Monday, December 29, 2014

Sumner Brooks Affair

This happened during the fiery 1850s.  During this time the country was headed towards war!  The regional divisions were being defined.  The only subject our government was looking at, or talking about was slavery!  It is strange now because our government tackles so many subjects now.  I always tell my students I will never make you memorize dates.  The only people who should know dates are historians and history teachers.  But when I teach the fiery 1850s  the dates of the events are always prevalent.  Because each event adds fuel to the fire - so you need to know the chronological order of things.  You do not need to know the dates, but know the order of things.

In May 1856 the Sumner Brooks Affair happened.  Senator Charles Sumner of Mass. was speaking to Congress about the crime against Kansas. 

Charles Sumner
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!
Preston Brooks
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!    

No comments:

Post a Comment