New York, Tribune, 23 May 1856
By the news from Washington it will be seen that Senator
Sumner has been savagely and brutally assaulted, while sitting in his seat in
the Senate chamber, by the Hon. Mr. Brooks of South Carolina, the reason assigned
therefore being that the Senator's remarks on Mr.
Butler of South Carolina, who is uncle to the man who made the attack. The particulars
show that Mr. Sumner was struck unawares over the head by a loaded cane and
stunned, and then the ruffianly attack was continued with many blows, the Hon.
Mr. Keitt of South Carolina keeping any of those around, who might be so disposed,
from attempting a rescue. No meaner exhibition of Southern
cowardice -- generally miscalled Southern chivalry -- was ever witnessed.
It is not in the least a cause for wonder that a member of the national House
of Representatives, assisted by another as a fender-off, should attack a member
of the national Senate, because, in the course of a constitutional argument,
the last had uttered words which the first chose to consider distasteful. The
reasons for the absence of collision between North and South -- collision of
sentiment and person -- which existed a few years back, have ceased; and as
the South has taken the oligarchic ground that Slavery ought to exist, irrespective
of color -- that there must be a governing class and a class governed -- that
Democracy is a delusion and a lie -- we must expect that Northern men in Washington,
whether members or not, will be assaulted, wounded or killed, as the case may
be, so long as the North will bear it. The acts of violence during this session
-- including one murder -- are simply overtures to the drama of which the persecutions,
murders, robberies and war upon the Free-State men in Kansas, constitute the
first act. We are either to have Liberty or Slavery. Failing to silence the
North by threats, notwithstanding the doughfaced creatures who so long misrepresented
the spirit of the Republic and of the age, the South now resorts to actual violence.
It is reduced to a question whether there is to be any more liberty of speech
south of Mason and Dixon's line, even in the ten miles square of the District
of Columbia. South of that, liberty has long since departed; but whether the
common ground where the national representatives meet is to be turned into a
slave plantation where Northern members act under the lash, the bowie-knife
and the pistol, is a question to be settled. That Congress will take any action
in view of this new event, we shall not be rash enough to surmise; but if the
Northern people are not generally the poltroons they are taken for by the hostile
slavebreeders and slavedrivers of the South, they will be heard from. As a beginning,
they should express their sentiments upon this brutal and dastardly outrage
in their popular assemblies. The Pulpit should not be silent.
If, indeed, we go on quietly to submit to such outrages,
we deserve to have our names flattened, our skins blacked, and to be placed
at work under task-masters; for we have lost the noblest attributes of freemen,
and are virtually slaves.