In May 1856 the Sumner Brooks Affair happened. Senator Charles Sumner of Mass. was speaking to Congress about the crime against Kansas.
In 1854 pro and anti slavery factions started fighting in Kansas. They had battles, and the government was doing nothing. Historians now say Bleeding Kansas was a foreshadowing of things to come.
Senator Sumner was shocked the government was doing nothing about the violence, and was speaking out about it! In his speech to Congress he named names, and named Preston Brooks's cousin. This infuriated Congressman Brooks from South Carolina, and he decided to do something about it! They are always from South Carolina!
What is interesting about these two men, and the reason why students need to know them is because these two men represent the north and the south. Sumner represents the North, and Brooks represented the South. They embodied how the two regions felt.
Brooks got up from his seat in the balcony, and said I am going to shut up the North! Brooks walked with a cane, and as he got close to Senator Sumner - he began beating him with his cane! I always wonder what Sumner was thinking? I can see the scene! Here he is talking to Congress, and this angry man is walking towards him. Then he begins hitting him with his cane!
Brooks nearly beat him to death, but Sumner survived! The only punishment for Brooks was a slap on the wrist, and paid time off to cool down. This is shocking to me! He nearly killed a fellow Congressman! While Brooks was home cooling down - Southerners sent him thank you gifts, and applauded him for standing up to the North. While beating Sumner - Brooks broke his cane. He got sent over 500 new canes to replace the one that broke!
A fun assignment to do with my students is one of personification. Take on being the cane, and tell the story through the eyes of the cane! The stories are always entertaining! I love their imaginations, and the directions they go!
Ultimately Senator Sumner became a martyr. The North would say look what the South will do to you! They will beat you! Congressman Brooks became celebrated! He stood up to the North, and their evil ways! Others needed to be like him! The causes of the Civil War are complex. It just was not slavery, but moments like this just fanned the flames!