he confined himself to Massachusetts, speaking in the principal towns and cities,28 and on October 31 at Faneuil Hall. The speech was not written out, and no report is preserved29 In stating the issues of the contest growing out of the aggressions of the slave-power, he drew, both in substance and form, on his previous speeches, particularly the one on the admission of Texas as a slave State. He dwelt at length on the pro-slavery position of Cass and the unsatisfactory record of Taylor, citing and commenting upon the latter's numerous letters; and in contrast with the hostile or ambiguous utterances of these candidates, he set forth Van Buren's positive and ample declarations against the extension of slavery. The passage best remembered by those who heard him was the closing one, in which he likened the three parties with their three candidates to three ships,—describing that commanded by Taylor as ‘built in a Southern port with a single view to speed, without papers, chart, or compass, manned by a disaffected crew, sailing under no particular flag, and bound for no particular port,’—a figure which, according to a newspaper report, was received with ‘thunders of applause.’30 The speech was lively, varied with the sober treatment of contending policies and brilliant criticisms of public men; it was genial in its general tone, and won the favor even of opponents. Sumner usually spoke for three hours, beginning sometimes at a late hour after the other speakers, and ending at midnight or later, the audience [173] remaining without weariness to the end. Contemporary witnesses are emphatic as to ‘the beauty, eloquence, and convincing argument of the speech,’31 and the long and repeated demonstrations of applause, which at the close, as at Faneuil Hall, rose to ‘the highest pitch of enthusiasm, with deafening and tumultuous shouts, and cheer upon cheer, as if they would never stop.’ The Whig newspapers referred to him as ‘the Demosthenes’ of his party,—a title which gives an idea of the impression he made on those who were not inclined to give him more than his due. He was altogether the most popular speaker in the canvass in Massachusetts, and voters of all parties were charmed if not convinced.32 It may be noted that at Chelsea he preceded by one evening Abraham Lincoln, who, then the only Whig member of Congress from Illinois, had been brought by his party to the State.33 Only at one place where Sumner spoke was the meeting disturbed,—at Lyceum Hall, Cambridge, in the midst of the associations of his youth; where the students, some Southern, and others reflecting the sentiments of the ruling class in Boston, interrupted him with hisses and coarse exclamations.34 He bore the rudeness well, till at length he singled out the leader of the disturbance, who had made himself conspicuous by loud expressions of contempt at the speaker's comments on Taylor, and said: ‘The young man who hisses will regret it ere his hair turns gray. He can be no son of New England; her soil would spurn him.’ That rebuke restored quiet, and afterwards the speaker and those in accord with him had it all their own way. Henry w. Muzzey, who was present, wrote: ‘I heard [174] Mr. Sumner speak several times during that campaign, and nowhere was he more effective and powerful than on the occasion referred to at Cambridge.’

The speech had a more important relation to Sumner's future career than appeared at the time. It brought him into connection with persons in all sections of the State who were shortly to attain and hold for a long period a large influence in its politics. It tested his capacity for the political forum, showing that his power was not confined to elaborate discourses on literary and moral themes, but embraced as well a vigorous discussion of men and measures before miscellaneous audiences. It centred on him the enthusiasm of the young men of the State, who had in large numbers joined with great earnestness and vigor in the new movement. It placed him without question as an orator at the head of his party in the State, and opened the way to the honors and responsibilities which awaited him.35

Longfellow's diary illustrates Sumner's tone of mind at this time:—

June 24, 1848. Dined in town. Saw Sumner surrounded by his captains, Adams, Allen, and Phillips They are in great fervor touching their Anti-Taylor-and-Cass meeting in Worcester.

Sept. 3. Sumner full of zeal for the Barnburners. But he shrinks a little from the career just opening before him. After dinner we called on Palfrey.

Sept. 17. Sumner passed the afternoon with us. After tea I walked halfway into town with him. He looks somewhat worn. Nothing but politics now. Oh, where are those genial days when literature was the theme of our conversation .

Oct. 22. Sumner stands now, as he himself feels, at just the most critical point of his life. Shall he plunge irrevocably into politics or not? That is the question; and it is already answered. He inevitably will do so, and after many defeats will be very distinguished as a leader. Let me cast his horoscope: Member of Congress, perhaps; minister to England, certainly. From politics as a career he still shrinks back. When he has once burned his ships there will be no retreat. He already holds in his hands the lighted torch.

Oct. 26. Sumner made a Free Soil speech [in Cambridge]. Ah me! in such an assembly! It was like one of Beethoven's symphonies played [175] in a saw-mill! He spoke admirably well; but the shouts and the hisses and the vulgar interruptions grated on my ears. I was glad to get away.

Oct. 29. Sumner. His letter accepting the nomination of the Free Soil party as candidate for Congress is very good. Now he is submerged in politics. A strong swimmer,—may he land safely!

Nov. 9. In the evening finished “Kavanagh.” Sumner came in just as I wrote the last word.

The Free Soil party of the Boston district nominated Sumner for Congress. The convention was unanimous, and no other name than his was considered. His early formed resolution not to be a candidate for any political office was known to the delegates, but the emergency was thought to be one which required him to forego his personal wishes, and was urged in the letter which communicated to him the nomination. He did not feel at liberty to refuse the post assigned to him, and in his reply, October 26, considered at some length the philosophy of parties, the failure of the Whig and Democratic parties to meet the exigency presented in the slavery question, and the necessity of the new organization.36 Some of these points had been treated in his campaign speech. It was a forlorn hope; and he received less than a third as many votes as were given to Winthrop, the Whig candidate.

