Description

    After being caned - "this moment of crime" - by Preston Brooks, Senator Charles Sumner reports on his health

    Charles Sumner Autograph Letter Signed. Four pages of a bifolium, 4.5" x 7.5", "Alleghany Mts, Penn.," August 26, 1856. Only three months after being attacked on the Senate floor by South Carolina Congressman Preston Brooks, Senator Sumner gives a lengthy update on his health in this letter to an unknown recipient, answering his "inquiry" about his well-being. The bold ink shows some bleedthrough. Clean paper. The letter reads in part:

    "From the beginning I have been deceived about my case. At first I supposed I should be about in a day or two; then it was in a week . . . I was confined to my bed, just so soon as my wounds healed. . . . [M]y disability has been protracted down to this moment. . . . Of course, though convalescent, I am still an invalid. My physician has said yesterday that I might be well in a month. . . . [A]ny public effort would now be impossible, or, if I were able to go through it, at the peril of my permanent health." Sumner also gives three reasons why, after leaving Washington following the caning, he did not go to his home in Massachusetts: "I was not then strong enough to reach there by . . . journey. . . .I could not encounter the excitement of such a journey, & thirdly, I was unwilling to get so far away from Washington." Hoping to turn the caning into a reason to rally the anti-slavery crowd, Sumner adds, "At this moment of crime, let us not spend anything in testimonials to me. Let all our efforts go to rally the people. Burlingame has kindly come to me here for two days." (Congressman Anson Burlingame embarrassed Brooks after the caning by goading Brooks to challenge him to a duel, which Burlingame, a noted marksman, enthusiastically accepted. Brooks subsequently backed out.)

    Preston's caning came two days after Senator Sumner made a passionate anti-slavery speech on "The Crime Against Kansas." In the speech, Sumner spoke derogatory comments about Senator Andrew Butler of South Carolina, cousin to Preston Brooks. Brooks, angered by Sumner's comments (comments he considered libel), entered the Senate Chamber on May 22, 1856, and beat Sumner unconscious with his cane, until it broke. The reaction of the nation was divided between North and South, as Brooks was cheered in the South. Northern abolitionists, as Sumner hoped in this letter, used the event engender sympathy for their cause.


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    Auction Dates
    June, 2015
    12th-13th Friday-Saturday
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