Secession Era Editorials Project

The Attack on Senator Sumner.

Portland, Maine, Advertiser [Republican]

(24 May 1856)

We know of nothing meaner or more cowardly than that which now calls itself Southern Chivalry, as illustrated by the attack on Senator Sumner, and not long since by a less violent but equally mean attack on Horace Greeley.

Mr. Sumner has just made a most eloquent and vigorous speech against the Kansas inequity and the encroachments of slavery. Southern Chivalry, united with Northern Doughfacism, attempted, in advance, to depreciate his speech by feigning to consider it as unworthy of their attention -- they were engaged in writing or talking. -- But this would not do. The galleries were filled, and for two days the Senate Chamber was crowded to hear him. As an orator, Mr. Sumner has few equals, and the malice and envy of his opponents could not prevent him from having a host of admiring listeners.

But in one respect, the speech took his opponents by surprise. It is well known that Mr. Sumner's forte is not controversial debate, and he does not excel in the slang and blackguardism upon which Douglas so prides himself. Hence, ever since he first took his seat in the Senate, he has been a target for these gentlemen to fire at, they supposing that they could fire their small shots at him with impunity. But in this speech, Mr. Sumner took occasion to pay them all off in full - in a dignified and forcible manner -- but still so that they felt it, and so as to rouse their anger and malice to its full extent. Douglas replied in his usual style of blackguardism, but was unexpectedly met by Mr. Sumner in a manner that left him no laurels, even in his own favorite method of warfare. Then followed the cowardly and murderous attack, a brief account of which we published yesterday.

The remarks made by Mr. Sumner, in his speech, in relation to Mr. Butler and South Carolina, could afford no justification for any such proceeding. Their severity consisted in their truth, and he forbore to tell even half the truth. -- This matter may, perhaps, be better understood, when it is known that Mr. Butler is not unfrequently under the evident excitement of liquor, even in his seat at the Senate Board, and often makes speeches and exhibitions of himself not at all creditable either to him or the body of which he is a member -- and the remarks of Mr. Sumner were not only strictly true, but were not half as severe as have been often indulged in on the other side without truth or justice to sustain them.

It would seem as if the reign of terror and violence which is now spread over Kansas, is also to be attempted at Washington. It looks as if not only the pens of editors, but the mouths of our Representatives and Senators, are to be silenced by canes, bowie-knives and pistols. Very well! The sooner we understand this, the better. If violence must come, it may be well for Northern men to know how to defend themselves.

We hope, for the credit of humanity, that every man in the Free States, without regard to party, will feel this outrage as a personal indignity, no less than an insult to the Free States. It is a perfect manifestation of the very essence and spirit of slavery, which can be met and conquered only by resistance, and we hope there will be such a general and spontaneous expression of opinion, as will fully manifest a deep disinclination to submit to any repetition of the contumely, even if we have to meet such cowardly assailants with their own weapons. But we forbear -- for we confess that our patience is almost exhausted, not only with Southern assassins, but with the still meaner doughfaces of the North who uphold them, and without whose aid they would never dare thus to abuse the patience of the peaceful and law abiding portion of the people. We dare not trust ourselves, at the present moment, to express our indignation against those cowardly ruffians, and our contempt for their meaner Northern allies.

The following account of the affair was sent, by telegraph, to the Boston Daily Advertiser, by the special correspondent of that paper:

[telegraphic report omitted]

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