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Secession Era Editorials Project

Furman University Department of History

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No Title.

Louisville, Kentucky, Journal [American]

(28 May 1856)

[pointing finger] The assault of Brooks upon Sumner in the Senate Chamber has created a prodigious excitement throughout the North. The assault is deeply to be regretted, because in the first place it was a very great outrage in itself, and because in the second place it will, especially if not promptly and properly punished at Washington, greatly strengthen the anti-slavery and anti- Southern feeling in the Northern States and thus help the Black Republican party.

It may be said with truth that Sumner, in his speech against Butler, Douglas, and others, transcended the legitimate freedom of debate. He certainly did, but that was properly the Senate's business. It is monstrous that a member of the House of Representatives should beat a Senator upon the floor of the Senate for a speech made in the Senate and having no reference to the individual administering the punishment. Sumner's speech, violent and incendiary and disgraceful as it was, was certainly no worse in its personalities than the speeches of Douglas have habitually been; and then its personalities, shameful as they were, had at least the advantage of being expressed in a style of scholarship greatly in contrast with the slipshod billingsgate of the Illinois Senator.

We have no sympathy for Sumner. He has deported himself as a pestilent enemy of the peace and harmony of the country and no doubt deserved more punishment than he has received, yet every consideration of propriety and of the public good demands that Mr. Brooks shall be expelled from the House of Representatives. The Senate should deem his expulsion necessary to the maintenance of its dignity and its rights. And if the House should refuse to expel him, we think the Senate would be right in withdrawing from the members of the House the privileges they now enjoy upon the floor of the Senate.

We are not surprised to see that the people of South Carolina are holding meetings and passing resolutions in approbation of Mr. Brooks's conduct. They are a violent people, and we don't think they ever fail to approve an act of violence against what they hate -- whether it be a man, a party, a law, or the Constitution of the United States. The U. S. Constitution ordains that a member of Congress shall not be called to account for words spoken in debate, and Mr. Brooks has sworn to support this very Constitution which he deliberately violated in the Capitol where the oath was taken, breaking his oath and violating the Constitution and perpetrating what looks like an act of gross cowardice, all at the same time, and yet the Soutch Carolina Democracy resolve that for his conduct he is worthy of all praise. This only proves, that, bad as the representative may be, he is no worse than the State he represents.

We do not believe that Senator Butler approves the conduct of his nephew. Sumner's bitter attack upon Mr. Butler in that gentleman's absence was contemptible, and contempt would have been a very proper punishment to be meted out for it. The absurd and wicked resolutions which the South Carolina people are adopting will serve only to exasperate to a still greater degree the public sentiment of the North. But this is what the South Carolinians want. They rejoice in whatever seems likely to promote the dissolution of the Union. There were twice as many traitors in South Carolina in the days of the Revolution as in any other State in proportion to population, and we think that her soil as a general rule grows worse men now than it did then.

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