In the brief interval then existing between the national and State elections, Sumner, on behalf of the Free Soil State committee, prepared an address urging the support of the candidates of the party for State offices.37 A few weeks after the State election the committee issued another address, also prepared by him.38 It stated what had been accomplished by the new movement in the election of members of Congress, and in bringing the slavery question to the front; called on the voters to adhere to the organization and its principles, and referred to the dangers which required immediate attention and constant vigilance. Sumner urged, in correspondence with Free Soilers in New York and Ohio, co-operation in issuing a national address, and received replies from Field, Tilden, and King of New York, and from Giddings.

In the early part of the year Sumner thought that General [176] Taylor could not command the votes of the Northern Whigs. He was quite sure of a Free Soil plurality in Massachusetts, and felt hopeful of a similar result in New York. His confidence continued through the summer. But his too sanguine hopes were to be disappointed. It was easy in such a case to miscalculate forces. The sentiment against the extension of slavery was widely diffused; it had been expressed in solemn protests, and the enthusiasm of the friends of liberty in the free States ran high; moreover, Taylor's nomination was offensive to Whigs who cherished an historical devotion to the party and to its representative statesmen. But the party was still strong enough to hold its masses, and General Taylor was elected President. Van Buren received less than three hundred thousand votes, exceeding but a small percentage one tenth of the vote cast;39 and two-thirds of his vote came from New York, Massachusetts, and Ohio.40 He led Cass only in New York and Massachusetts, but by dividing the Democratic vote in New York effected Taylor's election. As the majority rule then prevailed in Massachusetts, there was no choice of electors by the people; but the Legislature being Whig, gave the vote of the State to General Taylor. The Free Soilers had elected nine members of Congress, giving them the balance of power in the House and a strong force for debate.. Southern men of an extreme pro-slavery position saw that there was something formidable in a movement so profoundly earnest and so wisely directed.41

Notwithstanding General Taylor's slaveholding interests and associations, and the type of Southern politicians who had promoted his candidacy, large numbers of antislavery Whigs finally gave him their votes, relying on his declarations in general terms against the exercise of the veto power,42 and upon certain qualities which in popular estimation belonged to him. He was indeed a man whose character was marked by moderation, sincerity, and firmness. His nature was alien to political intrigue. He was truly patriotic, loyal to the Union, and looked with aversion upon those who threatened its disruption in any [177] event or upon any pretext. He had not turned his thoughts to the vital question of the time, and professed no theory concerning it; and he did not comprehend the machinations of those who sought to extend and perpetuate slavery. If he was not an opponent of slavery on moral and political grounds,—as certainly he was not,—neither was he its partisan after the manner of Calhoun. The policy to which he came as President, so far as he seemed to have one, was to suspend action by Congress, and allow the people of the territories to settle the question for themselves, without influence from the national executive; to admit the State, whether slavery was established or prohibited in its constitution; and to discourage new plans for either consolidating or weakening the slave-power. He interposed no obstruction to the admission of California when, to the surprise of both sides, the inhabitants formed a constitution which expressly prohibited slavery. Temporizing and drifting, and sure to fail, as such a policy was, this veteran soldier stands, for a Southern man of that period, in a fair light before his countrymen;43 and when by his death the government passed to Fillmore the Vice-President, with Webster, then bitter in his hostility to Northern sentiments, as the head of the new Cabinet, and Clay as the leader of compromise in the Senate, there were no sincerer mourners for the late President than the antislavery men of the free States.

Whig partisans were very bitter, during the canvass, against the Free Soil seceders from their ranks. They set up the claim that theirs was the true Free Soil or antislavery party, and denounced the Free Soilers who had left them, as renegades and apostates, and in some parts of the North invoked against them the mob spirit.44 They seemed to have a peculiar antipathy to those who remained loyal to the faith they themselves had once professed. In Massachusetts they spared no terms of reproach against their former allies, paying hardly any attention to the Democratic party, and directing all their energies against the supporters of Van Buren and Adams.45 Their organ in Boston [178] was the ‘Atlas,’ a journal intensely partisan, the columns of which were almost exclusively given to politics, rarely containing any discussion of social questions, of foreign affairs, material enterprise, or scientific discovery,—topics which now so largely occupy a metropolitan journal. Its successive editors —Richard Haughton, William Hayden, Dr. Thomas M. Brewer, and William Schouler—were each true to the general spirit of the journal, regarding no institution so sacred as the Whig party, no men so deserving of invective and proscription as those who, having once borne its name, refused to submit to its authority. The last two named were at this period its managers. Schouler was by nature genial and kindly, and while an editor at Lowell was one of the antislavery Whigs who organized the opposition to the admission of Texas as a slave State. But he now yielded to the traditions of his journal and to the tone of the politicians who frequented his establishment. Instead of treating the seceders in a body, and assailing their positions, the ‘Atlas’ (the articles bearing the ear-marks of another than the editor) made every effort to give the controversy a personal direction, habitually naming the leading offenders, —Adams, Sumner, Allen, Wilson, Palfrey, Keyes, and Bird.46 Adams, for whom the most venomous shafts were reserved, was described in that journal as ‘a political huckster, who lives upon the reputation as well as the wealth of his ancestors, intense egoism being the characteristic of his appearance, and selfishness that of his action;’ Palfrey was a ‘Judas;’ Sumner, a ‘transcendental lawyer.’ Adams, Sumner, and Palfrey were styled ‘The Mutual Admiration Society,’ or ‘Charles Sumner & Co.,’ with ‘their headquarters on Court Street;’ and they were held up to public odium as ‘ambitious s and unscrupulous,’ and abounding in ‘inordinate self-esteem, pride of opinion, and cormorant appetite for office.’47 Altogether it was a disreputable [179] period in Boston journalism, such as has never been known since. Seceders from a party must not expect soft words from former associates; but the Whig journals of Boston at that time exceeded the limits of decent criticism, and undertook to enforce a discipline inconsistent with individual liberty. In contrast with their vindictiveness was the course of the New York Tribune, the representative Whig journal of the United States, which treated the Free Soil leaders with uniform respect and charity.

