The diary contains more than an incessant list of celebrities met. Auguste records a disturbing "conversation" between Senators Sumner of Massachusetts and Powell of Kentucky. The year was 1865. The Confederacy in on its heels, merely lashing out against inevitable defeat. The emancipation proclamation had freed only those slaves in places sill in rebellion. The issues of freedom for the remaining slaves was still contested hotly and the houses of Congress were still populated by many who wished to retain the Constitution's main defect, the inclusion of slavery. The great issue remained unresolved but the path of history had turned toward the abolition of slavery.
"January 9. Visited the Supreme Court, Chase Chief Justice, with seven associates. In the Senate while chatting with Sumner on a sofa, Senator Powell, ex-Governor of Kentucky came up and said to Sumner; "When will you accept delivery of the twenty-five niggers I've been offering you for three years? I will pay their traveling expenses. Your bill (the bill under discussion emancipated the wives and children of blacks enrolled in the army) is going to make more unfortunates- as if you had not made enough already. You are a handful of fanatics engaged in destroying the country. It is very nice of you still to talk about the Constitution; why not frankly trample it under foot?" He went on for a long time in this strain, with frequent interruptions in his wrath to eject a yellow saliva on the carpet. Sumner listened to him without a word. When Powell had retired, "That," he said, "is what I have had to hear for years. From the manner in which they treat us when [we are] in power you may guess what it used to be."
Powell apparently was of the school of thought that if Sumner would only participate in being a slave owner that he would change his deep hatred of the institution of slavery. Maybe he thought Sumner would just forget being almost beaten to death on the floor of the Senate by Preston Brooks. That was in 1856. At the time Sumner had, two days previous, delivered an anti-slavery speech called "The Crime Against Kansas." Sumner was long in healing but eventually returned to the Senate as a leader of the Radical Republicans.