Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Salmon P. Chase to Charles Sumner, December 14, 1849

Washington, Dec. 14,, 1849.

My Dear Sumner: I thank you for your argument in defense of equality before the law1 for the colored people of Boston, in respect to public instruction. It is something more than reason — it is reason inspired by the sentiment of humanity. I take it for granted that it will be published in pamphlet form. When so published I hope you will send me a number of copies. It will give me real pleasure in aiding its circulation.

The papers show you the course of things here. Giddings, who is himself a living pillar, says there is less doublefacery here than at any former session. But the amount visible is disgusting. But for the presence of the Spartan Boss of Free Democrats, I have no doubt the South would have completely triumphed.

Yesterday was a day of great excitement. Discussion, speeches, and arrays of clippings, as in a theatre, was the programme of the Slaveholders, and for a time it frightened many Northern men. Judge Allen's speech reassured some of them. His illustration of the slaveholding demonstration by comparison with the arrangement of poor Goldsmith's friend to give eclat to the production of its first play was exceedingly well timed. And how admirably he exposed Winthrop. The political committees, he showed from W’s own admissions and statements were constituted for action— the Committees on the District, the Territories, and the Judiciary were constituted for inaction.

It is impossible now to foresee how all will end. But we hope the best. Certainly great advantages have been gained, and the Free Soilers have made by every point so far.

Most Cordially yours,

1 This phrase so familiar to-day seems to have been introduced into English by Sumner. It represents the French “Egalite devant la loi.” “Equality before the law” is not denned nor is any example of its use cited in the New English Dictionary edited by J. A. H. Murray and others. Cf. Pierce's Sumner, Vol. III, p. 40.

SOURCE: Annual Report of the American Historical Association for the Year 1902, Vol. 2, p. 188-9

No comments: