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Title: Charles Sumner Centenary - The American Negro Academy. Occasional Papers No. 14
Author: Grimké, Archibald Henry, 1849-1930
Language: English
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  OCCASIONAL PAPERS NO. 14.

  THE AMERICAN NEGRO ACADEMY


  CHARLES SUMNER
  CENTENARY


  HISTORICAL ADDRESS
  BY ARCHIBALD H. GRIMKE.


  PRICE 15 CENTS.

  WASHINGTON, D. C.:
  PUBLISHED BY THE ACADEMY.
  1911



The American Negro Academy celebrated the centenary of Charles Sumner at
the Fifteenth Street Presbyterian Church, Washington, D. C., Friday
evening, January 6, 1911. On this occasion the program was as follows: "A
Mighty Fortress is our God," by the choir of the church; Invocation, by
Rev. L. Z. Johnson, of Baltimore, Md.; the Historical address was next
delivered by Mr. Archibald H. Grimke, President of the Academy, after
which Justice Wendell Phillips Stafford made a brief address. A solo, by
Dr. Charles Sumner Wormley, was sung; Vice-President Kelly Miller
delivered an address. A Poem, "Summer," by Mrs. F. J. Grimke, was read by
Miss Mary P. Burrill. Hon. Wm. E. Chandler made the closing address; after
which the Battle Hymn of the Republic was sung by the congregation, led by
the choir. The benediction was pronounced by Rev. W. V. Tunnell.

The oil painting of Mr. Sumner which occupied a place in front of the
pulpit, was loaned by Dr. C. S. Wormley.



CHARLES SUMNER.


Every time a great man comes on the stage of human affairs, the fable of
the Hercules repeats itself. He gets a sword from Mercury, a bow from
Apollo, a breastplate from Vulcan, a robe from Minerva. Many streams from
many sources bring to him their united strength. How else could the great
man be equal to his time and task? What was true of the Greek Demigod was
likewise true of Charles Sumner. His study of the law for instance formed
but a part of his great preparation. The science of the law, not its
practice, excited his enthusiasm. He turned instinctively from the
technicalities, the tergiversations, the gladiatorial display and
contention of the legal profession. To him they were but the ephemera of
the long summertide of jurisprudence. He thirsted for the permanent, the
ever living springs and principles of the law. Grotius and Pothier and
Mansfield and Blackstone and Marshall and Story were the shining heights
to which he aspired. He had neither the tastes nor the talents to emulate
the Erskines and the Choates of the Bar.

His vast readings in the field of history and literature contributed in
like manner toward his splendid outfit. So too his wide contact and
association with the leading spirits of the times in Europe and America.
All combined to teach him to know himself and the universal verities of
man and society, to distinguish the invisible and enduring substance of
life from its merely accidental and transient phases and phenomena.

He was an apt pupil and laid up in his heart the great lessons of the Book
of Truth. His visit to Europe served to complete his apprenticeship. It
was like Hercules going into the Nemean forest to cut himself a club. The
same grand object lesson he saw everywhere--man, human society, human
thoughts, human strivings, human wrong, human misery. Beneath differences
of language, governments, religion, race, color, he discerned the
underlying human principle and passion, which make all races kin, all men
brothers. In strange and distant lands he found the human heart with its
friendships, heroisms, beatitudes, the human intellect with its never
ending movement and progress. He found home, a common destiny wherever he
found common ideas and aspirations. And these he had but to look around to
behold. He felt himself a citizen of an immense over-nation, of a vast
world of federated hopes and interests.

When the plan for this visit had taken shape in his own mind, he consulted
his friends, Judge Story, Prof. Greenleaf, and President Quincy, who were
not at all well affected to it. The first two thought it would wean him
from his profession, the last one that Europe would spoil him, "send him
back with a mustache and a walking-stick." Ah! how little did they
comprehend him, how hard to understand that this young and indefatigable
scholar was only going abroad to cut himself a club for the Herculean
labors of his ripe manhood. He went, saw, and conquered. He saw the
promised land of international fellowship and peace, and conquered in his
own breast the evil genius of war. He came back proud that he was an
American, prouder still that he was a man.

