On the chastisement of Senator Sumner, May 26, 1856
The uppermost topic in the papers, North and South, now, is the recent chastisement of Senator Sumner, by Mr. Brooks, of South Carolina. -- As was expected, the affair has been a perfect Godsend to the Abolitionists, and they evidently intend to make the most of it. In Massachusetts, especially, public opinion is at fever heat. The House of Representatives of that State have appointed a committee to report what action shall be taken in the matter. A large indignation meeting was held in Boston, another in Springfield, and we presume more will follow in quick succession. The affair has assumed a party aspect already. Freesoilism, languishing for an excitement, has received a sudden impetus, and Sumner will be glorified into the dignity of a persecuted patriot, if not a martyr in the cause of freedom.
Congress has taken action in the premises. In the Senate, a committee of five members, consisting of Messrs. Cass, Pearce, Allen, Dodge, and Geyer, has been appointed to inquire into the circumstances and to report a statement of facts, together with their opinions thereon to the Senate.
A similar committee, consisting of Messrs. Campbell of Ohio, Pennington of New Jersey, Cobb of Geo., Greenwood of Arkansas, and Spinner was appointed in the House of Representatives. Quite a long debate followed the introduction of the resolution, during which Mr. Brooks said that no person except himself, knew when or where the intended assault was to occur; and Mr. Campbell stated in reply to a question by Mr. Paine of this State, that there had been no pre-concert of action outside the hall or in caucus with regard to the proposition of investigation.
What we have to say with regard to this affair shall be brief. We think Sumner deserved what he got, but we do not approve the conduct of Brooks. Sumner had not insulted him, and he was not called upon to resent an indignity offered to Senator Butler, even though the latter was his relative and absent. Again, he attacked Sumner under very reprehensible circumstances. He caned him in the Senate chamber, and took him, moreover, at an advantage -- while sitting in his chair. The Senate Chamber is not the arena for exhibitions of this character. It is disgraceful that scenes of violence like these should be permitted to occur within it. -- If Congress is to be levelled to a mere ring for bullying and fighting, we had best amend the Constitution and abolish the Congress. We should at least preserve more respectability at home and abroad.
Mr. Brooks should have sought a different time and place for his meeting with Sumner. But, to attack him in the Senate Chamber and chastise him, while the latter was unprepared and in a defenceless position, was unjustifiable. Granting that the prevocation was sufficient, he has yet given a good handle for the Northern people to seize, in denunciation of his course, and deprived the South of the opportunity of justification.
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