The Canning of Charles Sumner

Topics: Charles Sumner, American Civil War, South Carolina Pages: 4 (1219 words) Published: December 2, 2012
On May 20, 1856, Senator Charles Sumner, a Massachusetts anti-slavery Republican, delivered a speech called “Crime against Kansas”. The speech was about Kansas` admission to the Union as a Slave State or Free State. In his speech, Sumner insulted two Democratic senators. South Carolina senator, Andrew Butler, who was not present, got his share of Sumner insults. Senator Butler`s kinsman Preston Smith Brooks, representative from South Carolina, offended by Sumner`s speech, he considered the speech as “libel on South Carolina, and Mr. Butler”. First He thought of challenging Sumner to a duel but he did not believe Sumner to be a gentleman and decided to discipline Sumner with public beating. On May 22, 1856, Brooks waited in Senate Chamber for ladies to leave. While Sumner was seated at his desk, the Chamber was clear of ladies, Brooks walked up to Sumner`s desk and marked his feelings about Sumner`s speech as “libel on South Carolina, and Mr. Butler”. Brooks then started to strike the Senator with a gold headed gutta percha cane. First Sumner tried to defend himself but he was trapped between desk and his chair. After couple of hits Sumner was already blinded by his own blood, but that did not stopped Brooks. Brook kept hitting Sumner until his cane shattered. Brooks left the chamber after seeing Sumner collapsed unconscious on the floor. Later on Brooks informed his brother what happened, he wrote that he gave Sumner “about30 first rate stripes” with the cane and he wrote “every lick went where I intended”. Brooks’ action was celebrated by many Southerners and condemned by Northerners. Both men became heroes in their respective states. The caning of Charles Sumner was a symbolic of two regions conflict and factor of rising tension leading up to the American Civil War.

Gienapp, William E. The Crime Against Sumner: The Caning of Charles Sumner and the Rise of the Republican Party. Civil War History pp. 218-245. September 1979....

Bibliography: White, Laura A. Was Charles Sumner Shamming, 1856-1859?. The New England Quarterly pp. 291-324. September 1960.
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