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SELECTED LETTERS OF SALMON P. CHASE
To Charles Sumner.
WASHINGTON Aug. 13, 1850.
MY DEAR SUMNER: I heard of the
death of your brother
with real sorrow and with a true sympathy for you. It was a sad aggravation of the calamity that he perished so near the end of his voyage, just as he was about to step on threshold of his home. I have been taught the great lesson of sympathy in the school of bereavement. Often and often has the blow fallen upon me - so often indeed that
now, at length, I live like Damocles, with a visible sword suspended over my head. It is not two weeks since my youngest child, of one single year, co-changed mortality for immortality, and the health of Mrs. Chase is so precarious that I have no respite from intense solicitude. You may well suppose that under the circumstances public life is irksome to me. Gladly would I retire and leave its duties and distinctions the latter as worthless as the former are august and important - to others. But I seem to
myself to have no choice. So few are faithful to Freedom - so few seem to have any real heartiness in the service of the country - that I feel as if it would be criminal in me to think of retiring so long as those who have the power have the will also to keep me at my post. This piece of egotism is but a preface to somewhat I have to say further. I see you have been nominated for Congress by the Free Democracy of the Suffolk District. I know your innate aversion to an election contest and I can well understand how this aversion must be enhanced by your present circumstances. But, my dear friend, you must not decline, nor even show any repugnance to acceptance. It is a time of trial for the Friends of Freedom. The short-lived zeal of many has waxed cold. Hunkerism everywhere rallies its forces, and joins them to those of slavery. Our side needs encouragement - inspiriting. You are looked to as a leader. You know it though your modesty would fain disclaim the title and shun the position. Your face must now be set as a flint and your voice sound like a clarion. You must not say "Go"! but "Follow"! Take the position assigned to you; and if Websterism must prevail in the Capital of Massachusetts - if Boston is to be yoked in with Slavehunters and their apologists, let no part of the sin lie at your door.
Here we are
on as usual. We have ordered the Bill for the admission of California to be engrossed for a third reading to-day and should have passed it but for the yielding of Douglas, who, as chairman of the Committee on Territories has charge of the bill, to a motion for adjournment. It will probably pass before this reaches Boston. This is some compensation for the disgraceful surrender to Texas sealed by the passage of Pearce's bill which gives ten millions of dollars and half of New Mexico for a relinquishment by Texas of her " claim " - that is the word in the bill - to the other half. This is the first fruit of the Compromise Administration. This is their first measure.
Poor Chaplin. You have seen the story of his arrest and imprisonment. I am very sorry for him, for he is a brave and true man, though I cannot approve of his course of action.
Write me soon and believe me, faithfully and cordially your friend
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