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The Caning of Charles Sumner

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Hunter Lambroff

on 27 March 2014

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Transcript of The Caning of Charles Sumner

The Caning of Charles Sumner
Essential Question
By:Mike Dente &
Hunter Lambroff

How did the conflict around the caning of Charles Sumner lead to a lack of compromise in Congress on the issue of slavery that ultimately led to the Civil War?
Causes and Conflict
The Issue
Impact and Effects
Reynolds Political Map of the United States
"Southern Chivalry - Argument Versus Club's"
Primary 4
"Crime Against Kansas Speech"
Primary 6
Arguments of the Chivalry
Primary 5
Primary 8
An Atrocious Speech and a Disgraceful Assault.
Primary 12
Bibliography 1
Primary 11
World Connection
Created by I.L. Magee
Popular political cartoon
Shows Representative Preston Brooks (nephew of Butler)
Illustrates the feelings of revulsion that Northerners felt towards Brooks and the act itself
Other senators watch
Brooks beat Sumner unconscious
Butler was currently in SC on his deathbed
The caning of Charles Sumner happened on May 22, 1856 and is known as one of the most dramatic moments of the Senate's history. A Massachusetts newspaper described it as "An outrage so gross and villainous that was was ever committed within the walls of the Capitol." The clash was evoked by Charles Sumner, a Massachusetts Antislavery Republican, addressing the Senate on the issue of whether Kansas should be admitted to the Union as a slave state or a free state. In his "Crime Against Kansas" speech, Sumner identified two Democratic senators - Stephen Douglas of Illinois and Andrew Butler of South Carolina. He characterized Douglas as a "noise-some, squat, and nameless animal . . . not a proper model for an American senator." Sumner mocked Andrew Butler of South Carolina as well.
Conclusion / Thesis
Relative of Andrew Butler, Representative Preston Brooks entered the Senate chamber Shortly after the Senate had adjourned for the day. In his hand he carried a metal topped cane and used it to strike Sumner on the top of the head. He continued to beat him for a minute until he calmly walked out of the chamber without being detained. Both Sumner and Brooks became instant heroes in their respective regions of the North and the South. There were no compromises created after this event, just more turmoil between the north and the south. In Preston Brook's defense after the event he gave no only heightened the conflict by saying "It was a personal affair, and in taking redress into my own hands I meant no disrespect to the Senate of the United States or to this House."
Winslow Homer
Shows Brooks standing over the Sumner in the Senate chamber, about to cane him
Lawrence M. Keitt stands in the center, raising his own cane to hold off the other legislators present
No help for Sumner
Keitt holds a pistol
Shows senators Robert Toombs and Stephen A. Douglas with their hands in their pockets
Behind them, senator John J. Crittenden is restrained by an unidentified man.
Henry Ward Beecher's speech at a Sumner rally in New York
"Before entering upon the argument, I must say something of a general character, particularly in response to what has fallen from Senators who have raised themselves to eminence on this floor in championship of human wrong: I mean the Senator from South Carolina [Mr. Butler] and the Senator from Illinois [Mr. Douglas], who, though unlike as Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, yet, like this couple, sally forth together in the same adventure."
May 19th, 1856
Charles Sumner recognizes Butler and Douglas
"It is the rape of a virgin Territory, compelling it to the hateful embrace of Slavery"
Opposed slavery
Did not think that Kansas should be a slave state
"In Defense of His Attack on Sumner"
Preston Smith Brooks (1819–57)
-The defense Brooks gave after he caned Sumner to justify his deed.

-Enlarged Sumner's insults of Douglas and Butler.


"gross insult to my State"

"If I desired to kill the senator why did I not do it? You all admit that I had him in my power.

"And now, Mr. Speaker, I announce to you and to this House, that I am no longer a member of the Thirty-fourth Congress."
1856 Political map
William C. Reynolds
Designed to exhibit the comparative area of the slave and free states and the territory open to slavery or freedom by the repeal of the Missouri Compromise.
The pink represents free states
The dark green represents slave states
Rest were to be decided
Later the Thirteenth Amendment of the US Constitution made slavery in the U.S. illegal in 1865.
A picture of the fighting in Kansas fueled by Sumner's opposition of Kansas to be a slave state.
Abolitionists just like Sumner tried stopping the Southerners from taking Kansas and making it a slave state.

A great cause of this event was the caning of Sumner.

