Violence In The Senate 1856 Essay

460 words - 2 pages

Violence in Kansas spilled over into the Congress itself. On May 22 1856, the day after the sack of Lawrence and two days before Brown's Pottawatomie Massacre, a sudden flash of savagery on the Senate floor electrified the whole country. Just two days earlier Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts had finished an inflammatory speech in which he described the treatment of Kansas as 'the rape of a virgin territory,' and blamed it on the South's 'depraved longing for a new slave State.' Sumner made Senator Andrew P. Butler of South Carolina a special target of his censure. He charged ...view middle of the document...

Sumner, struggled to rise, wrenched the desk from the floor and collapsed. A gloating Brooks reported: 'Towards the last he bellowed like a calf', and 'I wore my cane out completely but saved the head which is gold.'For two and a half years Sumner's empty seat was a solemn reminder of the violence done to him. Some thought the senator was feigning injury, others that he really was physically disabled. In fact, although his injuries were bad enough, including two gashes to the skull, he seems to have suffered psychosomatic shock which left him incapable of functioning adequately.Sumner was to become a Northern anti-slavery martyr. According to Gienapp 'bleeding Sumner' outrage Northerners more than 'bleeding Kansas'. Gienapp also claims the anger in the North was so great that 'Almost overnight the entire complexion of the Presidential campaign was transformed'. Here was clear evidence of the tyrannical Slave Power at work, using brute force to silence free speech.Brooks was also to become a martyr, but for pro-slavery Southerners. When he was censured and fined $300 for the assault, Southern Congressmen ensured he was not expelled from Congress. Brooks resigned anyway, and was triumphantly re-elected. His admirers showered him with new canes.

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