The Reformer


Sumner remained away from his desk for three years, believing himself permanently crippled. His political opponents denounced him for shamming illness; Mr. Donald, examining the evidence carefully, believes that he was not shamming. Sumner suffered, apparently, psychosomatic wounds almost beyond healing. The point by now is of no great importance either way. By what he was, by what he said and did, and at last by what was done to him, Sumner had contributed substantially to the strange, tragic decision that America at last made about slavery—that it must be destroyed by violence.

To be sure, Sumner himself never felt that he had any responsibility at all for bringing on the war. As far as he could see, he had simply spoken up for truth and justice; other men, disagreeing with him, had caused the war. But when the war came he welcomed it. Now the evil he opposed could be disposed of. This man was as deeply conscientious as Stimson; the trouble was that he totally lacked the capacity to see any other point of view than his own.