Assault in the Senate by David E. Johnson describes the grueling debate between Representative Preston Brooks and Senator Charles Sumner. This argument took place in 1856 and has since become a pivotal moment during the civil war era.
In 1851, Charles Sumner was elected to the Senate. “The Crime Against Kansas” is the title of the speech given by Senator Charles Sumner on May 19, 1856. The speech discussed issues such as the 1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act. The Kansas-Nebraska Act repealed the Missouri Compromise. The purpose of the Kansas-Nebraska Act gave the new territories the ability to determine their own slave status. This act caused turmoil in Congress, as well as in Kansas. His ...view middle of the document...
He told Representative Henry A. Edmundson that if Sumner did not apologize for his remarks made, he would be punished. Brooks then asked Edmundson to simply be present during this affair.
The next day, Brooks decided to abandon his original plan and he entered the Capitol, where he found Sumner sitting at his desk. Numerous women were still present, so Brooks waited for them to leave. Brooks approached Sumner and stated “I have read your speech carefully, and with as much calmness as I could be expected to read such a speech. You have libeled my state, and slandered my relation, who is aged and absent, and I feel it to be my duty to punish you for it.” Brooks then struck Sumner over his head with his cane. The beatings then continued until Sumner was “insensible.” Brooks claimed he did not wish to hurt Sumner.
Dr. Cornelius Boyle arrived to care for the beaten and battered Sumner. Hr found three wounds on his scalp, but only two of the wounds required stitches. Sumner was sent home to rest, and Brooks was arrested on an assault charge, but was later released on bail. Although some people disagreed with the actions of Brooks, many felt justice had been served. Northerners stated that Brooks attacked not only Sumner, but also his right to free speech. “To many Northerners, Sumner’s empty Senate seat became a symbol of the anti-slavery movement, freedom of speech, civilized discourse, and the depravity of slave holding Southerners.
Congress came to the conclusion during the investigation of the incident that occurred that a senate committee could not discipline a representative. Attempts were made by the Republications to prove that an innocent man had almost been killed. Dr. Boyle also testified that Sumner’s injuries were not life-threatening.
Brooks was fined three hundred dollars for the attack. He announced on July 14 that he was not longer a member of the Thirty-fourth Congress, and returned home to South Carolina. He was then reelected to his seat.
Although Sumner’s injuries did not appear to be disabling he was not able to return to the Senate for three years. He began running a fever and developed swollen glands within days of the attack. Dr. Marshall S. Perry was called to examine Sumner, after his brother declared Dr. Boyle to be unfit. Dr. Perry stated Sumner did not need to be exposed to any mental or physical excitement. He stated that doing so might result in death.
The Northerners continued to support Sumner and in January 1857, Sumner was reelected to the Senate. Sumner stayed in Europe for some time to recover from his injuries, but became worse instead of better. He returned to the Senate briefly in December 1857, but again had to take a step back. It was not until 1859 that Sumner returned full time to the Senate.
Preston Brooks passed away suddenly in 1857. A few months later, Andrew Butler died. However, Sumner still had numerous enemies. He delivered another speech on June 4, 1860 entitled...