Seward Answers Webster with His Own Fine Oration
Four days after Daniel Webster’s infamous March 7th “Plea for Harmony and Peace” speech, in which the famed speaker had urged his Senate colleagues to support the Compromise of 1850, New York Senator William H. Seward gave a moving speech of his own on the Senate floor. A committed abolitionist, Seward denounced Webster’s contention that the U.S. Constitution protected the rights of slave owners to capture escaped slaves.
In a speech as lengthy and powerful as Webster’s own had been, Seward blasted slavery as an evil that should be abolished. His speech, printed in full in the March 15, 1850, issue of the Daily Atlas (Boston, Massachusetts), concluded with these stirring words anticipating the pleas of future Americans:
“While looking forward to that day, its countless generations seem to me to be rising up and passing in dim and shadowy review before us. And the voice comes forth from their serried ranks saying ‘Waste your treasures, and your armies, if you will, raze your fortifications to the ground, sink your navies into the sea, transmit to us a dishonored name, if you must, but the soil that you hold in trust for us; give it to us free. You found it free, and conquered it to extend a better and surer freedom over it. Whatever choice you have made for yourselves, let us have no partial freedom. Let us all be free. Let the reversion of our broad domain descend to us, unencumbered and free from the calamities and sorrow of African bondage.’”
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