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Secession Era Editorials Project

Furman University Department of History

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No Title.

Charleston, South Carolina, Mercury [Democratic]

(28 May 1856)

WASHINGTON, May 24, 1856.

MESSRS. EDITORS: There is high excitement in Washington. You will have heard, through telegraphic reports, that Col. BROOKS, of your State, punished Mr. Sumner, of Massachusetts, on last Thursday, for a libel on South Carolina and a slander against Judge BUTLER.

SUMNER, on Monday and Tuesday, delivered a coarse and malignant Abolition speech, in which he assailed South Carolina and Judge BUTLER with great bitterness. The speech was so coarse and insulting, that even his own faction condemned it, and the Southern men freely said he should be chastised. His peculiar friends tauntingly declared that he was armed during its delivery, and that he was prepared for all responsibility. Col. BROOKS, who is a relative of Judge BUTLER, and from his immediate district, deemed it his duty to chastise Mr. Sumner for his insolence, and his slanders against Judge BUTLER and the State. He sought Mr. Sumner on Wednesday, but could not find him except in the Senate Chamber. He had determined to postpone the punishment no longer, and therefore he remained in the Senate until it adjourned.

After the adjournment, a number of ladies came into the Senate Hall, and loitered there for some time. Col. BROOKS waited about an hour after the adjournment, until all the ladies had left, Mr. Sumner having remained in his seat, engaged in franking off his speech. As soon as the last lady had left the hall, Col. BROOKS went up to Mr. Sumner, and facing him, said: "Mr. Sumner, I have read your speech with great care, and all the impartiality in my power, and I have come to tell you that you have libelled my State, and slandered my relative, who is old and absent, and I deem it my duty to punish you, which I shall now proceed to do." Col. BROOKS thereupon struck Mr. Sumner, who was rising, across the face with a gutta percha cane. He continued repeating the blows until Mr. Sumner fell upon the floor, crying out for help. Col. BROOKS then desisted voluntarily, saying, "I did not wish to hurt him much, but only punish him."

SUMNER was well and elegantly whipped, and he richly deserved it. Senator TOOMBS, of Georgia, who was in the midst of it, said, "BROOKS, you have done the right thing, and in the right place." Gallant old Governor FITZPATRICK, of Alabama, who was in the midst of it, warmly sustained BROOKS also.

The Black Republicans have shingled the occurrence all over with falsehood. They charge Mr. EDMUNDSON, of Virginia, and Mr. KEITT, of South Carolina, with sharing in the attack. It is false. Mr. EDMUNDSON was not in the Senate Chamber when the caning took place, and Mr. KEITT was at the remotest corner of the room, with the President's desk intervening; so he did not even see the beginning of the attack. Hearing the blows of the cane and the cries of SUMNER, he hurried to the spot, and found Senator FOSTER, of Connecticut, and an officer of the Senate, attempting to grasp BROOKS, when he threw himself between them, and ordered them back at their personal risk. They immediately desisted, and BROOKS flogged SUMNER without any interference.

Sumner is much the largest and most athletic man, and, had he resisted, might have defended himself; at least that is my opinion. BROOKS was immediately afterwards arrested. The magistrate could not fix the amount of bail, as he did not know the extent of SUMNER'S injuries, so he has fixed four o'clock this evening for taking the bond.

The whole South sustains BROOKS, and a large part of the North also. All feel that it is time for freedom of speech and freedom of the cudgel to go together.

The Senate have appointed a Committee of Investigation. The House, in its super-serviceable Black Republican zeal, has done the same thing. Its action has been imbecile and contemptible. A Speaker elected by a sectional vote -- a resolution against HERBERT supported by a sectional vote -- a resolution against HERBERT supported by a sectional vote--and now one against BROOKS by a sectional vote.

Events are hurrying on. A despatch has just been received that Lawrence has been demolished, and lives lost. Next it will be a line of battle for two thousand miles!

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