The downfall of the Whigs of Massachusetts, brought about by a coalition
of the Free Soil and the Democratic parties, resulted after a contest in
the Legislature lasting fourteen weeks, in the election on April 24, 1851,
of Charles Sumner to the Senate of the United States. He was just forty,
was at the meridian of the intellectual life, in the zenith of bodily
vigor and manly beauty. He attained the splendid position by sheer worth,
unrivalled public service. Never has political office, I venture to
assert, been so utterly unsolicited. He did not lift a finger, scorned to
budge an inch, refused to write a line to influence his election. The
great office came to him by the laws of gravitation and character--to him
the clean of hand, and brave of heart. It was the hour finding the man.

As Sumner entered the Senate the last of its early giants was leaving it
forever. Calhoun had already passed away. Webster was in Millard
Fillmore's cabinet, and Clay was escaping in his own picturesque and
pathetic words, "scarred by spears and worried by wounds to drag his
mutilated body to his lair and lie down and die." The venerable
representative of compromise was making his exit from one door of the
stage, the masterful representative of conscience, his entrance through
the other. Was the coincidence accident or prophecy? Were the bells of
destiny at the moment "ringing in the valiant man and free, the larger
heart, the kindlier hand, and ringing out the darkness of the land"?
Whether accident or prophecy, Sumner's entrance into the Senate was into
the midst of a hostile camp. On either side of the chamber enemies
confronted him. Southern Whigs and southern Democrats hated him. Northern
Whigs and northern democrats likewise hated him. He was without party
affiliation, well nigh friendless. But thanks to the revolution which was
working in the free states, he was not wholly so. For William H. Seward
was already there, and Salmon P. Chase, and John P. Hale, and Hannibal
Hamlin. Under such circumstances it behooved the new champion of freedom
to take no precipitate step.

A smaller man, a leader less wise and less fully equipped might have
blundered at this stage by leaping too hastily with his cause into the
arena of debate. Sumner did nothing of the kind. His self-poise and
self-control for nine months was simply admirable. "Endurance is the
crowning quality," says Lowell, "And patience all the passion of great
hearts." Certainly during those trying months they were Sumner's, the
endurance and the patience. First the blade, he had to familiarize himself
with the routine and rules of the Senate; then the ear, he had to study
the personnel of the Senate--and lastly the full corn in the ear, he had
to master himself and the situation. Four times he essayed his strength on
subjects inferior to the one which he was carrying in his heart as mothers
carry their unborn babes. Each trial of his parlimentary wings raised him
in the estimation of friends and foes. His welcome to Kossuth, and his
tribute to Robert Rantoul proved him to be an accomplished orator. His
speech on the Public Land Question evinced him besides strong in history,
argument and law.

No vehemence of anti-slavery pressure, no shock of angry criticism coming
from home was able to jostle him out of his fixed purpose to speak only
when he was ready. Winter had gone, and spring, and still his silence
remained. Summer too was almost gone before he determined to begin. Then
like an August storm he burst on the Senate and the Country. "Freedom
national: slavery sectional" was his theme. Like all of Mr. Sumner's
speeches, this speech was carefully written out and largely memorized. He
was deficient in the qualities of the great debater, was not able usually
and easily to think quickly and effectively on his feet, to give and take
hard blows within the short range of extemporaneous and hand to hand
encounters. Henry Clay and John Quincy Adams were pre-eminent in this
species of parliamentary combat. Webster and Calhoun were powerful
opponents whom it was dangerous to meet. Sumner perhaps never experienced
that electric sympathy and marvellous interplay of emotion and
intelligence between himself and an audience which made Wendell Phillips
the unrivalled monarch of the anti-slavery platform. Sumner's was the
eloquence of industry rather than the eloquence of inspiration. What he
did gave an impression of size, of length, breadth, thoroughness. He
required space and he required time. These granted, he was tremendous, in
many respects the most tremendous orator of the Senate and of his times.