It was the fashion of the time to invoke the sentiment of national unity against a party organized on the basis of antislavery ideas. The ‘Atlas’ denounced the new party as ‘sectional,’ and promoting ‘disunion,’ and said the South ought not to submit to its policy,48 though the editor became eight years later an earnest supporter of the Republican party, to which the charge could be equally well applied. The Whig orators joined in this outcry. Choate assailed the Free Soilers as a party ‘founded upon geographical lines.’49 Others associated them with nullifiers, and held them up as deserving the penalties of treason.50

The passage of Sumner's speech at Worcester in June, in which he mentioned ‘the secret influence’ that went forth from New England, especially from Massachusetts, and ‘contributed powerfully’ to Taylor's nomination, and in which he referred to the ‘unhallowed union-conspiracy, let it be called—between remote sections; between the politicians of the Southwest and the politicians of the Northeast; between the cotton-planters and flesh-mongers of Louisiana and Mississippi, and the cotton-spinners and traffickers of New England; between the lords of the lash and the lords of the loom,’—led to a correspondence with Nathan Appleton, in which that gentleman, supposing himself to be one of the persons referred to, insisted upon Sumner giving his proofs. Sumner in reply reviewed the course of [180] prominent gentlemen engaged in the cotton manufacture which had been unfriendly to organized resistance to the slave-power, and maintained—referring to newspaper statements and other evidence—that Abbott Lawrence, and other active and influential politicians in the State, had effectively promoted General Taylor's nomination, while the party was in its open and formal action pressing Webster as its candidate. He gave a long account of a conversation between himself and Mr. Lawrence late one evening at the latter's house ten days before the convention, in which Mr. Lawrence predicted the nomination of General Taylor, and justified it as the only one likely to succeed; admitted his part in promoting it; stated that Mr. Choate was for Taylor, and implied that John Davis and Governor Lincoln were of the same way of thinking. Mr. Appleton rejoined at length and with spirit, denying any secrecy or conspiracy,— admitting that for a year he had been in favor of General Taylor's candidacy, and had freely expressed his opinion that Webster could not be nominated, or elected if he were nominated; and that Clay, if nominated, could not be elected, and that Taylor was the only candidate whom the Whigs could elect. He stated that Mr. Lawrence's preference for Taylor dated as far back as his own, and had been expressed for months; and that he had signified to the New York Taylor committee that he would accept a place on the ticket with General Taylor.51 But without imputing duplicity to either of these gentlemen, there is no doubt that the Whig leaders, at least some of them, did not have the courage to deal frankly with Mr. Webster, and under cover of devotion to him were diligently preparing the way for Taylor's nomination. This was the ‘secret influence’ to which Sumner referred.

Mr. Appleton in his letter denounced Allen's and Wilson's conduct at the Philadelphia convention as ‘the most disgraceful piece of political swindling,’ and ‘a transaction from which every honorable man should revolt.’ This remark shows the temper of the time among conservative people in relation to protests which have since been regarded as manly and patriotic. [181] Of his own letter, written in 1845, discountenancing any further agitation of the Texas question, he said that its purpose was ‘to win back, if possible, a young friend [Sumner] from the gulf of Abolitionism into which he was plunging.’ Of Sumner he said:—

I have regretted your course the last two years, but more in sorrow than in anger. I have regretted to see talents so brilliant as yours, and from which I had hoped so much for our country, take a course in which I consider them worse than thrown away. But I have been inclined to consider you as acting under impulses which are a part of your nature rather than from selfish calculation.

A correspondence with an old friend, Samuel Lawrence, occurred later in the canvass, which was even more unpleasant than that with Mr. Appleton.52 Sumner, in the political speech which he made at different places in the canvass, had cited, in support of his view that the tariff was not at the time a practical issue, a published letter of Mr. Lawrence, which assigned causes for the depression in manufacturing business independent of the tariff, and omitted all reference to the existing low duties as one of them.53 Other speakers—S. C. Phillips, for instance—made the same use of the letter. Mr. Lawrence authorized the ‘Atlas’ to state that Sumner had perverted the language of the letter; whereupon Sumner applied to him for an explanation. Mr. Lawrence, in his reply, did not attempt to specify in what the perversion consisted, but proceeded to assail Sumner for his speech at Worcester, in which he had brought into conjunction ‘the lords of the lash and the lords of the loom,’ and for his antislavery course in general. He wrote:

No man regrets the part you are acting more than I do. You have taken hold of this one idea of slavery, and are in a fair way of becoming severed from a very large circle of friends who give dignity and honor to our common country. I could name scores and scores of men whom you have honored your whole life who regret and condemn the course you have taken.