"No way is left for the North, but to strike back, or be slaves."
"The symbol of the North is the pen; the symbol of the South is the bludgeon."
The North (Charles Sumner) fight with words, whereas the South (Preston Brooks) fight using weapons.
Several were offended, Including Butler and his family
During his speech, Sumner would stutter when saying Butler's name, making fun of him.
Played a major role in the coming of the Civil War
"The telegraph gives us an account of an unmanly personal attack by a Representative of South Carolina upon Senator Sumner of Massachusetts, while our Senator was sitting at his desk, after the body to which he was attached had adjourned. We do not know that we have the whole story of the incident, but the fact as mentioned is, that Mr. Sumner was writing at his desk, after the closing of the Senate session, and was brutally assaulted by a South Carolina member of the House. There is no excuse for brutalism -- there is no excuse for the man who assaults another at disadvantage anywhere, and the Senators of the United States will without doubt take care of their privileges".

"The speech of Mr. Sumner was exceedingly insulting towards some gentlemen who sit with him upon the Senate floor."

"When Mr. Sumner compares Senator Butler of South Carolina and Senator Douglas of Illinois to Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, assimilating one to the character of a crazy man and the other to that of a fool, he takes a ground which Massachusetts, in her dignity and her ability, never presented before."

"We offer no palliation for the brutal assault which was made upon Mr. Sumner by a Representative from South Carolina. It is a well understood axiom and rule of the United States Congress, that no member shall be allowed to be held responsible for words spoken in debate. The member from South Carolina transgressed every rule of honor which should animate or restrain one gentleman in his connections with another, in his ruffian assault upon Mr. Sumner. There is no chivalry in a brute. There is no manliness in a scoundrel."
From the Boston, Massachusetts, "Courier"
23 May, 1856

An Atrocious Speech and a Disgraceful Assault.
Detroit, Michigan, Free Press [Democratic]
(23 May 1856)
Democrat disagreeing with Brook's actions

"Senator Sumner, of Massachusetts, delivered an atrocious speech the other day in the Senate. It was fitly characterized by Gen. Cass as the most un-American and unpatriotic speech he ever heard on the floor of the Senate; by Mr. Douglas as filled with libels and insults, gross and vulgar, which their author had conned over and written with cool and deliberate malignity, and repeated before the looking-glass, night after night, in order to find the appropriate grace with which to spit them at men who differ from him, and by Mr. Mason, as language which Senators were compelled to listen to in that chamber, because the constitution permitted its utterance there, but which no gentleman would lend an ear to elsewhere."

"It was an atrocious speech. But its atrocity did not warrant the personal assault upon him by a South Carolina member of the House of Representatives. -- That was a cowardly assault -- the manner of it as well as the spirit by which it was dictated. -- We do not know what conduct, public or private, would justify such an assault -- the coming stealthily upon an unarmed man, in a sitting posture, and prostrating him at a single blow of a bludgeon."
South Carolinian, May 27, 1856
We were not mistaken in asserting, on Saturday last, that the Hon. Preston S. Brooks had not only the approval, but the hearty congratulations of the people of South Carolina for his summary chastisement of the abolitionist Sumner.
Immediately upon the reception of the news on Saturday last, a most enthusiastic meeting was convened in the town of Newberry, at which Gen. Williams, the Intendant, presided. Complimentary resolutions were introduced by Gen. A. C. Garlington, and ardent speeches made by him, Col. S. Fair, Maj. Henry Sumner, and others. The meeting voted him a handsome gold-headed cane, which we saw yesterday, on its way to Washington, entrusted to the care of Hon. B. Simpson. At Anderson, the same evening, a meeting was called, and complimentary resolutions adopted. We heard one of Carolina's truest and most honored matrons from Mr. Brooks' district send a message to him by Maj. Simpson, saying "that the ladies of the South would send him hickory sticks, with which to chastise Abolitionists and Red Republicans whenever he wanted them."
Here in Columbia, a handsome sum, headed by the Governor of the State, has been subscribed, for the purpose of presenting Mr. Brooks with a splendid silver pitcher, goblet and stick, which will be conveyed to him in a few days by the hands of gentlemen delegated for that purpose. In Charleston similar testimonials have been ordered by the friends of Mr. Brooks.
And, to add the crowning glory to the good work, the slaves of Columbia have already a handsome subscription, and will present an appropriate token of their regard to him who has made the first practical issue for their preservation and protection in their rights and enjoyments as the happiest laborers on the face of the globe.
Meetings of approval and sanction will be held, not only in Mr. Brooks' district, but throughout the State at large, and a general and hearty response of approval will re-echo the words, "Well done," from Washington to the Rio Grande.

