Chapter 49: letters to Europe.—test oath in the senate.—final repeal of the fugitive-slave act.—abolition of the coastwise slave-trade.—Freedmen's Bureau.—equal rights of the colored people as witnesses and passengers.—equal pay of colored troops.—first struggle for suffrage of the colored people.—thirteenth amendment of the constitution.— French spoliation claims.—taxation of national banks.— differences with Fessenden.—Civil service Reform.—Lincoln's re-election.—parting with friends.—1863-1864.
The following extracts are given from letters written by Sumner
early in the session which began in December, 1863:—
To Mr. Bright
, December 15:—
I have just received the Manchester “Examiner,” containing the speeches at Rochdale,1 which I have read gratefully and admiringly.
Cobden's positive testimony must tell for us; and let me add that I like him the better the nearer he gets to the position that recognition is a moral impossibility.
If this were authoritatively declared, the case would soon be closed.
It is because the gate is still left open that the public is vexed by constantly receiving reports that in the event of Federal reverses there will be recognition.
No Federal reverse can be an apology for such a crime. . . . Our friends are confident; there are no doubters.
Besides, the battle of ‘ideas’ has been fought in the last Congress; it only remains that we should carry forward the ‘ideas’ that have been adopted. . . . The most determined Abolitionists now are in the slave States; and naturally, for with them it is a death grapple!
But how great and glorious will be this country when it is fully redeemed, and stands before the world without a slave,—an example of emancipation!
To George Bemis
, December 18:—
I have received a visit of three hours from the French Minister,2 in which he told me plumply that he thought now as at the beginning that the war must end in separation, and that France was ready at any time to offer her ‘good offices’ to bring about peace.
When he said this I snapped my fingers.
But does not this explain the precise policy of the emperor?
, December 28:—
Your German sky lowers with war. Can it be avoided?
My letters assure me that Germany at last is a unit, and that it will stand by Schleswig-Holstein.
Schleiden, who is very intelligent, is openly for war. He says that the connection of the provinces with Denmark must be cut. This is war. Motley writes from Vienna that in his opinion war is inevitable.
Mercier leaves Washington to-day.
Inter nos, he will tell the emperor that the Mexican expedition is a mistake, and that he ought to withdraw it; but that the national cause here is hopeless, and that the war will end in separation!
This I have from his own lips.
To W. E. Gladstone
, Jan. 1, 1864:—
I begin the year with my acknowledgments of the kindness of your letter, and with my best wishes.
A happy New Year to you and to your family!
A happy New Year also to all England; for my heart is always with England.
Winter has come, and our soldiers are preparing their huts for winter quarters.
But I learn that General Grant will not go into winter quarters; he means to trouble the rebellion without giving it time to rest.3 This is more practicable in the milder climate where he is than in Virginia, which is on the isothermal line of Crimea.
But our politics seem to have something of the tranquillity of our neighboring army.
Never since I have been in public life has there been so little excitement in Congress.
The way seems at last open.
Nobody doubts the result.
The assurance of the future gives calmness.
Some who come direct from General Grant declare that the war can be ended on the 4th July next.
For myself, I have never seen when this war would be ended; for I was unable to estimate the courage and force the resistance might derive from foreign nations.
But it has been clear to me always that there was but one way in which it could end; and I have felt sure that could foreign nations see it in its true light there could be no difference on the question.
The rebellion is simply slavery in arms, making pretensions utterly without precedent in history,—revolting, indecent, impious.
If the rebellion could in any way be distinguished from this crime, then it might have a chance of success.
But I do not believe, I cannot believe, that in this nineteenth century a just Providence will allow such a crime to flourish, or will continue to it the favor of foreign powers.
No reverse of arms, no failure or national misfortune, can shake this firm conviction.
There have been gloomy days, and it has been hard to see friends cut off, so many victims to slavery supplied, and [the rebellion] encouraged from Europe; but my confidence has not been disturbed.
It has often seemed to me that if we had failed, there must have been at the last moment a shudder in England at the awful responsibility of taking by the hand a bloody power, the co-mate of Dahomey; and that the English heart would have said, “No!
In the name of Heaven, no!”
Meanwhile our own efforts have relieved England from any such final responsibility.
But my heart yearns to see the country
that I love pronounce the word which will hasten the end of our domestic war, and make any foreign war impossible,—all of which is in her power.
Rarely in history has any nation been so situated as to do so much for another nation and for civilization, to say nothing of the infinite profit to herself.
