Caning of Charles Sumnner

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Jorge A. Castro Professor Spero History 157 March 6, 2013

Charles Sumner: A caned champion of freedom

On May 22, 1856 the Senate was so empty that the most insignificant sound would have echoed across the whole chamber. Charles Sumner, a Massachusetts’s senator, sat at his senatorial desk by the window after a chamber meeting to write letter and read various documents. Suddenly, the light was blocked out by South Carolina senator, Preston Brooks. Brooks who entered the chamber “well protected by friends at hand” walked up to Sumner holding a Guttarpecha walking cane. As he viciously held his walking cane senator Brooks said, “Mr. Sumner, I have read your speech twice over carefully. It is a libel on South Carolina and Mr. Butler, who is a relative of mine.” 12 The inspiration for this clash came when Charles Sumner, an antislavery Republican, addressed the senate on the explosive issue of whether Kansas should be admitted to the Union as a free state or a slave state. Charles Sumner was an outspoken individual in American history; he devoted an immense amount of energy towards

1

Laurens Dawes “Makers of America” Charles Sumner. New York Dodd, Mead and Company (July 1898) p. 114 2 Curtis The Republican party: a history of its fifty years' existence and a record of its measures and leaders. The Knickerbocker press, New York (April 1904) p. 246

destroying the efforts of slave owners to take over the federal government and ensure the survival of slavery. Three days prior to Mr. Brooks’ visit, Mr. Sumner had delivered a speech in response to the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, a bill written by two proslavery southern senators, Andrew Butler and Stephen Douglass. Both Andrew Butler and Stephen Douglass were southern democrats who defended slavery. The passage of the Kansas-Nebraska act enraged Senators and Congressman from the northern part of the Union because it allowed both the Kansa and Nebraska territories to vote whether to enter the Union as

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