He was tremendous on this occasion. His subject furnished the keynote and
the keystone of his opposition to slavery. Garrison, Phillips, Frederick
Douglass and Theodore D. Weld appealed against slavery to a common
humanity, to the primary moral instincts of mankind in condemnation of its
villanies. The appeal carried them above and beyond constitutions and
codes to the unwritten and eternal right. Sumner appealed against it to
the self-evident truths of the Declaration of Independence, to the spirit
and letter of the Constitution, to the sentiments and hopes of the
fathers, and to the early history and policy of the Country which they
had founded. All were for freedom and against slavery. The reverse of all
this, he contended, was error. Public opinion was error-bound, the North
was error-bound, so was the South, parties and politicians were
error-bound. Freedom is the heritage of the nation. Slavery had robbed it
of its birthright. Slavery must be dispossessed, its extension must be
resisted.

As it was in the beginning so it hath ever been, the world needs light.
The great want of the times was light. So Sumner believed. This speech of
his was but a repetition in a world of wrong of the fiat: "Let there be
light." With it light did indeed break on the national darkness, such
light as a thunderbolt flashes, shrivelling and shivering the deep-rooted
and ramified lie of the century. That speech struck a new note and a new
hour on the slavery agitation in America. Never before in the Government
had freedom touched so high a level. Heretofore the slave power had been
arrogant and exacting. A keen observer might have then foreseen that
freedom would also some day become exacting and aggressive. For its
advancing billows had broken in the resounding periods and passion of its
eloquent champion.

The manner of the orator on this occasion, a manner which marked all of
his utterances, was that of a man who defers to no one, prefers no one to
himself--the imperious manner of a man, conscious of the possession of
great powers and of ability to use them. Such a man the crisis demanded.
God made one American statesman without moral joints when he made Charles
Sumner. He could not bend the supple hinges of the knee to the slave
power, for he had none to bend. He must needs stand erect, inflexible,
uncompromising, an image of Puritan intolerance and Puritan grandeur.
Against his granite-like character and convictions the insolence of the
South flung itself in vain.

Orator and oration revealed as in a magic mirror some things to the South,
which before had seemed to it like "Birnam Wood" moving toward "high
Dunsinane." But lo, a miracle had been performed, the unexpected had
suddenly happened. The insurgent moral sense of a mudsill and shopkeeping
North had at last found voice and vent. With what awakening terror must
the South have listened to this formidable prophecy of Sumner: "The
movement against slavery is from the Everlasting Arm. Even now it is
gathering its forces to be confessed everywhere. It may not yet be felt in
the high places of office and power; but all who can put their ears humbly
to the ground will hear and comprehend its incessant and advancing tread."

This awakening terror of the South was not allayed by the admission of
California and the mutinous execution of the Fugitive Slave Law. The
temper of that section the while grew in consequence more unreasonable and
arrogant. Worsted as the South clearly was in the contest with her rival
for political supremacy, she refused nevertheless to modify her
pretentions to political supremacy. And as she had no longer anything to
lose by giving loose reins to her arrogance and pretentions, her words and
actions took on thenceforth an ominously defiant and reckless character.
If finally driven to the wall there lay within easy reach, she calculated,
secession and a southern confederacy.

The national situation was still further complicated by the disintegration
and chaos into which the two old parties were then tumbling, and by the
fierce rivalries and jealousies within them of party leaders at the North.
All the conditions seemed to favor southern aggression--the commission of
some monstrous crime against liberty. Webster had gone to his long
account, dishonored and broken-hearted. The last of the three supreme
voices of the early senatorial splendor of the republic was now hushed in
the grave. As those master lights, Calhoun, Webster and Clay, vanished one
after another into the void, darkness and uproar increased apace.

