Слике страница
PDF
ePub

brevity, shows that spirit of freedom which should awaken a generous response. In refusing to receive it or refer it, according to the usage of the Senate, or in treating it with any indignity, you offer an affront not only to these numerous petitioners, but also to the great Right of Petition, which is never more sacred than when exercised in behalf of Freedom against an odious enactment. Permit me to add, that by this course you provoke the very spirit which you would repress. There is a plant which is said to grow when trodden upon. It remains to be seen if the Boston petitioners have not something of this quality. But this I know, Sir, that the Slave Act, like Vice, is

66

a monster of so frightful mien,

As, to be hated, needs but to be seen."

And the occurrences of this day will make it visible to the people in new forms of injustice.

REPLY TO ASSAILANTS:

OATH TO SUPPORT THE CONSTITUTION; WEAKNESS OF THE SOUTH FROM SLAVERY.

SECOND SPEECH IN THE SENATE ON THE BOSTON PETITION FOR THE REPEAL OF THE FUGITIVE SLAVE ACT, JUNE 28, 1854.

THE preceding speech was followed by a debate without example in anger, excitement, and brutality. Mr. Butler, of South Carolina, Mr. Mason, of Virginia, Mr. Pettit, of Indiana, Mr. Dixon, of Kentucky, Mr. Mallory, of Florida, and Mr. Clay, of Alabama, vied with each other in bullying denunciation of Mr. Sumner.

،،

66

(6

Mr. Butler began by claiming that the American Revolution was carried through by "slaveholding States," thus making boast for Slavery, and then turned to pour contempt upon Mr. Sumner, whose speech he characterized as a species of rhetoric intended to feed the fires of fanaticism in his own State"; then it was "a Fourth of July Oration," "vapid rhetoric,' a species of rhetoric which ought not to come from a scholar,' a rhetoric with more fine color than real strength"; and then he announced, "If sectional agitation is to be fed by such sentiments, such displays, and such things as come from the honorable gentleman near me, I say we ought not to be in a common confederacy, and we should be better off without it." Then again, "If the object be to make the issue between the North and the South, let the issue come. He then asked if Massachusetts "would send fugitives back to us after trial by jury or any other mode?" Then, turning to Mr. Sumner, he demanded, with much impetuosity of manner, "Will this honorable Senator tell me that he will do it?" To which Mr. Sumner promptly replied, "Is thy servant a dog, that he should do this thing?" The Globe reports the disorderly ejaculations which followed from Mr. Butler, winding up with the words, "You stand in my presence as a coëqual Senator, and tell me that it is a dog's office to execute the Constitu

""

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

tion of the United States?" Here Mr. Sumner remarked, "I recognize no such obligation,” — meaning, plainly, no obligation to return a fugitive slave.

Mr. Mason, afterwards so conspicuous in the Rebellion, followed in similar vein. He began by saying: "I say, Sir, the dignity of the American Senate has been rudely, wantonly, grossly assailed by a Senator from Massachusetts, —and not only the dignity of the Senate, but of the whole people, trifled with in the presence of the American Senate, either ignorantly or corruptly, I do not know which, nor do I care." He then proceeded to vindicate the "gentleman from Virginia" who had sought his slave in Boston, denounced Mr. Sumner for having "the boldness to speak here of such a man as a slave-hunter," and boasted that the law had been executed in Boston, that "in that city, within the last fortnight, it has done its office, and done it in the presence of a mob, which that Senator and his associates roused and inflamed to the very verge of treason, subjecting them to traitors' doom, while he and his associates sat here and kept themselves aloof from danger." Then he exclaimed: " Why, Sir, am I speaking of a fanatic, one whose reason is dethroned? Can such a one expect to make impressions upon the American people from his vapid, vulgar declamation here, accompanied by a declaration that he would violate his oath now recently taken ?"