Sumner replied at length after the election, stating in what particulars Mr. Lawrence had done him injustice, and appealing to their ancient friendship. The latter rejoined with much bitterness:— [182]

You and other Abolitionists are solely responsible for the continuance of slavery in four States, also for the admission of Texas and the war with Mexico. Your principles tend directly to the breaking up of this glorious republic. You and I never can meet on neutral ground. I call contemplate you only in the character of a defamer of those you profess to love, and an enemy to the permanency of this Union.

Sumner was disappointed in not having the co-operation of certain public men who might have effectively aided the new movement. Charles Hudson and Governor Briggs had avowed with great earnestness antislavery sentiments, and had been strongly opposed to Taylor's nomination; but they soon came to his support, making their decision as ‘a choice of evils.’ The former lost his re-election to Congress, being defeated by Charles Allen; and the latter, who explained the reasons for his decision at considerable length in a letter to Sumner, passed two years later out of political life, being defeated as a candidate for governor by the same union of Free Soilers and Democrats which elected Sumner to the Senate. Horace Greeley, editor of the ‘Tribune,’ wrote to Sumner June 25, declining to take definite action for the present, and expressing the fear that the secession of earnest Free Soil men from the old parties would leave the pro-slavery men in control, and increase the number of members of Congress who would not insist on the prohibition of slavery. While kindly to the dissenters, he wrote that he had decided not to identify himself with them, and added: ‘I do not judge that this course is the best for you or for others; act as your own conscience and judgment shall dictate.’ Later he announced his support of Taylor.54

After entering Congress in March, 1848, Horace Mann retained, by advice of the friends of popular education, his office of Secretary of the Board of Education; and on account of that connection was disinclined to enter into political contests which would interfere with his usefulness in the office of secretary.55 Sumner, in person and in several letters, urged him to declare against Taylor's nomination, and to take his place openly with the Free Soilers; but Mann, while generally heedful of Sumner's opinions, did not see his duty in that light. He made a speech in Congress on the slavery question, which Sumner admired very much; but he took no stand in the national election, withholding [183] his vote.56 he was re-elected by the combined support of Whigs and Free Soilers, notwithstanding his silence on the question of candidate for President. Sumner again plied Mann in 1849 with earnest entreaties to take his stand openly with the Free Soilers.57 He wrote Sept. 20, 1849:—

I have sent you our State Address,58 which I hope you will read. There are many reasons for my faith. I belong to a party pledged unequivocally to place the Federal government on the side of freedom. In sustaining any other party it seems to me I should jeopard this vital principle,—the only principle of national politics that is worth contending for, or that could have drawn me from other pursuits. Think of this! I wish you were with us! I think the Free Soil party of Massachusetts is the best political party of its size this country has ever seen,—containing a larger amount of talent, principle, and sincere, unselfish devotion to the public good than has ever before been brought together in any similar number of persons acting politically; it will yet leaven the whole lump.

Sumner wrote in 1848 to Mr. Everett, inquiring if he would accept a nomination from the Buffalo convention as Vice-President; but the latter declined in a letter in every way creditable to him, chiefly on the ground of the evils inseparable from third parties, and of the responsibility of Northern Whigs for the nomination of General Taylor,—closing with the sentence, ‘I pray God that I may live to see the day when all good citizens, North and South, will unite in wiping out this dreadful blot upon the fair fame of our country.’

The result of the national election in 1848 settled the position and defined the work of the Free Soilers. With only one tenth of the voters in their ranks; with no representative in the electoral colleges; without a majority in a single Congressional district, and with a plurality in very few districts; having failed, except in New York, where the conditions were peculiar and not likely to be permanent, to break the columns of either party,— it was vain to expect accessions which would give them numerical success as a party in a single State, still less in the nation; and in view of the attractions which large parties present to the mass of citizens, they would be fortunate if they could keep together one half of their voting forces. The time had passed when antislavery men, with practical purposes in view and great [184] exigencies confronting them, could be content with making merely a moral demonstration. Standing between two parties well balanced, they could use their power as an independent organization to force one or the other to do their work, and availing themselves of favorable opportunities could secure the election of senators and representatives in Congress fully committed to their principles. If they had been satisfied with merely bearing their testimony they would have been met only with derision; but they inspired different sentiments when they made their power felt, sometimes by voting for the candidate of the party with whom they were most in sympathy, and sometimes by a combination with one of the two great parties. They had already in this way won a victory in New Hampshire over Democratic subserviency by joining with the Whigs in the election of a Whig governor and of John P. Hale as senator.59 Early in 1849, holding with only two votes the balance of power in the Legislature of Ohio, they joined with the Democrats in the election of Democratic judges, in the repeal of the infamous laws against negroes, and the election of Salmon P. Chase to the Senate.60 Similar co-operation in Connecticut and Indiana resulted in the election of Free Soil members of Congress, or of Democrats who were pledged to Free Soil principles. On the other hand, Free Soilers in Massachusetts supported Mann for Congress, although he was at the time a voter and candidate of the Whig party. If political parties are only means to ends,— and certainly they are no more,—such co-operation or temporary connection with either of the two national parties was judicious and patriotic. The time was sure to come when it was to take place in Massachusetts, where the Free Soilers and Democrats exceeded the Whigs by twelve thousand voters, unless the latter by their representatives in Congress and their policy in the State assumed an unequivocal position in favor of antislavery principles and measures.