About this time the most striking and sinister figure in American Party
history loomed into greatness. Stephen A. Douglas was a curious and grim
example of the survival of viking instincts in the modern office seeker.
On the sea of politics he was a veritable water-dog, daring, unscrupulous,
lawless, transcendently able, and transcendently heartless. The sight of
the presidency moved him in much the same way as did the sight of the
effete and wealthy lands of Latin Europe moved his roving, robber
prototypes eleven centuries before. It stirred every drop of his
sea-wolf's blood to get possession of it.

His "Squatter Sovereignty Dogma" was in truth a pirate boat which carried
consternation to many an anxious community in the free states.

It was with such an ally that the slave power undertook the task of
repealing the Missouri Compromise. The organization of the northern
section of the Louisiana Purchase into the territories of Kansas and
Nebraska was made the occasion for abolishing the old slave line of 1820.
That line had devoted all of that land to freedom. Calhoun, bold as he
was, had never ventured to counsel the abrogation of that solemn covenant
between the sections. The South, to his way of thinking, had got the worst
of the bargain, had in fact been overreached, but a bargain was a bargain,
and therefore he concluded that the slave states should stand by their
plighted faith until released by the free. That which the great Nullifier
hesitated to counsel, his disciples and successors dared to do. The
execution of the plot was adroitly committed to the hands of Douglas,
under whose leadership the movement for repeal would appear to have been
started by the section which was to be injured by it. Thus the South would
be rescued from the moral and political consequences of an act of bad
faith in dealing with her sister section.

The Repeal fought its way through Congress during four stormy months of
the winter and spring of 1854. Blows fell upon it and its authors fast and
furious from Seward, Chase, Wade, Fessenden, Giddings and Gerrit Smith.
But Sumner was the colossus of the hour, the flaming sword of his section.
It was he who swung its ponderous broadsword and smote plot and plotters
with the terrible strength of the northern giant. Such a speech, as was
his "Landmarks of Freedom," only great national crises breed. It was a
volcanic upheaval of the moral throes of the times, a lavatide of
argument, appeal, history and eloquence. The august rights and wrath of
the northern people flashed and thundered along its rolling periods.

"Accomplish thou my manhood and thyself," is the cry of humanity ringing
forever in the soul of the reformer. He must needs bestir himself in
obedience to the high behest. The performance of this task is the special
mission of great men. It was without doubt Sumner's, for he stood for the
manhood of the North, of the slave, of the Republic. For this he toiled
strenuously all his life long. It shines in every paragraph of that
memorable speech, and of the shorter one in defence of the New England
clergy made at midnight on that black Thursday of May, which closed the
bitter struggle and consummated the demolition of the old slave wall.

From that time Sumner's position became one of constantly increasing
peril. Insulted, denounced, menaced by mob violence, his life was every
day in jeopardy. But he did not flinch nor falter. Freedom was his master,
humanity his guide. He climbed the hazardous steps to duty, heedless of
the dangers in his way.

His collisions with the slave leaders and their northern allies grew
thenceforth more frequent and ever fiercer. Every motion of his to gain
the floor, he found anticipated and opposed by a tyrannous combination and
majority, bent on depriving him of his rights as a senator. Wherever he
turned he faced growing intolerance and malignity. It was only by
exercising the utmost vigilance and firmness that he was able to snatch
for himself and cause a hearing. Under these circumstances all the powers
of the man became braced, eager, alert, determined. It was many against
one, but that one was a host in himself, aroused as he then was, not only
by the grandeur of his cause, but also by a keen sense of personal
indignity and persecution. Whoever else did, he would not submit to
senatorial insult and bondage. His rising temper began to thrust like a
rapier. Scorn he matched with scorn, and pride he pitted against pride. As
a regiment bristles with bayonets, so bristled his speech with facts,
which thrust through and through with the merciless truth of history the
arrogance and pretentions of the South. His sarcasm was terrific. His
invective had the ferocity of a panther. He upon whom it sprang had his
quivering flesh torn away. It was not in human nature to suffer such
lacerations of the feelings and forgive and forget the author of them. The
slave leaders did not forgive Sumner, nor forget their scars.

