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SELECTED LETTERS OF SALMON P. CHASE
To Charles Sumner .
COLUMBUS, July 16, 1858.
MY DEAR SUMNER, Your brief parting note came to me like a note of music, sad but pleasant, wafted from the waters. How sorry I was that you were obliged to seek again in foreign lands the great boon of health; and yet I. was glad to know that among those last remembered and I hope, last forgotten, was the friend whom you so early cheered in the great struggle for freedom, by your approval & regard. Very gratefully do I remember all your kindness in act and speech, and trust I shall ever show myself not unworthy altogether, by remaining true to the cause for services to which it was the valued reward.
We learn from the newspapers that you have submitted yourself to a most trying operation, and that the physicians give good hope of most beneficial results. Most earnestly do
I hope, in common with many thousand friends of Human Liberty & Progress, that their best anticipations may be fully realized. I am anxious to hear your voice once more in the Senate, minim spargens sonum. I want to see the Oligarchs and Serviles once more cowering under your rebukes of despotism & servility.
It is amazing to see to what depths of baseness some of the partizan presses in the interest of the Oligarchy will descend. Not content with half vindications of the assassination attempted upon you, several have had the infinite meanness to represent you as playing a part all the while you have been suffering from the effects of the assault. When will men learn decency?
Oh! if you shall be only able to take your seat again next winter in your full vigor! There is no one now who hates the army of slavery in its principle as you do. I should except Durkee. Even Hale rather regards its political iniquity as its chief abomination; though far from insensible to its moral evil. Add to Hale, Seward & perhaps Wilson, and I think all the rest are animated rather by opposition to the political encroachments of the Slave Power, than by an earnest desire to inaugurate the deliverence of millions from oppression.
The rise of the Know Nothing Party had a pernicious influence upon the growth of a true Antislavery Spirit. You remember that one of its aims was to be national; and to be national it must ignore the slavery question, or in other words become indifferent as to the progress of slavery in the north while the south tolerated no indifference. Some yielded to this under the idea that the south, or rather the slave oligarchy in the south, would adopt the policy of indifferentism as well as the north. Others adopted the policy because they really felt no opposition to the spread of slavery, & had become accustomed to regard all earnest Antislavery action as fanatical & incompatible with repose. When the American Party became republicanized as in Ohio & some other states, a number of its members refused to vote republican tickets because they believed the antislavery principle represented. Often these men held the balance of power in their particular states, districts or counties.
Under these circumstances politicians soon began to think of conciliating them, and this disposition has induced a number of republican leaders to urge an abatement or modification of our Antislavery creed so as to make conciliation [illegible]. In many cases this policy has disgusted the earnest Antislavery men so much that they cease to cooperate heartily & there is danger of such departures from our original faith that division will take place, seriously affecting our prospects for the future. In Ohio my maxim has been "conciliate, but no abandonment of principle"; and I am happy to say that we have succeeded very thoroughly. At our recent State Convention, held on the ever memorable 13th, we reaffirmed all our articles of faith & at the same time made a ticket which will, I think, render it impossible for them to rally under their distinctive American flag at all. In other States I regret to see a less vigorous maintenance of principle or organization, especially in Pennsylvania & New York. In these States there seems to be a disposition to fuse upon simple opposition to the Administration, often without any & generally with little regard to Antislavery principles. In Massachusetts I fear something of the same tendency exists. I am willing to go as far as any man to conciliate, and would readily concede much for that object, in hope of producing a union of action which will overturn the Slave Power. But it is impossible for us who have so long contended for the denationalization of slavery & the exercise of the legitimate influence of the Government on the side of Freedom, to abandon [?] our great object for the sake of personal advantage, to sundry [?] individuals, or for the sake of simply putting down the present Administration.
I go to Massachusetts next week, if possible. I propose attending Commencement at Dartmouth, where my class is to meet. How I wish I could meet & confer with you. But I must [illeg. pursue?] you across the ocean instead; and I trust you will find time to let me hear from you as well as ability & inclination [sic]. Meantime be assured of my warm & continual affection.
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