Extracts from Sumner's letters show his spirit and expectations at the time. To James A. Briggs, Cleveland, Ohio, Oct. 18, 1848, he wrote:— [185]

I rejoice in Mr. Giddings's success.61 His constituents should be proud of him. There is no man in the House of Representatives who deserves so well of the country. I remember John Quincy Adams said to me, as he lay on his sick-bed in Boston, after he was struck with that paralysis which at Washington closed his life, that he looked to Mr. Giddings with more interest than to any other member of the House. He placed him foremost in his regard. Most certainly the benedictions of the great champion have fallen on your representative.

To George Sumner, November 15:—

The papers will tell you of the Presidential election. As I view it, the Democratic party is not merely defeated; it is entirely broken in pieces. It cannot organize anew except on the Free Soil platform. Our friends feel happy at the result. we shall form the opposition to Taylor's administration, and secure, as we believe, the triumph of our principles in 1852. You know that there will be a new census in 1850, and a new apportionment of the representatives and electors, securing [to the North] a large preponderance of power. This will count for us. In Massachusetts the contest has been earnest, active, persevering beyond any other in our history. Here has been the best fought field. You will see that the Free Soil party comes out second best; it is no longer the third party. I have spoken a great deal, usually to large audiences, and with a certain effect. As a necessary consequence I have been a mark for abuse. I have been attacked bitterly; but I have consoled myself by what John Quincy Adams said to me during the last year of his life: “No man is abused whose influence is not felt.”

To John Jay, December 5:—

Surely our good cause of freedom is much advanced. I do hope that at last there will be a party that does believe in God, or at least in some better devil than Mammon.

To Whittier, December 6:—

Your poem62 in the last “Era” has touched my heart. May God preserve you in strength and courage for all good works! . . . The literature of the world is turning against slavery. We shall have it soon in a state of moral blockade. I admire Bailey63 as an editor very much. His articles show infinite sagacity and tact. . . .But I took my pen merely to inquire after your health. There are few to whom I would allot a larger measure of the world's blessings than to yourself had I any control, for there are few who deserve them more.

To Charles Allen, Jan. 3, 1849:—

I cannot forbear expressing to you my joy in the recent election in the Worcester district. Your triumph is a complete vindication of your own personal position, while it insures to our cause an influence over our State and in [186] Congress which it would be difficult to estimate. I wish much that Mr. Palfrey had been returned. He is sure to succeed another time.64

To William Jay, June 4:—

Let me not delay my thanks to you any longer for your last most powerful effort in the cause of peace. I have read your “Review of the Mexican War” with the interest and gratitude inspired by all your productions. By a careful analysis of documents and of unquestionable facts you have shown the aggressive character of the mexican War, and still further the foul slaveholding motives in which it had its origin. I think that the just historian hereafter will be compelled to adopt your views, and to hold the war up to the indignation and disgust of posterity. I am very anxious that a history of the Mexican War should be written in the spirit of peace. Some time ago an application was made to my friend Mr. Prescott, and I think also to Mr. Bancroft, to write the history of the second “Conquest of Mexico;” General Scott's papers were to be placed at their disposal. They have declined. I am glad of it. I would not have them soil their pens by such work unless they can see it as an occasion for diffusing the principles of peace. I long to see history written in the spirit of human brotherhood. There would then be no pompous efforts to make war attractive; but it would be always exposed as an assault upon God's image and a violation of his law.

To George Sumner, July 31:—

The most important political question now is whether the old Democrats, or Hunkers, will unite with the Free Soil party. The latter requires a complete adhesion to their principles. The people are all anxious for the union; but there are certain Hunker leaders who are so committed that they cannot espouse our principles. They stand in the way. A cordial union cannot take place until they are laid upon the shelf. This will be done. The Free Soil movement is destined to triumph. I see this clearly.

During the year following the election of 1848, Sumner attended faithfully the conferences of the Free Soil leaders. In January, 1849, he was present as an adviser of the Free Soil members of the Legislature at their meeting in a room connected with Tremont Temple, at which Amasa Walker was nominated for Speaker.

The Free Soil State convention for 1849 met at Worcester September 12. The large body of delegates present showed that the party retained in Massachusetts, unlike the course of affairs in New York, its full vigor. Sumner, as chairman of the State committee, called it to order and spoke briefly.65 Previous to the convention he had made arrangements as to the officers and [187] other details, and had invited persons to address the delegates. As chairman of a committee appointed for the purpose, he reported an address and resolutions which he had previously prepared, and which occupied an hour in the reading.66 The address was a full argument justifying the continued support of the party, and putting in a strong light the issues which divided it from its adversaries. It reviewed the aggressions of the slave-power, and showed how it had governed the nation; insisted that the policy of the national government should be reversed so as to place it on the side of freedom openly, actively, and perpetually; and vindicated the necessity of the Free Soil party as a permanent national organization.67 In the treatment of some local questions he referred to the resistance which the money-power of the city of Boston had made to the antislavery opinions of the people,— a power all the more effective because concentrated in elections by a general ticket which then prevailed. This was a grievance which tended to bring the two opposition parties—the Free Soil and the Democratic-into co-operation for the defeat of the Whigs. He said:—

The efforts to place the national government on the side of freedom have received little sympathy from corporations, or from persons largely interested in them, but have rather encountered their opposition,—sometimes concealed, sometimes open, often bitter and vindictive. It is easy to explain this. In corporations is the money-power of the Commonwealth. Thus far the instinct of property has proved stronger in Massachusetts than the instinct of freedom. The money-power has joined hands with the slave-power. Selfish, grasping, subtle, tyrannical, like its ally, it will not brook opposition. It claims the Commonwealth as its own, and too successfully enlists in its support that needy talent and easy virtue which are required to maintain its sway.