Meanwhile the plot of the national tragedy fast thickened, for as the
Government at Washington had adopted the "Squatter Sovereignty" scheme of
Douglas in settling the territorial question, the two sections
precipitated their forces at once upon the debatable land. It was then for
the first time that the two antagonistic social systems of the union came
into physical collision. Showers of bullets and blood dashed from the
darkening sky. Civil War had actually begun. The history of Kansas during
this period is a history of fraud, violence and anarchy. Popular
sovereignty, private rights and public order were all outraged by the
Border Ruffians of Missouri and the slave power.

At this juncture Sumner delivered in the senate a philipic, the like of
which had not before been heard in that chamber. His "Crime against
Kansas" was another one of his speeches crisis born. It was an outbreak of
the explosive forces of the long gathering tempest, its sharp and terrible
lightning flash and stroke, the sulphurous vent of the hot surcharged
heart of the North. More than one slave champion encountered during its
delivery his attention, and must have recoiled from the panther-like glare
and spring of his invective and rejoinder. Senator Arthur P. Butler of
South Carolina was, on the whole, the most fiercely assaulted of the
senatorial group. His punishment was indeed merciless. Impartial history
must, however, under all the circumstances of the case, I think, adjudge
it just. In that memorable struggle the Massachusetts chieftain used upon
his foes not only his tomakawk, but also his scalping knife. No quarter he
had received from the slave power, and none now he gave to it or its
representatives.

Such a terrible arraignment of the slave power in general, and of Senator
Butler in particular demanded an answer. To it, that power had but one
reply, violence, the reply which wrong ever makes to right. And this
Preston S. Brooks made two days after its delivery. Mr. Sumner pursuant to
an early adjournment of the Senate on an announcement of the death of a
member of the lower house, was busy at his desk preparing his afternoon
mail, when Brooks, (who by the way was a nephew of Senator Butler)
stepping in front of him and with hardly a word of warning, struck him on
the head a succession of quick murderous blows with a stout walking-stick.
Dazed and stunned, but impelled by the instinct of self-defense, Mr.
Sumner tried to rise to grapple with his assailant, but the seat under
which his long legs were thrust held him prisoner. Although fastened to
the floor with iron clamps, it was finally wrenched up by the agonized
struggles of Sumner. Thus released, his body bent forward and arms thrown
up to protect his bleeding head, he staggered toward Brooks who continued
the shower of blows until his victim fell fainting to the floor. Not then
did the southern brute stay his hand, but struck again and again the
prostrate and now insensible form of Mr. Sumner with a fragment of the
stick.

In the midst of this frightful scene where were the overturned desk,
pieces of the broken stick, scattered writing materials, and the
blood-stained carpet, lay that noble figure unconscious alike of pain and
of his enemies, and of the awful horror of it all. There he lay in the
senate chamber of the Republic with blood on his head and face and
clothing, with blood, now martyr's blood, running from many wounds and
sinking into the floor. Oh! the pity of it, but the sacrificial grandeur
of it also! He was presently succored by Henry Wilson and other faithful
friends, and borne to a sofa in the lobby of the Senate where doctors
dressed his wounds, and thence he was carried to his lodgings. There
suffering, bewildered, almost speechless, he spent the first night of the
tragedy and of his long years of martyrdom.

On the wings of that tragedy Sumner rose to an enduring place in the
pantheon of the nation. His life became thenceforth associated with the
weal of States, his fate with the fortunes of a great people. The toast
of the Autocrat of the Breakfast Table at the banquet of the Massachusetts
Medical Society about this time gave eloquent expression to the general
concern: "To the Surgeons of the City of Washington: God grant them
wisdom! for they are dressing the wounds of a mighty empire, and of
uncounted generations." The mad act of Brooks had done for Sumner what
similar madness had done for similar victims--magnified immensely his
influence secured forever his position as an imposing, historic figure.
Ah! it was indeed the old, wonderful story. The miracle of miracles was
again performed, the good man's blood had turned into the seed-corn of his
cause.

