Secession Era Editorials Project

The Post and Mr. Sumner

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Gazette [Republican]

(26 May 1856)

If there could be any doubt among those not strictly orthodox, as to the truth of the doctrine of total depravity, the leading article in the Post of yesterday ought to satisfy them. The spirit therein betrayed can be accounted for on no other theory.

At a moment when the public mind is boiling over with rage at an unparalleled outrage, when every paper east, west and north is culling out hard words with which to express its indignation, when even Southern papers denounce the attack as atrocious, the Pittsburgh Post, alone among all the papers of the free States, hastes to the defence of Mr. Brooks and justifies his brutal and unmanly assault upon Mr. Sumner. Nor is it content with simply justifying the outrage; It descends to a falsification of the record, and utters a string of absolute untruths as the basis of the vindication it volunteers for the greatest ruffian of modern times.

The whole purport and object of the article in that paper is to show that Mr. Sumner was duly notified of the attack upon him; that he was able to defend himself fully; and not having done so, he must be a coward who deserved all he got. That we may not be accused of misstating the position of the Ruffian's organ, we quote from it as follows, hoping to be pardoned, on the score of necessity, for soiling our columns with such a display of unmanliness and unfairness:

"In yesterday's telegraph columns the account of an attack on a United States Senator was read. According to that account the assailant spoke to him before he struck him; and then on striking him the first blow Mr. Sumner called for help. He appears to have made no resistance whatever.

Now Mr. Charles Sumner is, we should judge, five feet ten inches in height, and will weigh about one hundred and sixty pounds. He is in the prime and vigor of manhood -- hale and athletic in appearance, and apparently capable of coping successfully with a majority of his fellow men. Nature has given him a good proportion of the means of self-defence. That a man thus endowed should adopt the principle of nonresistance, and submit tamely to a beating from another is a shame to mankind and a crime against nature. Nature has endowed every man with the instinct of resentment and self- preservation, and given him strength to back them; and to ignore those instincts, and refuse to employ the strength is unnatural, shameful, and cannot command the sympathies of mankind. -- What man or woman will applaud Mr. Sumner for sitting still in his arm chair and letting another man beat him over the head with a cane? The man was probably not one whit his superior in physical capacity -- in health and vigor.- Any many who can call for help can help himself a little."

Is not this infamous? We appeal to every man who read the telegraphic accounts given on Friday, if it is possible for human degradation to go further than this. The account as published in the Post of Friday read as follows:

"Immediately after the adjournment of Congress today, while Mr. Sumner was still in the Senate Chamber, Mr. Brooks of South Carolina, entered and approached Mr. Sumner, accusing him of libelling South Carolina, and his grey headed relative, Mr. Butler. He then struck Mr. Sumner with his cane, and Mr. Sumner fell. Mr. Brooks then continued to repeat his blows, until Mr. Sumner was deprived of the power of speech. Mr. Sumner was taken up and carried to his room. It has not been ascertained whether his injuries are serious or not. When the attack was made Mr. Sumner called for help, but no one interfered until Mr. Brooks closed the assault."

Some eye-witnesses say that Mr. Brooks struck Mr. Sumner as many as fifty times over the head. Mr. Sumner was sitting in his armchair when the assault was made, and had no opportunity to defend himself.

The whole of this is in direct contradiction of the Post's manner of stating it editorially. It shows that Brooks struck Sumner while sitting in his chair, that he had no opportunity to defend himself, and that he was felled at the first blow. This account if verified by those derived from other sources. A dispatch to the Tribune says that the first blow was struck before Mr. Sumner was aware it was coming; that he had no distinct consciousness after it was given; and that in the almost involuntary effort he made to rise and defend himself he was embarrassed by his desk, which he tore from its fastenings in his frantic efforts to rise. From all this it is plain that Mr. Sumner would have defended himself, if he could; and that his assailant was a sneaking coward, who could not face him manfully. The attempt of the Post to produce a different impression shows that he is in spirit as cowardly and unmanly as the villain whom he defends. Henceforward the public must divide its indignation between the two.

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