Sumner was one of the speakers at a Free Soil meeting in Tremont Temple, Nov. 9, 1849. He condemned Taylor's policy as hostile to the Wilmot Proviso, and insisted on the insertion of a provision in the constitution of new States prohibiting slavery.68 He expressed himself in favor of the unions then forming between the Free Soilers and the Democrats in the State senatorial districts.69 At the election the party succeeded well in keeping [188] up the morale of its voters, and maintained its relative strength. The way for a more complete union was prepared this year. The Democrats of the State, not now in power at Washington, showed sympathy with antislavery efforts, and in their convention in September, 1849, expressed themselves in resolutions, drawn by B. F. Hallett, against the extension of slavery to free territories. They and the Free Soilers in the autumn, by a popular impulse, with little prompting from leaders, united in several counties and a considerable number of towns, and succeeded in electing thirteen senators and one hundred and thirty representatives,—a number which would have been much larger if a plurality instead of a majority rule had then prevailed.70 This partial result showed the affinity between the masses of the two parties, and pointed the way to the complete and effective cooperation of the next year.

1 Ratified by the Senate, March 10, 1848, by a vote of thirty-eight to fifteen. The proposition made by Mexico, for a guaranty against the introduction of slavery into the ceded territory, was peremptorily rejected by our commissioner. Von Holst, vol. III p. 334.

2 Von Holst, vol. III. pp. 287-289. ‘Davis's long speech was certainly a ridiculous folly as well as a grave mistake.’

3 Speeches of March 1, 1847, and March 23, 1848. Webster's Works, vol. v. pp. 253, 271.

4 At Carthage, Ohio, September, 1847. Boston ‘Whig,’ Oct. 7, 1847.

5 Feb. 22, 1847. ‘Addresses and Speeches,’ vol. i. p. 589.

6 Adams, in the Boston ‘Whig,’ July 29, Aug. 4 and 21, 1847, combated the ‘no territory’ position as untenable.

7 A. H. Stephens's ‘Life,’ by Johnston and Browne, pp. 228-230. The Boston ‘Advertizer,’ July 22 and 29, 1848, and June 28, 1850, approved this measure.

8 The Clayton compromise was defeated in the House less than two weeks before the meeting of the Free Soil convention at Buffalo; and the Oregon bill was passed just after its adjournment. The New York Tribune, though afterwards supporting Taylor, ascribed to the convention the passage of the bill without any concession to slavery. Giddings, in a letter to Sumner, Sept 8, 1850, considered that the Free Soil movement saved California to freedom.

9 Three fourths of his vote on the first ballot was from the slave States,—largely from States from which the Whigs could not well expect electoral votes. A. H. Stephens was one of his effective partisans.

10 Webster wrote, Jan. 30, 1848: ‘There are hundreds and thousands of Whigs, who are sober-minded and religious, who will not vote for a candidate brought forward only because of his successful fighting in this war against Mexico.’ Curtis's ‘Life of Webster,’ vol. II. p. 336.

11 The Boston Advertiser remained loyal to Webster until the nomination was made. The ‘Atlas's’ support of Webster was at first genuine, but late in the canvass for the nomination was only nominal, showing leanings to Taylor for President and Lawrence for Vice-President.

12 E. R. Hoar, C. R. Train, and Rev. J. W. Thompson, and even Wilson (New York Tribune, April 1, 1848), were of those who took the favorable view of Webster at this time. Wilson and Allen voted for him in the convention at Philadelphia. His subsequent course justified Sumner's distrust rather than their confidence

13 Nevertheless he entered, though reluctantly, into the canvass for Taylor. Early in 1848, Webster said to a company of ‘Young Whigs,’ his earnest supporters for the Presidency (among whom were E. R. Hoar, O. P. Lord, G. T. Davis, and C. R. Train), on the occasion of their call upon him at J. w. Paige's house in Summer Street, Boston, that he would support heartily as the Whig candidate any conspicuous leader of the party, trained and experienced in civil affairs, and of national reputation as a statesman; but that he would riot advise the nomination, or recommend the election, of a ‘swearing, fighting, frontier colonel’

14 The last survivors of the fifteen were Stanley Matthews and John C. Vaughan, both of Ohio. The former died in 1889, and the latter died in Cincinnati in 1892.

15 Boston ‘Whig,’ June 19 and 24. 1848. Wilson gave an account of this period, including 1845-1851, in a speech in the Massachusetts Senate, Feb. 24, 1852 (Boston Commonwealth, March 1, 1852), and in a letter to L. V. Bell (‘Commonwealth,’ July 14, 1852). The meeting. which was addressed by Allen, passed a resolution which deserves a perpetual record: ‘Massachusetts wears no chains and spurns all bribes; she goes now, and will ever go, for free soil and free men, for free lips and a free press, for a free land and a free world.’

