Perley's Reminiscences of Sixty Years in the National Metropolis - Vol. 1

By Ben: Perley Poore | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXXVII.
POLITICAL STORM AND SOCIAL SUNSHINE.

SUMNER, OF MASSACHUSETTS--THE ASSAULT ON SUMNER--TROUBLOUS TIMES--CONGRESSIONAL COURTESIES--SENATORIAL WIT--CONVEN- TION OF OLD SOLDIERS--SOCIAL ROUTINE AT THE WHITE HOUSE-- SOCIETY GATHERINGS.

CHARLES SUMNER had not spoken on the slavery question immediately on taking his seat in the Senate, and some of his abolition friends in Boston had began to fear that he, too, had been enchanted by the Circe of the South. Theodore Parker said, in a public speech: "I wish he had spoken long ago, but it is for him to decide, not us. 'A fool's bolt is soon shot,' while a wise man often reserves his fire." But Senator Seward, who had been taught by experience how far a Northern man could go in opposition to the slave-power, advised him that "retorted scorn" would be impolitic and perhaps unsafe.

Mr. Sumner, however, soon began to occupy the floor of the Senate Chamber when he could get an opportunity. His speeches were able and exhaustive disquisitions, polished and repolished before their delivery, and arraigning the South in stately and measured sentences which contained stinging rebukes. The boldness of his language soon attracted public attention and secured his recognition as the chosen champion of Freedom. One afternoon, while he was speaking, Senator Douglas, walking up and down behind the Presi-

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