Secession Era Editorials Project

Supremacy of the Law

Boston, Massachusetts, Post [Democratic]

(29 May 1856)

It is to be deeply regretted that there has been More exciting language in the senate. It is Intemperance of speech which has led to disgraceful personal violence in the past; and which, as long as it is allowed, will be followed by the like results in the future.

But personal violence is of akin to that higher-lawism Which has been so long urged by fanaticism. Now, against this political pestilence is that principle of respect for law which forms a part of the character of this community; and which, thus far, has been appealed to with such triumphant success. It was such an appeal that paralyzed the parricidal hands raised by abolitionism in 1850 against the laws of the land; it was such an appeal that enabled the law to triumph, on the terrible day of the rendition of Burns; and it is the efficiency of such an appeal that the constitutional men at the north must rely on, to recall it back to a sense of its duty to the Union.

Hence it is that some more deeply deplore, or more decidedly condemn, the assault on Mr. Sumner than do those national men, here at the north, who are laboring to defend the constitution against the inroads of abolition fanaticism. And none will read with deeper regret the justification of it which has been just seen in the senate. Such justification cannot be responded to by any northern community. To do it would be to do violence to one of the common laws of its exercise. It would paralyse the strength of that appeal to the principle of the supremacy of law, which must be relied on whenever demagogism lashes into fearful fury the popular wave.

But the subject of the assault on Mr. Sumner is in the hands of the law. As a judicial question it is in the courts; as a question of privilege it is in the hands of both house of congress. While the full measure of reprehension should be passed on this assault, and on all personal violence, good citizens will await the decision of these tribunals in the confidence that the officials who are to deal with the case will do their duty in upholding the supremacy of the law and in vindicating the honor of the legislature.

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