SumnerPart1ver1b.doc - 1-1[Lloyd Benson[The Caning of Senator Sumner[Part One[H1]Part One The Caning and Its Origins[H2]Prologue The Incident[Figure 1.1

SumnerPart1ver1b.doc - 1-1[Lloyd Benson[The Caning of...

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1-1 [Lloyd Benson] [The Caning of Senator Sumner] [Part One] [H1]Part One: The Caning and Its Origins [H2]Prologue: The Incident [Figure 1.1 goes here] Few people disputed the facts of the case. In late May 1856 Abolitionist Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts had given a bitter two-day speech called "The Crime Against Kansas." He had been provoked by almost two years of sectional strife. In his address Sumner sought to show how President Franklin Pierce, in association with merciless pro-slavery "border ruffians," had outraged the rights of the new territory's innocent settlers. The speech included brief but acidic comments about how Senators Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois and Andrew P. Butler of South Carolina had assisted in this crime. Many Southerners in Congress resented the speech and detested its author, but none was more outraged than Preston S. Brooks, a Congressman from South Carolina and a kinsman of Senator Butler. Brooks vowed a thorough and humiliating revenge. He found his enemy at work in the Capitol. There, on the floor of the Senate, Brooks beat Sumner to unconsciousness with a gentleman's walking cane. Never before had a Senator been attacked like this, and certainly never by another member of Congress. The incident shocked the nation. Universal outrage, however, did not lead to universal agreement. This incident became a classic illustration of how partisan and sectional differences led to conflicting interpretations of the same historical moment. The following descriptions of the incident, produced by opposing factions in the congressional committee responsible for its investigation, differ starkly in their emphasis. The committee, consisting of three Northern moderates and two Democrats from the South, began deliberations a few days after the
1-2 caning. The committee voted to give Brooks the right to question witnesses for his own defense, though he chose not to participate. A string of hearings generated testimony from more than two-dozen eyewitnesses, all of whom agreed about the main outlines of what had happened. Eight days after the caning the two factions completed their summaries. The majority report, written by the committee's three non-Democrats, dramatized the details of the assault, the weapon used, and the wounds inflicted. Its terse treatment of Sumner's speech bears close comparison with the treatment of the same speech in the minority report. H3]Majority Report on the Sumner Caning Incident 1 On Monday and Tuesday, the 19th and 20th days of May, 1856, Mr. Sumner delivered a speech in the Senate, in reply to a Senator from South Carolina, (Mr. Butler,) and other senators .... It appears that, as early as Tuesday, before the speech was concluded, Mr. Brooks took exception to the remarks of the Senator; and that on Wednesday morning, after delivery of the speech, he declared to Mr. Edmundson, of the House, by whom he was casually met, in the Capitol grounds, a short time before the meeting of the two Houses, that he had determined to punish Mr. Sumner, unless he made an ample apology

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