No need to retell the tale of his long and harrowing fight for health.
There were two sprains of the spine, besides the terrible blows on the
head. From land to land, during four years, he passed, pursuing "the
phantom of a cup that comes and goes." As a last resort he submitted
himself to the treatment by fire, to the torture of the Moxa, which Dr.
Brown-Sequard pronounced "the greatest suffering that can be inflicted on
mortal man." His empty chair, Massachusetts, great mother and nurse of
heroes (God give her ever in her need and the Country's such another son)
would not fill. Vacant it glared, voicing as no lips could utter her
eloquent protest and her mighty purpose.

The tide of history and the tide of mortality were running meanwhile their
inexorable courses. Two powerful parties, the Whig and the American, had
foundered on the tumultuous sea of public opinion. A new political
organization, the Republican, had arisen instead to resist the extension
of slavery to national territory. Death too was busy. Preston S. Brooks
and his uncle had vanished in the grave. Harper's Ferry had become
freedom's Balaklava, and John Brown had mounted from a Virginia gallows to
the throne and the glory of martyrdom. Sumner was not able to take up the
task which his hands had dropped until the troublous winter of 1859-60.
Those four fateful years of suffering had not abated his hatred of
slavery. That hatred and the Puritanical sternness and intolerance of his
nature had on the contrary intensified his temper and purpose as an
anti-slavery leader. He was then in personal appearance the incarnation of
iron will and iron convictions. His body nobly planned and proportioned
was a fit servant of his lofty and indomitable mind. All the strength and
resources of both he needed in the national emergency which then
confronted the Republic. For the supreme crisis of a seventy years'
conflict of ideas and institutions was at hand. At every door and on every
brow sat gloom and apprehension.

There was light on but one difficult way, the way of national
righteousness. In this storm-path of the Nation Sumner planted his feet.
Thick fogs were before and above him, a wild chaotic sea of doubt and
dread raged around him, but he hesitated not, neither swerved to the right
hand nor to the left. Straight on and up he moved, calling through the
rising tumult and the fast falling darkness to his groping and terrified
countrymen to follow him.

Nothing is settled which is not settled right, I hear him saying, high
above the breaking storm of civil strife. Peace, ever enduring peace,
comes only to that nation which puts down sin, and lifts up righteousness.
Kansas he found still denied admission to the Union, he presented her case
and arraigned her oppressors, in one of the great speeches of his life.
Where-ever liberty needed him, there he was, the knight without fear or
reproach. From platform and press and Senate he flung himself, during
those final decisive months of 1860, into the thickest of the battle. No
uncertainty vexed his mind and conscience. Whatever other questions
admitted of conciliatory treatment he was sure that the slavery question
admitted of none. With him there was to be no further compromise with the
evil, not an inch more of concessions would he grant it. Here he took his
stand, and from it nothing and no one were able to budge him. If disunion
and civil war were crouching in the rough way of the Nation's duty, the
Republic was not to turn aside into easier ways to avoid them. It should
on the contrary, regardless of consequences, seek to re-establish itself
in justice and liberty.

He recognized, however, amid the excitement of the times with all his
old-time clarity of vision the constitutional limitations of the Reform.
He did not propose at this stage of the struggle to touch slavery within
the states, because Congress had not the power. To the utmost verge of the
Constitution be pushed his uncompromising opposition to it. Here he drew
up his forces, ready to cross the Rubicon of the slave-power whenever
justificatory cause arose. Such he considered to be the uprising of the
South in rebellion. Rebellion with him cancelled the slave covenants of
the Constitution and discharged the North from their further observance.

