Secession Era Editorials Project

Furman University Department of History


Justifying Club Law

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Gazette [Republican]

(11 June 1856)

They Know Not What They Do

Our sense of mortification at the outrage perpetrated on Mr. Sumner is intensified, and our indignation converted into the strongest disgust, by the remarks of the several Southern papers, that justify the cowardly assault, and glory in their country's shame. To these Southern speakers and editors who defend such depraved and dastardly conduct as that of Brooks, we wish to say emphatically and decidedly that they know not what they do.

It is our deliberate opinion that this outrage upon the dignity of the American Senate, this ruthless attack by an armed ruffian on a sitting and unprotected Senator, this invasion of the Senate Chamber by a bully who lacked even the courage of the duellist, and displayed the meanness as well as the malice of the assassin, this one outrage upon the people in the person of a Senator for words spoken in debate, has done more to alienate the hearts of the North from the South than any other one event that has happened since the republic was founded.

But such a result would not have followed, if the person who committed the infamous assault had been denounced by the chivalry of the South as he deserves to denounced. Then we would have attributed the attack to the excitement of strong drink, and we would have expected to hear that even the assailant in calmer moments would see the folly of his crime, and confuse it with shame. We can look for no such result now. His friends, and the Southern press, with a few honorable exceptions, have sustained his bloody hands, applauded his dead as that of a hero, and we have seen it stated that honorable testimonials have been sent to him in acknowledgment of his championship of the South.

Such facts fill us with deep apprehension. They serve to show that the public mind is in a state of inflammation that forbids the fair effect of argument; and the club is to be the substitute for debate; and that law is to be disregarded in the very seat and source of its power.

The conservative press at the North has struggled against the waves of radicalism and fanaticism that for a few years past have been rolling over the land. The "rights of the South" are as dear to American patriots as the "rights of the North." But it is impossible for the friends of law and order to uphold the perpetrators or the defenders or the apologists of such violence as this. And the South will best promote that harmony of feeling between the distant parts of the confederacy, so essential to the perpetuity of the Union, by creating a public sentiment that will render such outrages as this of Brooks upon Sumner, as infamous at the South as at the North.

If consequences are worthy of being reckoned in this connection, we assure the men who uphold the brutal conduct of Brooks, that his conduct and their defence have produced an impression on the public mind of this country that will tell powerfully in the future. A few more such scenes, and there will be but one party at the North.

There is hope for the cause of Freedom, when such papers as the New York Observer can be aroused to the point of manly utterance against the outrages of the slave oligarchy. We do not see why there is any need for more such scenes to unite the people of the North, when the votes, in Congress, and the whole spirit of the Democratic press, and the total silence of Democratic speakers, endorse the murderer Herbert, and the cowardly ruffian, Brooks. The Buchanan party are responsible for these acts. They have refused to investigate the case of the murder of an Irish waiter by Herbert, and have admitted him to a seat in the Cincinnati Convention. They voted against the investigation of the conduct of the ruffian Brooks, and have apologised or defended his conduct. There is, then, the highest reason that the people of the Free States should unite to put down a party which sympathisees with, and justifies and protects, slaveholding murderers and ruffians.

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