Connections to
12 Years A Slave
Life was impacted by slavery
Spoke out against slavery
Sumner and Northup were both important in the coming of the Civil War
Even though US Citizens have the right to freedom of speech, their freedom has a limit.
Carter then filed a lawsuit stating that his First Amendment rights had been violated.
Facebook filed briefs saying that it is Carter’s constitutional right to express his opinion.
The interest was sparked by a lower court’s ruling that “liking” a page does not warrant protection because it does not involve “actual statements.”
Re-tweeting won’t be protected as free speech.
“Pressing a ‘like’ button is analogous to other forms of speech, such as putting a button on your shirt with a candidate’s name on it.” -Rebecca K. Glenberg
Daniel Ray Carter Jr. went on to Facebook and liked a page just by clicking the site’s thumbs up icon. The problem was that the page was for a candidate who was challenging his boss.
That simple mouse click, Carter says, caused the sheriff (his boss) to fire him from his job as a deputy and put him at the center of an emerging First Amendment debate over the ubiquitous digital seal of approval: Is liking something on Facebook protected free speech?
Bibliography 9
Bibliography 10
Bibliography 3
Bibliography 2
Bibliography 7
Sumner became a martyr in the north and Brooks became a hero in the south. Northerners said that Southerners cannot tolerate freedom of speech. More than a million copies of Sumner's speech were distributed across the north. In turn, southerners sent Brooks hundreds of new canes to make up for the one he broke and stained with Sumner's blood. Southern lawmakers even make rings out of the cane's remains which they wore on chains around their necks. Sumner suffered traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder. Sumner suffered chronic pain and debilitation for the rest of his life. Brooks was fined $300 (about $7,870 today), but didn't have to serve ant prison time. Today the cane that Brooks used to beat Sumner is on display in the Old State House in Boston.
Bibliography 4
This speech was given by Preston Brooks after he caned Sumner. In the speech he defended his attack on Sumner having no regrets. He spoke this to congress and at the end resigned from his seat. Not only was he very harsh in his exaggerations of Sumner, he also showed an extreme bias to his pro-slavery attitude.
Bibliography 5
This picture portrays the tense atmosphere in Kansas and the fighting that later came. Sumner felt very strongly about Kansas being a free state instead of a slave state. The North felt that there was no way to defend their liberties but to strike back against the South.
"Preston Brooks had not only the approval,but the hearty congratulations of the people of South Carolina."
"To add the crowning glory to the good work..."
Bibliography 11
This newspaper article from South Carolina was extremely bias. It praised Brook's act of caning Sumner and glorified him. This source really shows the division between the North and the South. Even the newspapers portrayed each act in a different way. The North wrote about how outrageous and intolerable this act was and the South wrote about how it was a great "chastisement of the abolitionist Sumner."
Sumner died on March 11, 1874 in Washington D.C.
He was buried in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Many people mourned the death of the great abolitionist leader.
Bibliography 12
The death of Charles Sumner brought great sorrow to many people as a noble abolitionist leader was gone. He had many supporters throughout his lifelong campaign, especially after being attacked by Brooks. He was so dedicated to his life-long effect on congress that his last words were "save my civil rights bill."
Thesis: The caning of Charles Sumner led to a lack of compromise in congress on the issue of slavery that ultimately led to the civil war.
Richmond Whig, May 31, 1856

The daily and hourly reports from Washington concerning the condition of Sumner, are all very strange and funny, and lead us to believe that the Abolition wretch, with his Abolition physicians as accomplices in the trick, is playing possum. We hear one moment that he is "comfortable and deing well" --we hear the next, that his condition is "extremely critical," and that no one is allowed to see him; and then a few hours afterwards we are favored with a different story.
Now, for our part, we never have believed that Sumner was sufficiently hurt to make it necessary for him to take to his bed at all. Least of all do we believe that the well-deserved gutta-perching he received was of so severe a character as to detain him in confinement for more than a week. But we believe it is a miserable Abolition trick from beginning to end -- resorted to to keep alive and diffuse and strengthen the sympathy awakened for him among his confederates at the North Nigger-worshipping fanatics of the male gender, and weak-minded women and silly children, are horribly affected at the thought of blood oozing out from a pin-scratch. And Sumner is wily politician enough to take advantage of this little fact.
We suggest that the Senate appoint a committee, consisting of one Southern man, to ascertain Sumner's actual condition. We think the bare sight of a hundredth part of a Southern man would impart to the possuming wretch strength enough to enable him to take up his bed and walk -- yea, walk even to Boston.