16 Among those whom he invited were William Pitt Fessenden, who, however, decided to support Taylor.

17 Works, vol. II. pp. 76-88.

18 ‘There was the manly form of Charles Sumner in the splendor and vigor and magnetic power of his youthful eloquence,’—G. F. Hoar at Reunion of Free Soilers of 1848, held Aug. 9, 1877. W. S. Robinson described the scene in a letter to the Springfield republican. Warrington's ‘Pen Portraits,’ pp. 184, 185

19 For a State convention of all opposed to both Cass and Taylor.

20 Sumner wrote to Palfrey of this meeting: ‘It was the most remarkable political demonstration which I ever witnessed. The immense audience was prodigiously impressed.’ A letter from Sumner describing this and other meetings in Massachusetts which were addressed by Giddings is printed in the latter's ‘Life’ by Julian, p. 247.

21 Julian's ‘Political Recollections,’ pp. 60, 61. Regular meetings were held in the Park under the tent in the early morning of each day of the session, at which prayers were offered for the freedom of all men, and passages of Scripture read which were appropriate to the movement. New York Tribune, September 6, 1848.

22 Giddings distrusted Judge McLean, believing he had no heart in the political movement against slavery; he was not alone in this distrust. Letter to Sumner, June 2, 1847.

23 Adams having written to Van Buren, received a reply manly in tone, dated July 24, 1848. Adams gave it to the public Aug. 9, 1877, at the Reunion of the Free Soilers.

24 Letters to C. F. Adams, July 30 and 31, in manuscript; Adams's ‘Biography’ of Dana, vol. i. pp. 135, 136.

25 Sumner preferred the latter designation, which was used more or less somewhat later.

26 Works, vol. II. pp 140-146.

27 The address was not his own composition; Palfrey was its reputed author. The Free Soilers of Massachusetts proved to be men of extraordinary vitality; and it is interesting to observe how many of them came to the front before or during the Civil War,—Sumner, Adams, Wilson, Burlingame, Dana, E. R. Hoar, and Andrew. Among the younger Free Soilers were George F. Hoar, Henry L. Pierce, John A. Kasson, and Marcus Morton, Jr, the last of whom became chief-justice of the Supreme Court of the State. The Free Soilers of Massachusetts have held two reunions,—one, Aug. 9, 1877, at Downer Landing, Hingham, with C. F. Adams presiding; and another, June 28, 1888, at the Parker House in Boston. with E. L. Pierce in the chair. The proceedings in each case were printed in pamphlet form.

28 In Maine he spoke at Portland, Bath. Waterville, Augusta, Gardiner, and perhaps one or two other points in that State In Massachusetts he spoke at Central Hall, Boston, September 14, and at other dates at Plymouth, Roxbury, Somerville, Chelsea, Milford, Newburyport, Dorchester, Amherst, Pittsfield, Great Barrington, Adams, Stockbridge, Chicopee, Springfield, Lynn, Salem, Brookline, Nantucket, Fall River, Taunton, Lowell, Fitchburg, Dedham, Canton, Worcester, and Cambridge.

29 He wrote a summary of points on a single sheet, which is preserved, and he had always with him an anonymous political pamphlet, much referred to at the time. Entitled ‘General Taylor and the Wilmot Proviso.’ This also is preserved, with the numerous marks which he made upon it. The biographer has availed himself of brief notices of the speech in the newspapers, and of the recollections of persons who heard it. The Springfield Republican, October 18, the leading Whig journal in the western part of the State, called the address ‘able, plausible, and brilliant,’ and its author ‘one of the most finished scholars of our country.’

30 Boston Republican, October 19.

31 Boston Republican, November 1.

32 One of the audience at Faneuil Hall wrote that it was spoken of at the time as ‘the greatest speech of the campaign.’ Boston ‘Chronotype,’ November 1.

33 Mr. Lincoln spoke first at Worcester on the evening before the Whig State convention, and a liberal summary of his speech, chiefly directed against the Free Soilers, appeared in the Boston Advertiser, September 14. He was in or near Boston a week. speaking twice in the city (once in company with Seward at Faneuil Hall), and also at Dedham, Dorchester, Cambridge, and Lowell. His speech was not on a high level, and gave no promise of leadership in the antislavery conflict. Seward's more serious treatment of the slavery question on the evening they spoke together started a train of reflections in the mind of the future President. (Seward's Life, vol. II p 80 ) The stress of Lincoln's argument was on the point that the Free Soilers were a party of one idea or principle, good enough in itself, but not broad enough to found a party on,—an objection urged with equal force against the Republicans, who twelve years later made him President. By a curious turn of politics, the men whom he came to Massachusetts to oppose—Sumner, Adams, Wilson, Andrew, Dana, and Burhngame—became his supporters in the election of 1860 and during his Presidency; while the foremost of the Whig leaders whom he came to assist were opponents of his election or of his Administration.

34 Longfellow's Life, vol. II. p. 127.

35 The writer is not to be understood as saying that Sumner produced conviction with more minds than some other speakers,—notably Charles Allen, S. C. Phillips, and R. H. Dana, Jr. Other speakers who rendered conspicuous service in the campaign were Samuel and E. R. Hoar. father and son. Charles Allen, of Worcester, by his personal influence and force of character and his favorable situation in a community removed from the influence of Boston capital, perhaps brought more votes to the party than any one of the leaders See, for sketches of the Free Soil leaders, Boston ‘Republican,’ Oct. 31, 1849.

36 Works, vol. II. pp. 149-163. Charles Allen had said in the course of the campaign that he hoped the leading Free Soilers would not be put into office, but he thought an exception might be made in the case of Sumner.

