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Mr. Sumner. It was entitled, “Shall Slavery be permitted in Nebraska ?” and proceeded in strong language to expose the violation of plighted faith and the wickedness about to be perpetrated. This document was extensively circulated, and did much to awaken the public.

On the 30th of January the Senate proceeded to the consideration of the bill, when Mr. Douglas took the floor and devoted himself to denunciation of the appeal by the Independent Democrats, characterizing its authors as “Abolition confederates," and particularly arraigning Mr. Chase and Mr. Sumner, the two Senators who had signed it. When he sat down, Mr. Chase replied at once to the personal matters introduced, and was followed by Mr. Sumner, in the few remarks below; and this was the opening of the great debate which occupied for months the attention of the country.


Before the Senate adjourns I crave a single moment. As a signer of the address referred to by the Senator from Illinois [Mr. DOUGLAS], I openly accept, before the Senate and the country, my full responsibility for it, and deprecate no criticism from any quarter. That document was put forth in the discharge of a high public duty, - on the precipitate introduction into this body of a measure which, as seems to me, is not only subversive of an ancient landmark, but hostile to the peace, the harmony, and the best interests of the country. But, Sir, in doing this, I judged the act, and not its author. I saw only the enormous proposition, and nothing of the Senator.

The language used is strong, but not stronger than the exigency required. Here is a measure which reverses the time-honored policy of our fathers in the restriction of Slavery, - which sets aside the Missouri Compromise, a solemn compact, by which all the territory ceded by France under the name of Louisiana, north of thirty-six degrees and thirty minutes north latitude and not included within the limits of Missouri, was “forever” consecrated to Freedom, - and which violates, also, the alleged compromises of 1850: and all this opening an immense territory to Slavery. Such a measure cannot be regarded without emotions too strong for speech ; nor can it be justly described in common language. It is a soulless, eyeless monster, horrid, unshapely, vast: and this monster is now let loose upon the country.

Allow me one other word of explanation. It is true I desired that the consideration of this measure should not be pressed at once, with indecent haste, as was proposed, even before the Senate could read the bill in which it is embodied. You may remember that the Missouri Bill, as appears from the Journals of Congress, when first introduced, in December, 1819, was allowed to rest upon the table nearly two months before the discussion commenced. The proposition to undo the only part of that work which is now in any degree within the reach of Congress should be approached with even greater caution and reserve. The people have a right to be heard on this monstrous scheme; and there is no apology for that driving, galloping speed which shall anticipate their voice, and, in its consequences, must despoil them of this right.

The debate was continued from day to day. On the 7th of February Mr. Douglas proposed still another change in his bill. There seemed to be a perpetual difficulty in adjusting the language by which the existing Prohibition of Slavery should be overthrown. He now moved to strike out the words referring to this Prohibition, and to insert the following:

" Which, being inconsistent with the principles of non-intervention by Congress with Slavery in the States and Territories, as recognized by the legislation of 1850, commonly called the Compromise Measures, is hereby declared inoperative and void: it being the true intent and meaning of this Act not to legislate Slavery into any Territory or State, nor to exclude it therefrom, but to leave the people thereof perfectly free to form and regu. late their domestic institutions in their own way, subject only to the Constitution of the United States."

On the 15th of February this amendment was adopted by a vote of thirty-five yeas to ten nays.

The debate was then continued upon th pending substitute reported by the Committee for the original bill.

On the 21st of February Mr. Sumner took the floor and delivered the following speech.




R. PRESIDENT,- I approach this discussion with

The mighty question, with untold issues, oppresses me. Like a portentous cloud surcharged with irresistible storm and ruin, it seems to fill the whole heavens, making me painfully conscious how unequal to the occasion I am, - how unequal, also, is all that I can say to all that I feel.

In delivering my sentiments to-day I shall speak frankly, according to my convictions, without concealment or reserve. If anything fell from the Senator from Illinois [Mr. Douglas], in opening this discussion, which might seem to challenge a personal contest, I desire to say that I shall not enter upon it. Let not a word or a tone pass my lips to divert attention for a moment from the surpassing theme, by the side of which Senators and Presidents are but dwarfs. I would not forget those amenities which belong to this place, and are so well calculated to temper the antagonism of debate; nor can I cease to remember, and to feel, that, amidst all diversities of opinion, we are the representatives of thirty-one sister republics, knit together by indissoluble ties, and constituting that Plural Unit which we all embrace by the endearing name of country.

The question for your consideration is not exceeded in grandeur by any which has occurred in our national history since the Declaration of Independence. In every aspect it assumes gigantic proportions, whether we consider simply the extent of territory it affects, or the public faith and national policy which it assails, or that higher question --- that Question of Questions, as far above others as Liberty is above the common things of life --- which it opens anew for judgment.

It concerns an immense region, larger than the original Thirteen States, vying in extent with all the existing Free States, -stretching over prairie, field, and forest, —interlaced by silver streams, skirted by protecting mountains, and constituting the heart of the North American continent, — only a little smaller, let me add, than three great European countries combined, — Italy, Spain, and France,-- each of which, in succession, has dominated over the globe. This territory has been likened, on this floor, to the Garden of God. The similitude is found not merely in its pure and virgin character, but in its actual geographical situation, occupying central spaces on this hemisphere, which, in their general relations, may well compare with that “happy rural seat." We are told that

"Southward through Eden went a river large”

": so here a stream flows southward which is larger than the Euphrates. And here, too, all amid the smiling products of Nature, lavished by the hand of God, is the lofty Tree of Liberty, planted by our fathers, which, without exaggeration, or even imagination, may be likened to

" the Tree of Life, High eminent, blooming ambrosial fruit Of vegetable gold."

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