Cover image for Young Charles Sumner : and the legacy of the American Enlightenment, 1811-1851
Young Charles Sumner : and the legacy of the American Enlightenment, 1811-1851
Taylor, Anne-Marie, 1964-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Amherst : University of Massachusetts Press, [2001]

Physical Description:
xv, 422 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 25 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E415.9.S9 T39 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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An outspoken abolitionist, a founder of the Free Soil and Republican parties, and a leading member of the U.S. Senate for more than twenty years, Charles Sumner (1811-1874) has always figured prominently in histories of the American Civil War. For the most part, however, he has been depicted as a psychologically troubled extremist, a fanatical opponent of slavery whose self-righteousness was matched only by his arrogance. In this book, Anne-Marie Taylor challenges that longstanding view, offering in its stead the portrait of a man animated more by principle than by impulse or ambition. According to Taylor, Sumner's reform-minded politics, including his fervent commitment to put an end to slavery, must be understood in the context of a young nation still struggling to live up to the Enlightenment ideals embraced by its founders and embodied in its Constitution. Focusing on the first forty years of Sumner's life, before he took public office, Taylor traces the evolution of his character and thought among Boston's cultural elite. His belief in the virtues of cosmopolitanism, in the dignity of the human intellect and conscience, and in the possibility of a cultivated and just society,

Author Notes

Anne-Marie Taylor is an independent scholar

Reviews 1

Choice Review

This engaging biography of Charles Sumner prior to his election to the US Senate from Massachusetts in 1851 offers a significant reinterpretation of the origins and character of his career as a reformer in the intellectual and social milieu of Boston and Cambridge during the Jacksonian era. Taylor stresses Sumner's commitment as a young lawyer to a Ciceronian understanding of the role of law and rhetoric in a republic. Reinforced by New England "conscience," these commitments impelled him first to comparative legal studies and then to social reform, culminating in abolitionism. Sumner's development was punctuated by experiences that included his relationship to Judge Joseph Story, his lengthy "Grand Tour" to study European legal practices, and his discomfort with a legal profession in transition from Ciceronian high purpose to subservience to commercial interests. Of crucial importance were the divisions among Whigs over the Mexican War and Sumner's emerging role in the Free Soil Movement. A fine portrait of a complex, principled young man determined to serve his society. All levels/collections. R. P. Gildrie Austin Peay State University

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. xi
Note on Typographyp. xv
Introductionp. 1
Part I "O! For Some Retreat Where the Mind and Not Its Appetites Can Be Fed"p. 9
I Father and Sonp. 11
II The Juristp. 48
III The Grand Tourp. 88
IV De Profundisp. 126
Part II "Be Not Atticus"p. 165
V The True Grandeur of Civilizationp. 167
VI "The Vinegar of Party"p. 205
VII Revolutionp. 246
VIII "Dies Iroe"p. 284
Afterword: "Bound for Washington"p. 336
Notesp. 339
Bibliographyp. 395
Indexp. 409