He was at last untrammelled by constitutional conditions and limitations,
was free to carry the War into Africa. "Carthago est delenda" was
thenceforth ever on his lips. Mr. Lincoln and the Republican party started
out to save the Union with slavery. It is the rage now, I know, to extol
his marvellous sagacity and statesmanship. And I too will join in the
panegyric of his great qualities. But here he was not infallible. For when
he issued his Emancipation Proclamation, the South too was weighing the
military necessity of a similar measure. Justice was Sumner's solitary
expedient, right his unfailing sagacity. Of no other American statesman
can they be so unqualifiedly affirmed. They are indeed his peculiar
distinction and glory. Here he is the transcendent figure in our political
history. And yet, he was no fanatical visionary, Utopian dreamer, but a
practical moralist in the domain of politics. When president and party
turned a deaf ear to him and his simple straightforward remedy to try
their own, he did not break with them. On the contrary foot to foot and
shoulder to shoulder he kept step with both as far as they went. Where
they halted he would not stop. Stuck as the wheels of State were, during
those dreadful years in the mire and clay of political expediency and
pro-slavery Hunkerism, he appealed confidently to that large, unknown
quantity of courage and righteousness, dormant in the North, to set the
balked wheels again moving.

An ardent Peace advocate, he nevertheless threw himself enthusiastically
into the uprising against the Disunionist. Not to fight then he saw was
but to provoke more horrible woes, to prevent which the man of Peace
preached war, unrelenting war. He was Anglo-Saxon enough, Puritan and
student of history enough to be sensible of the efficacy of blood and
iron, at times, in the cure of intolerable ills. But his was no vulgar war
for the mere ascendancy of his section in the Union. It was rather a holy
crusade against wrong and for the supremacy and perpetuity of liberty in
America.

As elephants shy and shuffle before a bridge which they are about to
cross, so performed our saviors before emancipation and colored troops.
Emancipation and colored troops were the powder and ball which Providence
had laid by the side of our guns. Sumner urged incessantly upon the
administration the necessity of pouring this providential broadside into
the ranks of the foe. This was done at last and treason staggered and fell
mortally hurt.

The gravest problem remained, however, to be solved. The riddle of the
southern sphinx awaited its Oedipus. How ought local self-government to be
reconstituted in the old slave states was the momentous question to be
answered at close of the war. Sumner had his answer, others had their
answer. His answer he framed on the simple basis of right. No party
considerations entered into his straightforward purpose. He was not
careful to enfold within it any scheme or suggestion looking to the
ascendancy of his section. It was freedom alone that he was solicitious of
establishing, the supremacy of democratic ideas and institutions in the
new-born nation. He desired the ascendancy of his section and party so far
only as they were the real custodians of national justice and progress.
God knows whether his plan was better than the plans of others except in
simpleness and purity of aim. Lincoln had his plan, Johnson his, Congress
its own. Sumner's had what appears to me might have evinced it, on trial,
of superior virtue and wisdom, namely, the element of time, indefinite
time as a factor in the work of reconstruction. But it is impossible to
speak positively on this point. His scheme was rejected and all
discussion of it becomes therefore nugatory.

Negro citizenship and suffrage he championed not to save the political
power of his party and section, but as a duty which the republic owes to
the weakest of her children because of their weakness. Equality before the
law is, in fact, the only adequate defense which poverty has against
property in modern civilized society. Well did Mr. Sumner understand this
truth, that wrong has a fatal gift of metamorphosis, its ability to change
its form without losing its identity. It had shed in America, Negro
slavery. It would reappear as Negro serfdom unless placed in the way of
utter extinction. He had the sagacity to perceive that equality before the
law could alone avert a revival under a new name of the old slave power
and system. He toiled therefore in the Senate and on the platform to make
equality before the law the master principle in the social and political
life of America.

As his years increased so increased his passion for justice and equality.
He was never weary of sowing and resowing in the laws of the Nation and in
the mind of the people the grand ideas of the Declaration of Independence.
This entire absorption in one loftly purpose lent to him a singular
aloofness and isolation in the politics of the times. He was not like
other political leaders. He laid stress on the ethical side of
statesmanship, they emphasized the economical. He was chiefly concerned
about the rights of persons, they about the rights of property. Such a
great soul could not be a partisan. Party with him was an instrument to
advance his ideas, and nothing more. As long as it proved efficient,
subservient to right, he gave to it his hearty support.

