Charles Sumner’s Charges Against Senator Andrew Butler

Excerpted from a three- hour long speech in the Senate known as “The Crime Against Kansas.” After Sumner personally insulted Senator Andrew Butler of South Carolina and Senator Stephen Douglas of Illinois, Senator Butler’s kinsman, Representative Preston Brooks, attacked Sumner on the floor of the Senate until he was beaten unconscious. Here are the specific charges of what exactly the “Crime Against Kansas” was, who was responsible, and what exactly Sumner said about Butler.

A longer version of the speech can be found here: http://www.sewanee.edu/faculty/Willis/Civil_War/documents/Crime.html

“Take down your map, Sir, and you will find that the Territory of Kansas, more than any other region, occupies the middle spot of North America, equally distant from the Atlantic on the east and the Pacific on the west, from the frozen waters of Hudson’s Bay on the north and the tepid Gulf Stream on the south, — constituting the precise geographical centre of the whole vast Continent. To such advantages of situation, on the very highway between two oceans, are added a soil of unsurpassed richness, and a fascinating, undulating beauty of surface, with a health-giving climate, calculated to nurture a powerful and generous people, worthy to be a central pivot of American institutions. A few short months have hardly passed since this spacious mediterranean country was open only to the savage, who ran wild in its woods and prairies; and now it has drawn to its bosom a population of freemen larger than Athens crowded within her historic gates….
Against this Territory, thus fortunate in position and population, a Crime has been committed which is without example in the records of the Past.…

The wickedness which I now begin to expose is immeasurably aggravated by the motive which prompted it. Not in any common lust for power did this uncommon tragedy have its origin. It is the rape of a virgin Territory, compelling it to the hateful embrace of Slavery; and it may be clearly traced to a depraved desire for a new Slave State, hideous offspring of such a crime, in the hope of adding to the power of Slavery in the National Government….

Such is the Crime which you are to judge. The criminal also must be dragged into the day, what you may see and measure the power by which all this wrong is sustained….In its perpetration was needed a spirit of vaulting ambition which would hesitate at nothing; a hardihood of purpose insensible to the judgment of mankind; a madness for Slavery, in spite of Constitution, laws, and all the great examples of our history… There, Sir, stands the criminal, unmasked before you, heartless, grasping, and tyrannical, with an audacity beyond that of Verres, a subtlety beyond that of Machiavel, a meanness beyond that of Bacon, and an ability beyond that of Hastings. Justice to Kansas can be secured only by the prostration of this influence; for this is the Power behind — greater than any President — which succors and sustains the Crime….

Before entering upon the argument, I must say something of a general character, particularly in response to what has fallen from Senators who have raised themselves to eminence on this floor in championship of human wrong: I mean the Senator from South Carolina [Mr. Butler] and the Senator from Illinois [Mr. Douglas], who, though unlike as Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, yet, like this couple, sally forth together in the same adventure. I regret much to miss the elder Senator from his seat; but the cause against which he has run a tilt, with such ebullition of animosity, demands that the opportunity of exposing him should not be lost; and it is for the cause that I speak. The Senator from South Carolina has read many books of chivalry, and believes himself a chivalrous knight, with sentiments of honor and courage. Of course he has chosen a mistress to whom he has made his vows, and who, though ugly to others, is always lovely to him, — though polluted in the sight of the world, is chaste in his sight: I mean the harlot Slavery. For her his tongue is always profuse in words. Let her be impeached in character, or any proposition be made to shut her out from the extension of her wantonness, and no extravagance of manner or hardihood of assertion is then too great for this Senator.

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