Secession Era Editorials Project

The Attack on Mr. Sumner.--

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Gazette [Republican]

(24 May 1856)

The news of the cowardly attack on Mr. Sumner by a villainous South Carolinian, stirred up a deeper indignation among our citizens, yesterday, than we have ever before witnessed. It was an indignation that pervaded all classes and conditions of men. The assault was deliberately planned, being made in the presence and under the encouragement of a crowd of bullies, when Mr. Sumner was alone, unarmed and defenceless, and it was conducted so brutally -- fifty blows being inflicted upon an unresisting victim, until the weapon of attack was used up, and not one hand raised among the bystanders to stay the fury of the perfidious wretch, that every feeling of human nature revolts at the exhibition. Barbarians and savages would not be guilty of such unmanliness; and even the vulgar blackguards who follow the business of bruisers and shoulder-hitters would have a far higher sense of fair play than was shown by these patterns of chivalry. A universal cry of "Shame!" would go up from the lips of the people, if, unfortunately, the people did not, in view of this and similar outrages, feel a bitter shamefacedness at their own degradation in having to submit to them.

It is time, now, to inaugurate a change. It can no longer be permitted that all the blows shall come from one side. If Southern men will resort to the fist to overawe and intimidate Northern men, blow must be given back for blow. Forbearance and kindly deportment are lost upon these Southern ruffians. It were as well to throw pearls before swine as turn one cheek to them when the other is smitten. Under the circumstances now prevailing, neither religion nor manhood requires submission to such outrages. Northern men must defend themselves; and if our present representatives will not fight, when attacked, let us find those who will. It is not enough, now, to have backbone; there must be strong right arms, and a determination to use them. The voters of the Free States, in vindication of their own manliness will, hereafter, in addition to inquiring of candidates. Will you vote so-and-so, have to enlarge the basis of interrogation, and demand an affirmative answer to the question, Will you fight? It has come to that, now, that Senators and Representatives cannot enjoy the right of free speech or free discussion, without being liable to brutal assaults; and they must, of necessity, arm themselves with sword-canes or revolvers. To think of enduring quietly such attacks as that upon Mr. SUMNER, is craven and pusillanimous. -- These cut-throat Southrons will never learn to respect Northern men until some one of their number has a rapier thrust through his ribs, or feels a bullet in his thorax. It is lamentable that such should be the case; but it is not in human nature to be trampled on.


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