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Anti-Slavery Poems
To William H. Seward

by John Greenleaf Whittier

On the 12th of January, 1861, Mr. Seward delivered in the Senate chamber
a speech on The State of the Union, in which he urged the paramount duty
of preserving the Union, and went as far as it was possible to go,
without surrender of principles, in concessions to the Southern party,
concluding his argument with these words: "Having submitted my own
opinions on this great crisis, it remains only to say, that I shall
cheerfully lend to the government my best support in whatever prudent
yet energetic efforts it shall make to preserve the public peace, and to
maintain and preserve the Union; advising, only, that it practise, as
far as possible, the utmost moderation, forbearance, and conciliation.

"This Union has not yet accomplished what good for mankind was manifestly
designed by Him who appoints the seasons and prescribes the duties of
states and empires. No; if it were cast down by faction to-day, it would
rise again and re-appear in all its majestic proportions to-morrow. It
is the only government that can stand here. Woe! woe! to the man that
madly lifts his hand against it. It shall continue and endure; and men,
in after times, shall declare that this generation, which saved the
Union from such sudden and unlooked-for dangers, surpassed in
magnanimity even that one which laid its foundations in the eternal
principles of liberty, justice, and humanity."

Statesman, I thank thee! and, if yet dissent
Mingles, reluctant, with my large content,
I cannot censure what was nobly meant.
But, while constrained to hold even Union less
Than Liberty and Truth and Righteousness,
I thank thee in the sweet and holy name
Of peace, for wise calm words that put to shame
Passion and party. Courage may be shown
Not in defiance of the wrong alone;
He may be bravest who, unweaponed, bears
The olive branch, and, strong in justice, spares
The rash wrong-doer, giving widest scope,
To Christian charity and generous hope.
If, without damage to the sacred cause
Of Freedom and the safeguard of its laws--
If, without yielding that for which alone
We prize the Union, thou canst save it now
From a baptism of blood, upon thy brow
A wreath whose flowers no earthly soil have known;
Woven of the beatitudes, shall rest,
And the peacemaker be forever blest!

1861.
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