banner

Secession Era Editorials Project

Furman University Department of History

banner
 

Assault in the United States Senate Chamber.

Springfield, Illinois, Illinois State Register [Democratic]

(26 May 1856)

A telegraphic dispatch of the 22d inst. states that immediately after the adjournment of congress on that day, Preston S. Brooks, of South Carolina, a member of the lower house, entered the senate chamber and approached the seat of Mr. Sumner, and struck him a powerful blow with a cane, at the same time accusing him of libelling South Carolina, and his gray-headed relative, Senator Butler. Mr. Sumner fell from the effects of the blow. Mr. Brooks continued beating him. Mr. Sumner recovered sufficiently to call for help, but no one interfered, and Mr. Brooks repeated the blows until Mr. Sumner was deprived of the power of speech. Mr. Sumner received several severe, but not dangerous, wounds on his head. The cane held by Mr. Brooks was shattered to pieces by the blows.

The assault on many accounts is to be regretted, but when we take into account the provocation, much may be said in palliation of it. All parties confess that Sumner's speech, surpassed in blackguardism anything ever delivered in the senate. Blinded by rage at being used up in debate by his political opponents, he commenced levelling his filth and slime at every senator opposed to him, among whom was the venerable Butler -- who was not present. Sumner is a young man; professes to be a non-combatant; proclaims to the world that he does not profess to be a gentleman; claims the right to use just such language as he pleases in the senate and out of it, to old men as well as young, without holding himself answerable to any code of honor, or any recognised rules of etiquette, or senatorial courtesy. Pursuant to these assumptions he made a speech against Senator Butler which was never equalled by the lowest pot house slime.

Mr. Brooks heard the foul mouthed spouter through, and being excited by his wholesale falsehoods against his aged and absent uncle, he at once inflicted summary chastisement upon the non-combatant scoundrel. Such scenes are greatly to be regretted. They are disgraceful to the nation; but when such crawling, sneaking reptiles as Sumner assume the shield of non-combatancy in order to establish for themselves the executive privilege of violating every rule of decorum known among men, and every usage of parliamentary courtesy observed in deliberative bodies, there is certainly great allowance to be made for gentlemen who, momentarily losing their tempers, may mete out well-merited but possibly illegal punishment to the offenders. However much we may regret the act on account of the scandal it may bring upon the senate, we cannot but believe that the nation will say that Sumner got no more than he deserved. He is a base, lying, blackguard, a bully without courage, a peace man and a blusterer, a provoker of fights, and a non-resistant - in short a heterogeneous conglomeration of everything knavish, mean and cowardly.

[<<Previous Editorial][Next Editorial>>]