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Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1854, by
JOHN P. JEWETT AND COMPANY,
In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the District of Massachusetts.
THE design of this work being to present a just and true account of the personal character and public services of Robert Rantoul, Jr., I have given, in illustration of his principles and the objects at which he aimed, his own Speeches and Writings, and the circumstances which called them forth, as well as whatever information could be gathered from those who knew him most intimately from his birth to his death. I have, besides, enjoyed the benefit of a personal acquaintance with him from the commencement to the close of his public life ; and if I have not succeeded in forming a just estimate of his character, I may have been misled by the sentiments of respect and affection with which its noble traits and excellences never failed to inspire me. For I will not deny, that if a sincere admiration of Mr. Rantoul's private and public character be a disqualification for editing this work, its success must be particularly affected and hurt by it. To speak of him as he was, is to praise him. Let the reader, therefore, pardon me if he find sober narrative sometimes uttering the warm language of eulogy. It could not otherwise have been true.
The biographical sketch of Mr. Rantoul in his earliest years, and up to the time of his graduation at Harvard College, is from the accomplished pen of his kinsman and friend, Rev. A. P. Peabody, D. D., of Portsmouth. This, with the extracts from the letters of Doctors Ray and Torrey, and the three short poems, which are thrown in, not so much to show his poetical talent, as the delicacy of his sentiments, and the tenderness of his personal character, constitutes the first Chapter.
I am also indebted to the kindness of Richard H. Dana, Jr., Esq., for a full and accurate report of the Sims Case, in which Mr. Rantoul's service, as counsel for the alleged fugitive from slavery, was so honorable to his ability as a constitutional lawyer, and to the humanity and justice of his sentiments. To C. L. Woodbury, Esq., I am also under obligations for information in relation to what is known to lawyers as the New Bedford Bridge Case, and to Mr. Rantoul's practice in trials for infringement of patent rights. Of whatever else in this work appears as editorial, I take the exclusive responsibility; and that responsibility will appear sufficient to any one, who considers how many important subjects are touched upon, and how much one, who does his own thinking, hazards, in these times of panic patriotism, when republican America, in her pretty innocence, babbles, like the old despotisms of Europe, of finalities; and a free word, spoken by free lips, is freighted with magic thunder to shake the pillars of the Constitution. Freedom must be at its last gasp, when such a man as was Robert Rantoul, Jr., can be excluded from a democratic convention, for holding fast the sacred rights of opinion and discussion, rights essential to liberty and manhood, and hostile only to tyrants. But in the cause of human rights he spake, and "though dead, he yet speaketh;" and could the voice of all the friends of freedom united, give to the dust that rests upon its native Atlantic shore its former vitality, the restored could not speak with more effective, if, “miraculous, organ" for truth, liberty, and the happiness of the people, than he has spoken in the works here republished.
If they shall enkindle in one human soul a new and more earnest sentiment of humanity, a profounder respect for justice in political institutions and laws, and a higher reverence for the majesty of virtue in private and public life, the editor will feel that his humble service is a thousand times rewarded.
ROXBURY, JUNE 17, 1853.