It was therefore a foregone conclusion that Sumner and his party should
quarrel. The military and personal character of General Grant's first
administration furnished the casus belli. These great men had no
reciprocal appreciation the one for the other. Sumner was honest in the
belief that Grant knew nothing but war, and quite as honest was Grant in
supposing that Sumner had done nothing but talk. The breach, in
consequence, widened between the latter and his party for it naturally
enough espoused the cause of the President.

Sumner's imposing figure grew more distant and companionless. Domestic
unhappiness too was eating into his proud heart. His health began to
decline. The immedicable injury which his constitution had sustained from
the assault of Brooks developed fresh complications, and renewed all of
the old bodily suffering. A temper always austere and imperious was not
mended by this harassing combination of ills. Alone in this extremity he
trod the wine-press of sickness and sorrow. He no longer had a party to
lean on, nor a state to support him, nor did any woman's hand minister to
him in this hour of his need. He had left to him nothing but his cause,
and to this he clung with the pathos and passion of a grand and solitary
spirit. Presently the grass-hopper became a burden, and the once stalwart
limbs could not carry him with their old time ease and regularity to his
seat in the Senate, which accordingly became frequently vacant. An
overpowering weariness and weakness was settling on the dying statesman.
Still his thoughts hovered anxiously about their one paramount object.
Like as the eyes of a mother about to die are turned and fixed on a
darling child, so turned his thoughts to the struggling cause of human
brotherhood and equality. For it the great soul would toil yet a little
longer. But it was otherwise decried, and the illustrious Defender of
Humanity passed away in this city March 11, 1874, leaving to his country
and to mankind, as a glorious heritage, the mortal grandeur of his
character and achievements.



  CHARLES SUMNER.

  [On seeing some pictures of the interior of his home.]

  Only the casket left, the jewel gone
  Whose noble presence filled these stately rooms,
  And made this spot a shrine where pilgrims came--
  Stranger and friend--to bend in reverence
  Before the great, pure soul that knew no guile;
  To listen to the wise and gracious words
  That fell from lips whose rare, exquisite smile
  Gave tender beauty to the grand grave face.

  Upon these pictured walls we see thy peers,--
  Poet and saint and sage, painter and king,--
  A glorious band;--they shine upon us still;
  Still gleam in marble the enchanting forms
  Whereon thy artist eye delighted dwelt;
  Thy fav'rite Psyche droops her matchless face,
  Listening, methinks, for the beloved voice
  Which nevermore on earth shall sound her praise.

  All these remain,--the beautiful, the brave,
  The gifted, silent ones; but thou art gone!
  Fair is the world that smiles upon us now;
  Blue are the skies of June, balmy the air
  That soothes with touches soft the weary brow;
  And perfect days glide into perfect nights,--
  Moonlit and calm; but still our grateful hearts
  Are sad, and faint with fear,--for thou art gone!

  Oh friend beloved, with longing, tear-filled eyes
  We look up, up to the unclouded blue,
  And seek in vain some answering sign from thee.
  Look down upon us, guide and cheer us still
  From the serene height where thou dwellest now;
  Dark is the way without the beacon light
  Which long and steadfastly thy hand upheld.
  Oh, nerve with courage new the stricken hearts
  Whose dearest hopes seem lost in losing thee!

                                        CHARLOTTE FORTEN GRIMKE.



Transcriber's Note:

The following misprints have been corrected:
  "Tuunell" corrected to "Tunnell" (preface)
  "jurisprudnce" corrected to "jurisprudence" (page 3)
  "opposeed" corrected to "opposed" (page 10)
  "o" corrected to "of" (page 16)
  "charactor" corrected to "character" (page 17)





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