Sen. Charles Sumner of Massachusetts was an ardent abolitionist. On the floor of the Senate in 1856, he made a speech in which he castigated Sen. Andrew Butler of South Carolina over his support for slavery.
Butler was not present when Sumner made his speech but his cousin, Rep. Preston Brooks of South Carolina, got wind of it. As the Senate’s historian puts it:
Representative Preston Brooks was Butler’s South Carolina kinsman. If he had believed Sumner to be a gentleman, he might have challenged him to a duel. Instead, he chose a light cane of the type used to discipline unruly dogs. Shortly after the Senate had adjourned for the day, Brooks entered the old chamber, where he found Sumner busily attaching his postal frank to copies of his “Crime Against Kansas” speech.
Moving quickly, Brooks slammed his metal-topped cane onto the unsuspecting Sumner’s head. As Brooks struck again and again, Sumner rose and lurched blindly about the chamber, futilely attempting to protect himself. After a very long minute, it ended.
You can see a reenactment of this in the Drunk History video below.
It amused me that the odious Patton Oswalt aka Constable Bob in Justified played Sen. Sumner.
What got me to thinking about the caning of Sen. Sumner was the behavior of the Democrats in the Senate and Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Twice now the Senate Democrats have stopped passage of a coronavirus stimulus package. This came after they had worked out the details over the past week with the Republican majority.
Pelosi has larded up her so-called package with more agenda items and less stimulus items that will get people back to work and on their feet. As Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC) told House Democrats, “This is a tremendous opportunity to restructure things to fit our vision.”
Forgive me for thinking that we need to take a gutta-percha brass-headed cane a’la Preston Brooks to the heads of certain Democrat obstructionists. Of course, I mean this figuratively as voters and not literally. Losing power and the attendant perks would be the worst punishment for most of them.
The actual cane is now on display at the Old State House Museum in Boston.