Sunday, August 7, 2016

Salmon P. Chase to Charles Sumner,* November 26, 1846

Cincinnati, Nov. 26, 1846.

My Dear Sir: I promised Mr. Vaughan, sometime ago, to write you in reference to the True American, but have been prevented by various circumstances from fulfilling the promise. I have little leisure now, but possibly a few words may be offered.

You are aware, doubtless, of all the circumstances relating to C. M. Clay’s1 connection with the paper. I was well aware of that gentleman's aversion to editorial duty, and the last letter I rec'd from him before he left Louisville with his Company advised me that he should not continue the paper under his own charge any longer than was absolutely necessary. I had, however, no idea that its publication would be abandoned during his absence, or that he had given a discretionary power over the very existence of the paper to Brutus I. Clay, his brother, an open and avowed enemy of the movement and anxious to disengage his brother C. M. from what he (B. I.) deemed a false position. I am not yet willing to believe that Mr. C. M. Clay, in giving a general power of attorney to Brutus to act for him in all his affairs (including of course the paper) had any expectation that the American would be discontinued during his absence. He made an engagement with Mr. Vaughan2 to edit it; he accepted with expressions of gratitude my own offer of assistance, which assistance, however, I am bound to say Mr. Vaughan's superior ability and tact rendered totally unnecessary; and, I feel very sure that at the time of his last letter to me he relied on the American as a powerful and indispensable auxiliary to the great effort which he designed to make on behalf of emancipation immediately after his return. Whether he afterward changed his purpose or not I am unable to say. I will not believe that he did except upon evidence. I am unwilling to condemn a man who has acted nobly, until I see proofs of absolute and total dereliction.

However, the paper by the act of B. I. Clay is discontinued. But the friends of Freedom in Kentucky are determined that it shall not stay discontinued. They have organized in Louisville and elsewhere, and have resolved that the paper shall go on under the charge of Mr. Vaughan, provided the necessary assistance can be had. To see whether this assistance can be had Mr. Vaughan has this day started for the east. I beg leave to commend him and his object to your kindest consideration. Mr. V — is a South Carolinian, and might, had he been willing to identify himself with the Nullifiers, have occupied almost any position in his native State. His principles forbade this, and he afterwards removed to this city. Almost from his first arrival his sentiments on the subject of Slavery have been advancing, until he now stands on the same or nearly the same platform which you occupy. I feel sure that no man fitter for the time and place can be found. As to the importance of the paper, it cannot well be overestimated. There is a vast amount of antislavery sentiment in the Slave States, which requires to be fostered and developed. All the hill country is favorable, except so far as mere prejudice prevents, to Freedom. The paper has a very good circulation in the Slave States. It is the link between the Antislavery sentiment of the North and South. It cannot be lost without great detriment to the cause both North and South. I trust, therefore, Mr. Vaughan's efforts will be liberally rewarded by the enlightened Friends of Humanity, Freedom, and Advancement in the East.

I do not often solicit such a favor, but may I beg a copy of your Phi Beta Kappa address? I believe I have heretofore thanked you for your 4th July Oration on the True Grandeur of Nations, and expressed the admiration with which its perusal inspired me — an admiration shared, I believe, by all readers of the document except the devotees of Conservatism, falsely so called.

Why can not the Friends of Freedom stand together? Why exact from me, a Democrat, addresses to the Whigs, or from you, a Whig, addresses to the Democrats? Is not the question of Freedom paramount, and is it not great enough in itself and its connexions for a party to stand on, without dividing addresses?

I pray you to pardon the liberty I have taken in writing this to one to whom I am almost wholly unknown, and believe me, With very great respect,

Yours truly,
[Salmon P. Chase]

* All the letters from Chase to Sumner are from the Pierce-Sumner Papers in the library of Harvard University.

1 The wellknown Cassias Marcellus Clay.

2 John C. Vaughan, cf. Wilson's Slave Power, II, 143-144, 510, and Pierce's Sumner, III, 165.

SOURCE: Annual Report of the American Historical Association for the Year 1902, Vol. 2, p. 111

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