“Stand off, gentlemen! Unhand me! Let me reach the scoundrel!” Everyone stamped, and ran, and shouted “Order!” The speaker pounded with his mallet, and Foot ran down the aisle to the chair, drawing out a great horse-pistol and cocking it, cried:
“Let him come on, gentlemen! let him come on!” while he increased the distance between them as fast as time and space would permit. After the hubbub had subsided, Foot explained:
“Mr. Speaker, I saw the gentleman coming, and I advanced toward the chair.”
I have never seen a well-whipped rooster run from his foe, without thinking of Foot’s advance.
Darkest of the dark omens for the slave, in that dark day, was the defalcation of Daniel Webster. He whose eloquence had secured in name the great Northwest to freedom, and who had so long been dreaded by the slave-power, had laid his crown in the dust; had counseled the people of the North to conquer their prejudices against catching slaves, and by his vote would open every sanctuary to the bloodhound. The prestige of his great name and the power of his great intellect were turned over to slavery, and the friends of freedom deplored and trembled for the result.
There was some general knowledge through the country of the immorality of Southern men in our national capital. Serious charges had been made by abolitionists against Henry Clay, but Webster was supposed to be a moral as well as an intellectual giant. Brought up in Puritan New England, he was accredited with all the New England virtues; and when a Southern woman said to me, in answer to my strictures on Southern men:
“Oh, you need not say anything! Look at your own Daniel Webster!” I wondered and began to look at and inquire about him, and soon discovered that his whole panoply of moral power was a shell—that his life was full of rottenness. Then I knew why I had come to Washington. I gathered the principal facts of his life at the Capitol, stated them to Dr. Snodgrass, a prominent Washington correspondent, whose anti-slavery paper had been suppressed in Baltimore by a mob, to Joshua R. Giddings and Gamaliel Bailey. They assured me of the truth of what had been told me, but advised me to keep quiet, as other people had done. I took the whole question into careful consideration; wrote a paragraph in a letter to the Visiter, stating the facts briefly, strongly; and went to read it to my friend, Mrs. George W. Julian.
I found her and her husband together, and read the letter to them. They sat dumb for a moment, then he exclaimed:
“You must not publish that!”
“Is it true?”
“Oh, yes! It is true! But none the less you must not publish it!”
“Can I prove it?”
“No one will dare deny it. We have all known that for years, but no one would dare to make it public. No good can come of its publication; it would ruin you, ruin your influence, ruin your work. You would lose your Tribune engagement, by which you are now doing so much good. We all feel the help you are to the good cause. Do not throw away your influence!”