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Sumner and Brooks
May 19, 1856 Charles Sumner begins his "Crime against Kansas" speech, which concludes tomorrow Kansas
  Bleeding Kansas
  Preston S. Brooks
  Charles Sumner
  Kansas becomes a state
May 22, 1856 Preston Brooks attacks Charles Sumner in the well of the Senate
  Preston S. Brooks
  Charles Sumner
June 2, 1856 A committee of the House of Representatives recommends Rep. Brooks be expelled and Rep. Laurence Keitt be censured for the attack on Sen. Charles Sumner. Although the resolution fails, both men resign
  Preston S. Brooks
July 8, 1856 Grand jury indicts Preston Brooks for the assault on Charles Sumner. He pleads guilty and pays a $300 fine
  Preston S. Brooks

In one of the most dramatic and appaling events ever to occur on the floor of the Senate, Rep. Preston Brooks of South Carolina enters the chamber and proceeds to the desk of Charles Sumner, pounding the senator with a light, metal-topped gutta percha cane. Brooks beat Sumner until he was unconscious.

Popular political cartoon that illustrated the caning of Senator Charles Sumner by Representative Preston Brooks
Charles Sumner is caned by Preston Brooks
Three days earlier, Sumner, an abolitionist Republican, stood on the floor of the Senate and delivered a strongly worded, pro-Freestater address generally referred to as the "Crime Against Kansas" speech. The attack is used to illustrate the deep regional divisions that were developing not only over the admission of Kansas to the United States, but the issue of slavery.

During the speech Sumner laid the problems of "Bleeding Kansas" at the feet of two politicians, Stephen A. Douglas and Andrew Butler. He called Douglas, who was present for the speech, "a noise-some, squat, and nameless animal...not a proper model for an American senator..." while he accused Butler, who was in South Carolina on his deathbed, of "taking a mistress..the harlot Slavery." He mocked Butler by stuttering when he used his name (Butler had a stutter).

Brooks, who was a relative to Butler, did not appreciate the negative portrayal, especially by an abolitionist Republican. The Representative entered the chamber, calmly proceeding to Sumner's desk. After the first blow, Sumner raised his arm to protect himself as Brooks continued, blow after blow. Sumner stumbled as he was backing away from Brooks and Brooks followed, pounding on Sumner even as he lay defenseless on the ground. No Senator rose in defense of Sumner.

Following an attempt to censure Brooks, he resigned from the House. 16 days later, in a special election, he was re-elected to the House.

Links appearing on this page:

Bleeding Kansas
Stephen A. Douglas

Sumner and Brooks was last changed on - December 24, 2007
Sumner and Brooks was added in 2005

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