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Fight In the U.S. Senate 1856

May 22, 1856

Tensions in the U.S. House of Representatives brought on the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 brought on one of the more violent acts ever seen in congress. Representative Preston S. Brooks that was angry at Senator Charles Sumner over what he thought were insults make by Sumner about his cousin Senator Andrew P. Butler.

Sumner gave a speech on May 19-20 called "Crime Against Kansas.." He was very critical of Butler and other Senators on a personal level. The Senators he insulted had supported "popular sovereignty in Kansas. This allow the people of Kansas to vote whether they wanted to be a slave of free state.

Senate FightMay 22, 1856 while Senator Sumner was signing copies of his speech, Brooks, after a day of drinking, attacked the northern senator. He hit Sumner with his walking cane numerous times before the cane splintered on Sumner's head. Sumner ripped his desk loose from the floor and held up to prevent being struck any more. The fight ended when two house members stepped in to protect the unconscious Sumner.

Brooks stated later that he was not trying to kill Sumer, "but only to whip him."

Brook's Cane







Brook's Cane

Northerners viewed the attack as "bruality." Some southern senators thought Sumner was "haughty" and had it coming. The southern news paper, The Richmond Examiner, celebrated the event.

In December, after several months of recovery and therapy, Sumner spoke at Fanueil Hall, in Boston. He was warmly welcomed by the crowd. Sumner said "I seek nothing but thetriumph of truth."

It took three years before Sumner could resume his duties in the Senate. The canning of Senator Sumenr marked the end of compromise over slavery in the Senate.

Brooks, who was nine years younger than Sumner died the next January from a cold.

Image Sources:

Books: The Expatriation of Franklin Pierce: The Story of a President and the Civil War




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This page was last updated on March 1, 2013