Article on the believed health condition of Sumner
"Is playing possum."
"Is a miserable abolition trick."
"Never have believed that Sumner was sufficiently hurt."
"Strengthen the sympathy awakened for him."
Bibliography 6
This article is from a newspaper in Virginia that was about Sumner's condition. It has an apparent bias against Sumner as it speculates that he is faking the injury. The article says that Sumner has left congress for health issues just for sympathy. In the article Sumner is called a "possuming wretch," saying he is not truly injured and should still be at work in congress.
Bibliography 8
New York Tribune, May 23, 1856
By the news from Washington it will be seen that Senator Sumner has been savagely and brutally assaulted, while sitting in his seat in the Senate chamber, by the Hon. Mr. Brooks of South Carolina, the reason assigned therefore being that the Senator's remarks on Mr. Butler of South Carolina, who is uncle to the man who made the attack. The particulars show that Mr. Sumner was struck unawares over the head by a loaded cane and stunned, and then the ruffianly attack was continued with many blows, the Hon. Mr. Keitt of South Carolina keeping any of those around, who might be so disposed, from attempting a rescue. No meaner exhibition of Southern cowardice -- generally miscalled Southern chivalry -- was ever witnessed. It is not in the least a cause for wonder that a member of the national House of Representatives, assisted by another as a fender-off, should attack a member of the national Senate, because, in the course of a constitutional argument, the last had uttered words which the first chose to consider distasteful. The reasons for the absence of collision between North and South -- collision of sentiment and person -- which existed a few years back, have ceased; and as the South has taken the oligarchic ground that Slavery ought to exist, irrespective of color -- that there must be a governing class and a class governed -- that Democracy is a delusion and a lie -- we must expect that Northern men in Washington, whether members or not, will be assaulted, wounded or killed, as the case may be, so long as the North will bear it. The acts of violence during this session -- including one murder -- are simply overtures to the drama of which the persecutions, murders, robberies and war upon the Free-State men in Kansas, constitute the first act. We are either to have Liberty or Slavery. Failing to silence the North by threats, notwithstanding the doughfaced creatures who so long misrepresented the spirit of the Republic and of the age, the South now resorts to actual violence. It is reduced to a question whether there is to be any more liberty of speech south of Mason and Dixon's line, even in the ten miles square of the District of Columbia. South of that, liberty has long since departed; but whether the common ground where the national representatives meet is to be turned into a slave plantation where Northern members act under the lash, the bowie-knife and the pistol, is a question to be settled. That Congress will take any action in view of this new event, we shall not be rash enough to surmise; but if the Northern people are not generally the poltroons they are taken for by the hostile slavebreeders and slavedrivers of the South, they will be heard from. As a beginning, they should express their sentiments upon this brutal and dastardly outrage in their popular assemblies. The Pulpit should not be silent.
If, indeed, we go on quietly to submit to such outrages, we deserve to have our names flattened, our skins blacked, and to be placed at work under task-masters; for we have lost the noblest attributes of freemen, and are virtually slaves.

A view from a newspaper in the North.
"Sumner has been savagely and brutally assaulted."
"No meaner exhibition of Southern cowardice - generally miscalled Southern chivalry - was ever witnessed."
"If, indeed, we go on quietly to submit to such outrages, we deserve to have our names flattened, our skins blacked...for we have lost the noblest attribute of free men, and are virtually slaves."
This article from a New York newspaper was bias against the South. It says that Sumner was maliciously attacked by Brooks with no mercy. The article also compares the North to slaves because the North is giving up its liberty and its rights by not fighting back against the South. It promotes opposition between the North and the South and is one of many newspapers that struck more conflict between the two halves of the country.
This act led to more unrest in the state of Kansas.
The North and South portrayed the act in different ways, each sparking a conflict
This speech, written and delivered by Charles Sumner to Congress, was not only controversial about his views on Kansas becoming a slave state, but also because of what he said about Butler. Sumner not only states that Butler and Douglas act foolishly, but he also makes fun of Butler's stutter. This offended many, leading up to his can and later the civil war.
This political map, created in 1856 by William C. Reynolds shows why the decision to make Kansas either a slave or free state was such a big deal. the US at the time was pretty much divided equally, so that one state could be a great gain to either side. Kansas would decide whether slavery or not would prevail in the United States
This political cartoon by I.L. Magee was created as a result of Charles Sumner's caning. The purpose of his cartoon was to illustrate how northerners felt towards Brooks and his actions. Sumner is made to look innocent; his only defense being a pen. Brooks wields his cane above his head about to impale the defenseless Senator on the floor.