I hope I do not write to you too frankly.
I should not write so if I had less confidence in your sincerity and goodness.
I have been pained to learn that the Duchess of Sutherland, whose kindness to me enabled me to see you whom I already honored much, is still ailing.
I hope that her generous nature may be spared yet longer to soften and quicken our social life.
I am sure that she will rejoice when slavery, now in arms, is cast down, never to rise again.
I think she would be glad to help at this overthrow.
The date of your letter (Hawarden) reminds me of a pleasant day which I can never forget.
To W. W. Story
, January 1:—
A happy New Year to you and yours!
I think of you constantly, and always with affection, and vow letters.
But my life is so crowded that I have found myself dropping correspondence that did not come under the head, if not of business, at least of public interest.
The “Psyche” 4 is superb, and I enjoy it much.
You know the bronzes were lost on the coast of Spain. . . . Of course I watch your ascending glory.
Nobody followed with intenser interest your English success, and now I am preparing for something grander; for George R. Russell tells me that your “Saul” is the finest statue he ever saw. The time will come when all you have done will be recognized . . . . I am vexed that the Quincy statue5 is not on its way to a pedestal.
It ought to be set up while the hero yet continues among us. . . . Shortly before leaving home I walked through the grounds of the old house6 in Cambridge where I enjoyed so much.
It was marked “To let.”
The past all came back, and I was filled with a pleasing melancholy.
Longfellow was with me, and we talked of your father and of you. . . . You have now another minister at Rome,7—a pleasing gentleman, with whom I think you will mingle more cordially than with any other on the list.
I counselled against any minister in Rome;8 but if one was to be appointed I declared you to be able to do us the most good.
But Massachusetts has already more than her quota according to the proportions in which offices are distributed. . . . This will be a free country.
Be its sculptor.
Give us-give mankind—a work which will typify or commemorate a redeemed nation. . . . After a painful illness, my only surviving brother, George, has gone, leaving me more than ever alone.
My mother is infirm, and my sister is in California. God bless you, dear William!
Give my love to Emmeline and Edith, of whom I hear brilliant things.
To Samuel Wilberforce
, February 5:—
I cannot receive any message of friendship from England, especially from one who was always so kind to me, and, more than all, who bears such relations to the cause which is so dear to me, without confessing how much it touches me. Embracing with my whole heart the hope for peace between our two homes, and happy in every word which helps the removal of slavery, or which shows that this end is sincerely sought, I was glad to hear through an admirable friend9 that you still thought kindly of me, and had not allowed the perplexities of an unparalleled contest to weaken your interest in the cause of the slave.
I have always hoped most earnestly that our English friends would at last see this terrible battle in its true light, and that the generous, noble sympathies which in times past — have been bestowed on efforts against African slavery would be given to those who slowly, reluctantly, and sorrowfully have taken the sword in self-defence against this iniquity.
From all that we hear, it seems as if the cloud which hung over England is passing away.
God be praised!
I know not when this war will end; but I have long seen that it can end only in one way. It cannot be in the order of Providence that African slavery, rebel and belligerent, drenched with slaughter and smeared with blood, shall be welcomed and embraced by any civilized power, least of all by one which has grown great and glorious under the teachings of your name.
In this trust I follow the fortunes of the rebel war waged against the national government with all the bad passions of slavery,—sad enough that we have been summoned to such a trial, very sad at times that our burden has been so much increased by misunderstanding abroad, but always taking counsel of my hopes, of the lessons of justice, and of the ways of Providence to man. There is a day sure to come which must make you happy and triumphant; it is when African slavery is extinguished.
Then at last shall we be of one mind.
To Rev. John Douglass
, January 22:10
Duties will keep me here, so that I cannot be with you to listen to the arguments and counsels by which you will inaugurate your new movement.
Let me say frankly that I know not if it be practicable to accomplish all the change in the Constitution which you propose; but I am sure that the discussion cannot be otherwise than advantageous.
It can never be out of season to explain and enforce mortal dependence on Almighty God, or to declare the liberty and equal rights of all men,—in other words, to assert the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. Here are the two great commandments which no Christian can forget.
In one is the duty and grace of piety, and in the other the duty and grace of humanity.
To Frank Ballard
, Dec. 29, 1864:—
I am astonished at what you say of my favoring any proposition to disfranchise anybody.
It is all an invention or misapprehension.
I have said that I should not object to a recognition of God by formal words in the