37 Works, vol. II. pp. 164-167.

38 Works, vol. II. pp. 164-167.

39 291,342 in all.

40 New York, 120,510; Massachusetts, 38,058; Ohio, 35,354; Illinois, 15,774; Vermont, 13,837; Maine, 12,096; Pennsylvania, 11,263; Wisconsin, 10,418; Michigan, 10,389.

41 A. H. Stephens's ‘Life,’ by Johnston and Browne, pp. 236-237.

42 Letter to Allison, April 22, 1848. He declined to make the declaration specific as to the Wilmot Proviso.

43 He was for leaving the question of slavery in New Mexico to the chances of a popular vote when the inhabitants were few and greatly mixed. His scheme of bringing that territory into statehood was premature by half a century. His method is stated in his messages of Dec. 4, 1849, and Jan. 21, 1850.

44 Julian's ‘Political Recollections,’ pp. 64, 65.

45 Choate in a speech at Salem, September 28, probably referred to Sumner when he spoke of Mr. Everett as one ‘who could be a philosopher, a scholar, and a progressionist, without being a renegade.’

46 The Webster Whigs in 1850 became very bitter against Schouler because, his original and better instincts now prevailing over his political connections, he refused to support Webster's ‘compromise’ course; and in consequence he was obliged to leave the ‘Atlas’ in the spring of 1853, and later in the same year he assumed the charge of the Cincinnati Gazette.

47 See ‘Atlas’ in 1848 for February 10; June 19, 22; July 3, 8, 11; August 14, 15, 17, 19, 31; September 5. 7, 13; October 31; November 2, 11, 13, 20, 21; December 14. The same paper, Sept. 6. 1849. applied to Mr. Chase, afterwards chief-justice, the epithet of ‘Joseph Surface.’ In the issues of October 12, 13, 16, and November 2. Sumner was accused of attempting to mislead the people in holding the Whigs responsible for not resisting the admission of Texas as a slave State. To this charge he replied in a letter,—‘Atlas,’ October 16; ‘Advertiser,’ October 18. The ‘Advertiser,’ while refraining from the coarse epithets of the ‘Atlas,’ gave to its arguments against the new party a personal direction at Sumner and Adams,—September 21, 27; October 3, 13, 17, 28, 30. It belittled the slavery question, treated the alleged ‘slave-power’ as fictitious, and denied that the slaveholding interest was a dangerous power in the government,—August 11, and September 9, 11. The Whig newspaper outside of Boston which reflected most the spirit of the Boston press was the New Bedford Mercury. It applied then and later to Free Soilers the coarsest epithets,—to Giddings, for instance, ‘knave,’ ‘hypocrite,’ ‘bigot,’ ‘lying politician.’ The Lowell Courier was not far behind in this generous use of billingsgate.

48 August 26; November 13.

49 At Salem, Sept. 28, 1848.

50 Adams, November 9, at Faneuil Hall, made a spirited retort to Winthrop's suggestion. Boston ‘Republican,’ November 13.

51 Mr. Lawrence, Feb. 17, 1848, wrote a letter to a Taylor meeting in Philadelphia connecting the names of Washington and Taylor (printed in the ‘Atlas,’ February 25), saying that Taylor, if nominated by the Whigs, would be elected. Henry Wilson, in a letter to the New York Tribune, April 1, 1848, stated that a few manufacturers of considerable influence were almost the only supporters of Taylor, and were associating with his candidacy the name of Mr. Lawrence, though not coming forward in conventions.

52 A year before, when lecturing at Lowell, he had been invited by Mr. Lawrence to be his guest. Their early friendship has been noted in this Memoir. Ante, vol. i. p. 199.

53 Boston Republican, November 3.

54 New York Tribune, September 29.

55 Mann's Life, pp. 264-265.

56 Though not voting for President, he is understood to have voted for Whig State officers.

57 A year later Mann took his place with the Free Soilers.

58 A Free Soil State Address, drawn by Sumner. Works, vol. II. p. 282.

59 This was indeed before the formal organization of the Free Soil party; but the same considerations governed in that as in the later unions referred to. The Whigs took advantage of such opportunities, though condemning similar action in the Free Soilers In Missouri they joined with Democrats of the Calhoun type to defeat Benton, and elected Henry S. Geyer as senator.

60 Wilson's ‘Rise and Fall of the Slave Power,’ vol. II. p. 338.

61 His re-election to Congress as the Free Soil candidate.

62 ‘The Wish of To-day.’

63 Dr. Bailey, of the ‘National Era.’

64 Palfrey failed to secure a majority, and his Whig opponent was chosen.

65 Works, vol. II. p. 280.

66 Works, vol. II. pp. 282-321.

67 Sumner, by a letter to the BostonAtlas,’ Oct. 1, 1849, met certain criticisms upon his use of the opinions of our early statesmen as to the institution of slavery. Works, vol. II. pp. 322-326.

68 Boston Republican, November 12.

69 Singularly enough, Josiah G. Abbott. in a letter to Sumner, expressed himself as strongly opposed to any union with Democrats. Afterwards as a Democrat he was bitterly hostile to radical antislavery men.

70 Wilson, in the ‘Emancipator and Republican,’ Oct. 30, 1849. Among the representatives chosen were Wilson, Boutwell, Banks, and Claflin; and among the senators, Joseph T. Buckingham, the veteran editor.

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