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Wendell Phillips
by [?]

Wendell Phillips never had a large and lucrative practise, and if he had, he would not have left it. His little law business was the kind that all fledglings get–the kind that big lawyers do not want, and so they pass it over to the boys. Doctors are always turning pauper patients over to the youngsters, and so in successful law-offices there is more or less of this semi-charitable work to do. Business houses also have fag-end work that they give to beginners, as kind folks give bones to Fido. Wendell Phillips’ law-work was exactly of this contingent kind–big business and big fees only go to big men and tried.

Law is a business, and lawyers who succeed are businessmen. Social distinction has its pull in all professions and all arts, and the man who can afford to affront society and hope to succeed is as one in a million.

Lawyers and businessmen were not so troubled about Wendell Phillips’ inward beliefs as they were in the fact that he was a fool–he had flung away his chances of getting on in the world. They ceased to send him business–he had no work–no callers–folks he used to know were now strangely nearsighted.

Phillips didn’t quit the practise of law, any more than he withdrew from society–both law and society quit him. And then he made a virtue of necessity and boldly resigned his commission as a lawyer–he would not longer be bound to protect the Constitution that upheld the right of a slave-owner to capture his “property” in Massachusetts.

He and Ann talked this over at length–they had little else to do. They excommunicated society, and Wendell Phillips became an outlaw, in the same way that the James boys became outlaws–through accident, and not through choice. Social disgrace is never sought, and obloquy is not a thing to covet–these things may come, and usually they mean a smother-blanket to all worldly success. But Ann and Wendell had their love; and each had a bank-account, and then they had a pride that proved a prophylactic ‘gainst the clutch of oblivion.

On October Twelfth, Eighteen Hundred Thirty-seven, the outlaws, Ann and Wendell, were married. It was a quiet wedding–guests were not invited because it was not pleasant to court cynical regrets, and kinsmen were noticeable by their absence.

Proscription has its advantages–for one thing, it binds human hearts like hoops of steel. Yet it was not necessary here, for there was no waning of the honeymoon during that forty-odd years of married life.

But scarcely had the petals fallen from the orange-blossoms before an event occurred that marked another milestone in the career of Phillips.

At Saint Louis, the Reverend E. P. Lovejoy, a Presbyterian clergyman, had been mobbed and his printing-office sacked, because he had expressed himself on the subject of slavery. Lovejoy then moved up to Alton, Illinois, on the other side of the river, on free soil, and here he sought to re-establish his newspaper.

But he was to benefit the cause in another way than by printing editorials. The place was attacked, the presses broken into fragments, the type flung into the Mississippi River, and Lovejoy was killed.

A tremor of horror ran through the North–it was not the question of slavery–no, it was the right of free speech.

A meeting was called at Faneuil Hall to consider the matter and pass fitting resolutions. There was something beautifully ironical in Boston interesting herself concerning the doings of a mob a thousand miles away, especially when Boston, herself, had done about the same thing only two years before.

Boston preferred to forget–but somebody would not let her. Just who called the meeting, no one seemed to know. The word “Abolition” was not used on the placards–“free speech” was the shibboleth. The hall had been leased, and the assembly was to occur in the forenoon. The principal actors evidently anticipated serious trouble if the meeting was at night.

The authorities sought to discourage the gathering, but this only advertised it. At the hour set, the place–the “Cradle of Liberty”–was packed.