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

All that was said by these two representatives of Slavery was intensified and aggravated by Mr. Pettit, of Indiana, who charged Mr. Sumner with openly declaring in the Senate that he would violate his oath, and then proceeded to foreshadow a proposition for his expulsion. At the same time he vindicated at length his original statement, that the construction put upon the Declaration of Independence by the Abolitionists of the country "made it a self-evident lie, instead of a self-evident truth." At this stage the Senate adjourned, leaving the question of reference still pending.

The next day was occupied by other business, contrary to the declared desire of Mr. Sumner, who said that he had "something further to say " upon the petition. On the 28th of June the attack on Mr. Sumner was renewed by Mr. Pettit, but without taking up the petition. An attempt was made to stifle further debate. Motions to postpone, and then to lay on the table, were proposed, when Mr. Sumner remarked:

I AM unwilling to stand in the way of the general wish of the Senate to go on with its business; I

desire at all times to promote its business; but this question has been presented and debated. Several Senators have already expressed themselves on it. Other Senators within my knowledge expect to be heard. I too, Sir, claim the privilege of being heard again, in reply to remarks which have fallen from honorable Senators. I hope, therefore, the memorial will have no disposition that shall preclude its complete discussion.

[ocr errors]

The Senate refused to postpone, and Mr. Mallory, of Florida, afterwards Secretary of the Navy in the cabinet of Jefferson Davis, began the assault on Mr. Sumner, expressing horror at his declarations in the Senate, and then adducing his early language in the Boston speech so often referred to. The future rebel dwelt with unction on the obligations of an oath, saying: "Sir, if there be any principle in the breast of the American citizen which more than any other lies at the foundation of law, morals, and society, it is his habitual observance and recognition of all the sacred obligations of an oath; and this no man knows better than the Senator himself." Mr. Clay, of Alabama, afterwards a violent rebel, succeeded in interpolating into the speech of Mr. Mallory a tirade of personality and brutality, which will be found in the Globe, and, after presenting a portrait meant for Mr. Sumner, "who held himself irresponsible to all law, feeling the obligation neither of the Divine law, nor of the law of the land, nor of the law of honor," proceeded to ask, "How would such a miscreant be treated? Why, if you could not reach him with the arm of the municipal law, if you could not send him to the Penitentiary, you would send him to Coventry.” And the orator of Slavery wound up by saying: "If we cannot restrain or prevent this eternal warfare upon the feelings and rights of Southern gentlemen, we may rob the serpent of his fangs, we can paralyze his influence, by placing him in that nadir of social degradation which he merits."

This brief account of the debate is important, as showing the atmosphere of the Senate, and the personal provocation, when Mr. Sumner at last obtained the floor and spoke as follows.

ΜΕ

Since I had the honor of addressing the Senate two days ago, various Senators have spoken. Of these, several have alluded to me in terms clearly beyond the sanction of parliamentary debate. Of this I make no complaint, though, for the honor of the Senate, at least, it were well, had it been otherwise. If to them it seems fit, courteous, parliamentary, let them

"unpack the heart with words,

And fall a-cursing, like a very drab,
A scullion":

I will not interfere with the enjoyment they find in such exposure of themselves. They have given us a taste of their quality. Two of them, the Senator from South Carolina [Mr. BUTLER], who sits immediately before me, and the Senator from Virginia [Mr. MASON], who sits immediately behind me, are not young. Their heads are amply crowned by Time. They did not speak from any ebullition of youth, but from the confirmed temper of age. It is melancholy to believe that in this debate they showed themselves as they are. It were charitable to believe that they are in reality better than they showed themselves.

I think, Sir, that I am not the only person on this floor, who, listening to these two self-confident champions of that peculiar fanaticism of the South, was reminded of the striking words of Jefferson, picturing the influence of Slavery, where he says: "The whole commerce between master and slave is a perpetual exercise of the most boisterous passions, the most unremitting despotism, on the one part, and degrading submission on the other. Our children see this, and learn to imitate it;

« ПретходнаНастави »