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Slavery." John G. Whittier wrote: “It was the fitting word ; it entirely satisfied me; and with a glow of heart I thanked God that its author was my friend.” As the speech received the sympathy of friends, so it aroused all the bad passions on the side of Slavery. The manifestation that ensued will appear in a note at the end.
The original debate in the Senate on the Nebraska and Kansas Bill, in which Mr. Sumner took part, was closed by the passage of that bill
- after a protracted session throughout the night — on the morning of Saturday, March 4, 1854, by a vote of thirty-seven yeas to fourteen nays. The bill was then sent to the House of Representatives. It was there taken up and referred to the Committee of the Whole ; but, owing to the mass of prior business, it became impossible to reach it. Under these circumstances, a fresh bill, nearly identical with that which passed the Senate, was introduced and passed the House. This, of course, required the action of the Senate. On the 23d of May a message from the House announced its passage, and asked the concurrence of the Senate. It was at once read a first time ; but, on the objection of Mr. Sumner, its second reading was stopped for that day. The next day, on motion of Mr. Douglas, all prior orders were postponed for the purpose of considering it. The debate upon it continued during that day and the next. The interest it excited was attested by crowded galleries to the end. Among spectators on the floor of the Senate was the Earl of Elgin, Governor-General of Canada, with his suite, then in Washington to negotiate the Canadian Reciprocity Treaty. Late in the night of the last day, after the bill was reported to th Senate, and the question put by the Chair, “Shall the bill be engrossed and read a third time?” Mr. Sumner took the floor and said :-
R. PRESIDENT, - It is now midnight. At this
late hour of a session drawn out to unaccustomed length, I shall not fatigue the Senate by argument. There is a time for all things, and the time for argument has passed. The determination of the majority is fixed; but it is not more fixed than mine. The bill which they sustain I oppose. On a former occasion I met it by argument, which, though often attacked in debate, still stands unanswered and unanswerable. At present I am admonished that I must be content with a few words of earnest protest against the
consummation of a great wrong. Duty to myself, and also to the honored Commonwealth of which I find myself the sole representative in this immediate exigency, will not allow me to do less.
But I have a special duty, which I would not omit. Here on my desk are remonstances against the passage of this bill, some placed in my hands since the commencement of the debate to-day, and I desire that these voices, direct from the people, should be heard.
With the permission of the Senate, I will offer them now.
THE PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. STUART in the chair). The remonstrances can be received by unanimous consent.
SEVERAL VOICES. Let them be received.
MR. SUMNER. Taking advantage of this permission, I now present the remonstrance of a large number of citizens of New York against the repeal of the Missouri Compromise.
I also present the memorial of the religious Society of Friends in Michigan against the passage of the Nebraska Bill, or any other bill annulling the Missouri Compromise Act of 1820.
I also present the remonstrance of the clergy and laity of the Baptist denomination in Michigan and Indiana against the wrong and bad faith contemplated in the Nebraska Bill.
But this is not all. I hold in my hand, and now present to the Senate, one hundred and twenty-five separate remonstrances, from clergymen of every Protestant denomination in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut, constituting the six New England States. These remonstrances are
identical in character with the larger one presented by my distinguished colleague [Mr. EVERETT], — whose term of service here ends in a few days by voluntary resignation, and who is now detained at home by illness, - and were originally intended as part of it, but did not arrive in season for annexation to that interesting and weighty document. They are independent in form, though supplementary in nature, helping to swell the protest of the pulpits of New England.
With pleasure and pride I now do this service, and at this last stage interpose the sanctity of the pulpits of New England to arrest an alarming outrage, — believing that the remonstrants, from their eminent character and influence as representatives of the intelligence and conscience of the country, are peculiarly entitled to be heard, — and, further, believing that their remonstrances, while respectful in form, embody just conclusions, both of opinion and fact. Like them, Sir, I do not hesitate to protest against the bill yet pending before the Senate, as a great moral wrong, as a breach of public faith, as a measure full of danger to the peace, and even existence, of our Union. And, Sir, believing in God, as I profoundly do, I cannot doubt that the opening of an immense region to so great an enormity as Slavery is calculated to draw down upon our country his righteous judgments.
"In the name of Almighty God, and in his presence," these remonstrants protest against the Nebraska Bill. In this solemn language, most strangely pronounced blasphemous on this floor, there is obviously no assumption of ecclesiastical power, as is perversely charged, but simply a devout observance of the Scriptural injunction, “Whatsoever ye do, in word or deed, do all in the name
of the Lord.” Let me add, also, that these remonstrants, in this very language, have followed the example of the Senate, which, at our present session, has ratified at least one important treaty beginning with these precise words, “In the name of Almighty God.” Surely, if the Senate may thus assume to speak, the clergy may do likewise, without imputation of blasphemy, or any just criticism, at least in this body.
I am unwilling, particularly at this time, to be betrayed into anything like a defence of the clergy. They need no such thing at my hands. There are men in this Senate justly eminent for eloquence, learning, and ability; but there is no man here competent, except in his own conceit, to sit in judgment on the clergy of New England. Honorable Senators, so swift with criticism and sarcasm, might profit by their example. Perhaps the Senator from South Carolina (Mr. BUTLER], who is not insensible to scholarship, might learn from them something of its graces. Perhaps the Senator from Virginia [Mr. MASON), who finds no sanction under the Constitution for any - remonstrance from clergymen, might learn from them something of the privileges of an American citizen. And perhaps the Senator from Illinois [Mr. DOUGLAS], who precipitated this odious measure upon the country, might learn from them something of political wisdom. Sir, from the first settlement of these shores, from those early days of struggle and privation, through the trials of the Revolution, the clergy are associated not only with the piety and the learning, but with the liberties of the country. New England for a long time was governed by their prayers more than by any acts of the Legislature; and at a later day their voices aided even the Declaration of Independence. The clergy of our
time speak, then, not only from their own virtues, but from echoes yet surviving in the pulpits of their fathers.
For myself, I desire to thank them for their generous interposition. Already they have done much good in moving the country. They will not be idle. In the days of the Revolution, John Adams, yearning for Independence, said, “Let the pulpits thunder against oppression!” And the pulpits thundered. The time has come for them to thunder again. So famous was John Knox for power in prayer, that Queen Mary used to say she feared his prayers more than all the armies of Europe. But our clergy have prayers to be feared by the upholders of wrong
There are lessons taught by these remonstrances, which, at this moment, should not pass unheeded. The Senator from Ohio [Mr. WADE], on the other side of the chamber, has openly declared that Northern Whigs can never again combine with their Southern brethren in support of Slavery. This is a good augury. The clergy of New England, some of whom, forgetful of the traditions of other days, once made their pulpits vocal for the Fugitive Slave Bill, now, by the voices of learned divines, eminent bishops, accomplished professors, and faithful pastors, uttered in solemn remonstrance, unite at last in putting a permanent brand upon this hateful wrong. Surely, from this time forward, they can never more render it any support. Thank God for this! Here is a sign full of promise for Freedom.
These remonstrances have especial significance, when
1 A specimen is an address by Rev. Thomas Allen, Minister of Pittsfield, Mass., entitled “Instruction and Counsel of a Country Clergyman, given to his People, Lord's Day, June 20, 1779, immediately after reading [to them] the Address of the Honorable Congress to the Inhabitants of these United States." See Boston Independent Chronicle, July 15, 1779.