Friday, May 22, 2009

A Beating In The Senate

Tension in Congress over the expansion of slavery lead to the beating of northern Senator Charles Sumner by southern Congressman Preston Brooks on May 22nd 1856.

On May 19th Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner began a two day speech on the “Crime Against Kansas” in which he named three of his colleagues. One of these three was the elderly South Carolina Senator Andrew P Butler, who was sick and not present at the time. Sumner compared the South Carolina Senator to Don Quixote saying he was blinded by “the harlot slavery“. Butler’s cousin, Representative Preston Brooks felt it was up to him to defend the honor of his relation.

On May 22nd 1856 Brooks entered the Senate chamber and using a gold tipped cane attacked Sumner at his desk. The desk was bolted to the floor and Sumner found his legs stuck under the desk and he could not escape the beating. The other congressmen  came to Sumner aid but were unable to help him get away. Brooks became an over night hero in the South where many people sent him canes. It became one more incident of the growing hostility between the North and South over the issue of slavery. It would be three years before Sumner recovered enough to return to the Senate.

No comments: