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Chapter 35: Massachusetts and the compromise.—Sumner chosen senator.—1850-1851.

ZZZr. Webster's speech of March 7 was received by Northern members of Congress with general disapproval,1 and by the people of Massachusetts with surprise and indignation.2 The Whig press of New England, with rare exceptions, condemned his ‘unexpected movement’3 and at first only one Whig newspaper4 in Massachusetts, outside of Boston, cordially approved it. If a direct popular vote could have been taken on the Fugitive Slave bill, or on the Compromise as a whole, it is safe to say that nine tenths, perhaps nineteen twentieths, of his Whig constituents, excluding those resident or doing business in Boston, would have rejected it.5

The mercantile and manufacturing interests were the first in the free States to acquiesce in the Compromise, and from acquiescence they soon passed to open and aggressive support.6 The South, and not the West as now, was the principal purchaser of Northern products; and the threat was common with slaveholders and compromisers in both sections that a withdrawal of Southern custom was the sure penalty of further [205] agitation against slavery. Capitalists were made to believe that the only hope of restoring the higher duties which had been reduced by the tariff of 1846 lay in submission to slaveholding demands. There were, indeed, honest fears with conservative minds of what the South might do in its madness; but material considerations inspired largely the harangues which insisted that the Compromise was essential to national peace and the Union. The mercantile and manufacturing interests, stronger in Boston than elsewhere in the State, with banking houses in State Street, counting-rooms in Milk Street, homes in Beacon Street or near by, and factories in Lowell, rallied promptly to Webster's support, bringing with them well-established journals of the city, and capitalists and politicians in all parts of the State, who from social or financial connections naturally followed the lead of those interests. Webster's personal magnetism. the authority of his name, pride in his career, the habit of deference to all he said, was a potent influence with many generous minds, swaying them against their natural instincts and their better sense.7 The Compromise was promptly approved in a public letter to him, signed by several hundreds of the most conspicuous citizens,8—among them merchants like Eliot, Perkins, Fearing, Appleton, Haven, Amory, Sturgis, Thayer, and Hooper; lawyers like Choate, Lunt, B. R. Curtis, and G. T. Curtis; physicians like Jackson and Bigelow; scholars like Ticknor, Everett, Prescott, Sparks, Holmes, and Felton; divines like Moses Stuart and Leonard Woods. Its passage was signalized by the firing of one hundred guns on the Common.

Webster's partisans, such was their intensity of feeling, very soon obtained the mastery of the Whig organization of the city, and compelled dissenters to submit to the nominations they dictated. The proprietors of the ‘Atlas’ opposed the Compromise while it was pending, but maintained disingenuously that the Whigs were not responsible for it, and that they were the true antislavery party. This journal had a following in the [206] country towns, but its influence in Boston was limited, and it was hesitating and timid.9 The leading commercial journal of the city was the ‘Daily Advertiser.’ During the agitation of the slavery question it had shown indifference to the growth of the slave-power, and had even denied the existence of such a power. It apologized for the mobs which assailed the Abolitionists, and sneered at the agitation against slavery as ‘clamor’ and a ‘quixotism in behalf of human rights.’ 10 It approved the Compromise when offered by Clay, and during 1850 and 1851 defended it in elaborate articles, urging pertinaciously the duty of good citizens to aid in executing the Fugitive Slave law. It went so far in the Southern direction as to object to the admission of California independently, desiring to have her kept back in order to make one of the conditions of Clay's scheme of pacification. It objected to the retention of Taylor's Cabinet by Fillmore, because, Southern as it was, it was an anti-Compromise Cabinet.11 It threatened the withdrawal of Whig support from public men who persevered in opposing the Compromise, and in insisting on the repeal of the Fugitive Slave law,—singling out Mann, Fowler, and Scudder, then Whig members of Congress. It viewed with composure and indifference every advance of slavery, and treated the barbarities of the slave system, and the seizure of alleged slaves at the North, without the suggestion of any sympathy for the victim, and with a calmness and method which amaze the reader who now turns its pages. The ‘Courier,’ anonymously edited since Buckingham's retirement two years before, opposed the Compromise up to the day of Webster's speech. It denied the existence of Southern grievances, and the expediency of yielding to Southern clamor;12 and its tone was manly and spirited. But immediately after the speech it took a reverse direction, and without any explanation came to Webster's support. From that time it was bitter, even malignant, in its treatment of all who dissented from Webster. Its leaders were mostly written by George S. Hillard and George Lunt. These two journals teemed with elaborate defences [207] of the Compromise and the Fugitive Slave Act from Edward G. Loring, G. T. and B. R. Curtis.13

The demoralization was not confined to politics and the secular professions. George W. Blagden, Nehemiah Adams, and William M. Rogers, from Congregationalist (Trinitarian) pulpits, delivered sermons in favor of the Compromise and the Fugitive Slave law.14 Moses Stuart, the Andover theologian, defended slavery from the Bible in learned exegesis. Culture was often dissociated from humanity. The professors at Cambridge were indeed divided;15 but the activity there was on Webster's side. Felton was his partisan. Bowen, in the ‘North American Review,’ espoused his cause, and supported the Compromise. Theophilus Parsons and Joel Parker, the professors at the Law School, read lectures in defence of the Fugitive Slave law.16 Choate disregarded the proprieties of its anniversary meeting by an oration which was a plea for the Compromise and the surrender of fugitive slaves. The undergraduates, catching the spirit of the place, disturbed anti-Compromise meetings in Cambridge during addresses from Horace Mann and Ralph Waldo Emerson.17

While the Compromise was pending Winthrop was appointed senator in place of Webster, who on President Taylor's death took office as Secretary of State in Fillmore's Cabinet. The Webster Whigs carried in August with feeble dissent the nomination of Samuel A. Eliot as Winthrop's successor. The choice was made on the avowed ground of his earnestness in behalf of the Compromise. He was supported by the

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