The assault on Senator Sumner reverberates
through the land, causing throughout the Free
States the intensest excitement and indignation.
Other men have been as causelessly assailed, and
as wantonly, if not as savagely, beaten; but the
knocking-down and beating to bloody blindness and
unconsciousness of an American Senator while
writing at his desk in the Senate Chamber is a
novel illustration of the ferocious Southern spirit.
It carries home to myriads of understandings
The beating of private citizens or the butchery of Irish waiters by the Southern Oligarchy, have made no impression on the public mind at all comparable in breadth or vividness with that which has been and will be produced by the assault of which Mr. Sumner has been the victim. Widely known in both hemispheres as among the first of American scholars and orators, his career as a Senator has conferred renown even on the glorious commonwealth of which he is the foremost representative. Elected as the champion of no interest, no clique, no party, but simply of the great idea of Impartial Freedom, he has been eminently faithful to his high calling. Nobody could infer from his votes or speeches that he was ever, in the party sense, a Whig or a Democrat; but no one can doubt that he is an earnest and fearless contemner of Slavery. But four years in public life, he has already done much to redeem the term Abolitionist from the unmerited odium which an age of baseness, self-seeking and infidelity to Revolutionary tradition and Republican principle has contrived to cast upon it. He has elevated the range and widened the scope of Senatorial debate, summoning Poetry and Literature to the elucidation of the gravest and dryest political propositions, while by careful preparation and a finished oratory he has attracted thousands to hear and to consider elemental truths with the enunciation of which the corrupt and servile atmosphere of the Federal metropolis has been agitated far too seldom. There is no man now living who within the last five years has rendered the American People greater service or won for himself a nobler fame than Charles Sumner.
It is high time that this People should take a stand not only against the immediate perpetrators of ruffian assaults but against their confederates and apologists in public life and in the Press. As long as words sincerely spoken can be pleaded as an apology for blows, we shall be regarded by impartial observers as barbarians -- and justly so regarded. So long as our truly civilized and refined communities succumb to the rule of the barbarian elements in our political system, we must be judged by the character and conduct of our accepted masters. The youth trained to knock down his human chattels for "insolence" -- that is, for any sort of resistance to his good pleasure -- will thereafter knock down and beat other human beings who thwart his wishes -- no matter whether they be Irish waiters or New England Senators. Once admit the idea of the predominance of brute force -- of the right of individual appeal from words to blows -- and human society becomes a state of war, diversified by interludes of fitful and hollow truce. And they who, as legislators, editors, public speakers, or in whatever capacity, suggest apologies for ruffian assaults, or intimate that words can excuse them, make themselves partners in the crime and the infamy.
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