This picture, created by Winslow Homer, is another interpretation of Sumner's caning. Sumner sits innocently at his desk doing work as Brooks is about to strike him with his cane. Other senators stand by and do nothing to help Sumner after being held off by Lawrence M. Keitt. The quote on this piece states that northerners fight with their words, the more proper way to fight within government matters, whereas the southerners fight barbarously with weapons.
This newspaper article, published in the courier, is clearly from the point of view of a northerner on the side of Sumner. The writer says that there was no excuse for the brutality. the writer acknowledges that it was not right for Sumner to make the claim that Butler was a fool, but none the less, Butler's nephew, Preston Brooks, had to right to cane him.
This article appeared in a newspaper on May 23, 1856 out of Michigan from the perspective of a democrat; the opposing side to Sumner who was a republican. The Writer states that what Sumner said was atrocious, filthy, gross, and vulgar. However, this gave Brooks no warrant to assault Sumner. It was cowardly, caning a defenseless man sitting at his desk. This is an important article because even though the writer may oppose Sumner's views on slavery, he still agrees that it was wrong to cane him. This democrat is against Brooks' actions when many others praise him.
Richmond Whig, May 31, 1856, http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:rCSDIMCP9VgJ:www.grossmont.edu/veronica.bale/Early%2520US%2520Primary%2520sources/Editorials%2520on%2520Sumner%2520and%2520Brooks.doc+&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us
New York Tribune, May 23, 1856, http://webcache.googleusercontent. com/search?q=cache:rCSDIMCP9VgJ:www.grossmont.edu/veronica.bale/Early%2520US%2520Primary%2520sources/Editorials%2520on%2520Sumner%2520and%2520Brooks.doc+&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us

South Carolinian, May 27, 1856,
http://webcache.googleuserconte nt.com/search?q=cache:rCSDIMCP9VgJ:www.grossmont.edu/veronica.bale/Early%2520US%2520Primary%2520sources/Editorials%2520on%2520Sumner%2520and%2520Brooks.doc+&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us
Preston Smith Brooks (1819–57), In Defense of His Attack on Sumner, The World’s Famous Orations.America: II. (1818–1865). 1906. http://www.bartleby.com/268/9/15.html

Slavery and America's Future: The Road to War (1845 - 1861)
The Death of Charles Sumner: At Washington D.C. March 11th 1874, https://www.senate.gov/states/MA/timeline.htm
Sumner, Charles. "Charles Sumner, "The Crime Against Kansas"." Charles Sumner, "The Crime Against Kansas". http://www.sewanee.edu/faculty/willis/Civil_War/documents/Crime.html (accessed March 26, 2014).
Reynolds, William C. "Reverdy Johnson Was Born." Reverdy Johnson Was Born. http://www.americaslibrary.gov/jb/nation/jb_nation_marylnd_3_e.html (accessed March 26, 2014).
Magee, I.L.. "Charles Sumner is caned by Preston Brooks." Charles Sumner is caned by Preston Brooks. http://blueandgraytrail.com/photo/50 (accessed March 26, 2014).
Homer, Winslow. "Elektratig." : Preston Brooks In the News!. http://elektratig.blogspot.com/2009/12/preston-brooks-in-news.html (accessed March 26, 2014).
"Secession Era Editorials Project." Furman: Boston, Massachusetts Courier 23 May 1856. http://history.furman.edu/benson/docs/mabcsu56523a.htm (accessed March 26, 2014).
"Secession Era Editorials Project." Furman: Detroit, Michigan Free Press 23 May 1856. http://history.furman.edu/benson/docs/midfsu56523a.htm (accessed March 26, 2014)."
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