Monday, October 19, 2009

Philemon T. Herbert: breakfast brawl

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The years leading up to the Civil War were fraught with all manner of violent incidents, as the volatile question of slavery contributed to a deepening divide between the North and South. While a Southern native and secessionist, California congressman Philemon Thomas Herbert murdered a man in 1856 not because of anything related to this conflict, but because he was dissatisfied with the service he was getting at breakfast.

By the time he arrived in California, Herbert's temper had already gotten in trouble. Born in Pine Apple, Alabama in November of 1825, he was expelled from the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa after stabbing another student in 1844. He moved to Texas the next year, and in 1847 served six months as a private in the First Texas Mounted Volunteers. Around 1850, he arrived in Mariposa City, California.

Herbert's political career was a fairly short one, and ultimately overshadowed by the incident that sent him to the courtroom. He was a member of the state assembly in 1853 and 1854, and in the latter year he was elected as a Democrat to the House of Representatives. The exact circumstances of the brawl at Willard's Hotel in Washington, D.C. on the morning of May 8, 1856, vary from person to person. Some said Herbert was drunk and abusive and committed homicide in cold blood. Others said he was acting in self-defense against a hostile group of dining room staffers. Whatever the case, Herbert ended the fight by taking out his pistol and shooting an Irish waiter named Thomas Keating in the chest; Keating died soon after.

It all came down to a question of time. Herbert came down to the dining room around 11 a.m. to have his breakfast. He got into a dispute with the staff over the lateness of the hour, since the hotel was supposed to stop serving breakfast at 11, but was ultimately served. When his order was only partially fulfilled, Herbert demanded that Keating get a second waiter to help him. Keating refused. One witness said they heard Herbert call Keating a "damned Irish son of a bitch," while another recalled Keating saying something similar to Herbert before picking up a plate in a threatening manner.

The dispute soon become a physical rather than a verbal one, with the combatants moving from fists to anything that happened to be near at hand. Several witnesses testified that the two men began throwing plates and crockery at each other, and that Herbert picked up a chair at one point to use as a weapon. Patrick Keating, the brother of Thomas, said that he advanced on Herbert armed with a pitcher and sugar bowl and tried to disarm Herbert after realizing that he had had a pistol. The cook at the hotel, J.E. Devenois, said that he considered the sound of breaking crockery normal for the dining room, and only came out of the kitchen when he heard a gunshot. When he arrived, he said that Herbert and Keating had been separated, but Herbert retained his gun. Devenois testified that Herbert then pointed the weapon at Keating, hesitated for two or three seconds, and then fired.

Herbert was charged with manslaughter, but granted a $10,000 bail. Later, he was indicted for murder, with his trial scheduled for July. Ebenezer Knowlton, an Opposition Party representative from Maine, asked the House Committee on the Judiciary to investigate whether Herbert should be kicked out of Congress for disorderly conduct. However, Democratic Representative Howell Cobb of Georgia said such an action would be out of order, since it was up to the court to determine the veracity of the charges. The House voted 79-70 to table the question of whether Herbert had committed a breach of privilege.

Though the murder had nothing to due with slavery, it took place only two weeks before Preston Brooks' attack on Charles Sumner. Robert Francis Engs and Randall M. Miller later wrote that abolitionists quickly found out that Herbert came from a Southern slaveholding family, and that his action at the hotel indicated that such men "contemptuously treated northern free laborers like slaves." The New York Times later quoted a defense closing argument as saying the disparity between the social statuses of Herbert and Keating had led to "a persistent effort to build up a war of classes - a war of antagonism between those more and less favored by fortune." Indeed, prior to their trial coverage, the Times had bemoaned the murder as more of a breach of etiquette than anything. "Whatever the result, it must be a source of poignant regret to Mr. Herbert and his friends, that he carried arms with him into the hotel breakfast-room, and that even if he found it necessary to assail at all one whose station was so far beneath his own, he should have permitted himself to take the life of his fellow being when a wound in the arm or some other part not vital would have disabled him just as effectually," the newspaper opined.

The shooting was witnessed by Henry Dubois, the Dutch Minister to the United States, and prosecutors made a prolonged effort to get him to testify in the case. "Mr. Dubois was, it is believed, the only unprejudiced person who witnessed the whole affair, and it is not probable that justice can be done in this case without his evidence," Secretary of State William L. Marcy wrote to August Belmont, the U.S. Minister to the Netherlands. Dubois had expressed this own belief himself, saying that the other people in the dining room were all friends of Keating's. Unfortunately for the prosecutors, he also declined a request from Philip Barton Key, U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia and son of national anthem author Francis Scott Key, to appear at the trial. Dubois invoked his privileges under international law and said his standing in the country would be compromised if he testified. Dubois offered to talk about the incident with the State Department and give them the names of other people who might be of assistance in the case, but such testimony would not be admissible at trial. Herbert's attorneys later said they had also been eager to get Dubois on the stand for exculpatory purposes, but he never appeared.

At the trial, Key called several staffers from the hotel to give their recollections of the brawl and Keating's death. Herbert's lawyers argued that the waiters were all strong men who attacked and outnumbered Herbert, and that he had shot Keating in self-defense. The New York Times had previously quoted a friend of Herbert's expressing this view, who said that Keating would have killed Herbert if he had not acted as he did. The newspaper also said the fight had left Herbert "scratched and bruised, but not seriously." These arguments were strong enough that in his closing Key urged the jury to find Herbert guilty of manslaughter instead of murder. After several hours of deliberation, the jury announced they couldn't come to a decision.

A second trial took place during the same month. The prosecution again shied away from the murder, saying Herbert should only be convicted on the charge if it was found that he shot Keating without provocation after using foul language and improper behavior to harass the waiter. They outlined several ways he could be found guilty of manslaughter, including if it was determined that he shot Keating in a moment of rage after Keating provoked him or could have retreated from the fight but pressed the attack instead. They also said self-defense wasn't a viable defense if the conflict arose out of Herbert threatening Keating with the pistol.

Among the final instructions approved by the judge was that Herbert's homicide was justifiable if he had reason to believe he was in imminent danger and that it didn't matter who struck the first blow. The judge also said Herbert was bound to retreat if he was to claim self-defense, but that the caveat was not pertinent if he didn't have the opportunity to leave the scene; he could also claim self-defense if he had gotten into the fight without intending to kill Keating. The jury found Herbert not guilty of murder.

Despite the acquittal, Herbert found that the shooting had made him an unpopular man in Congress. He did not run for office again in 1858. He moved to El Paso, Texas around 1859 and began practicing law after a brief foray into mining. In an ironic epilogue to the trial, Key was himself killed by a congressman in 1859. Democratic Representative Daniel E. Sickles, suspecting Key of having an affair with his wife, shot him at Lafayette Park in Washington, D.C.; Sickles was also acquitted of murder, though he too did not run again at the next election.

Herbert became a delegate to the Secession Convention and joined the Confederate Army after the secession of the Southern states. During the Civil War, he became a lieutenant in the Seventh Texas Cavalry and was ordered to begin serving in Louisiana. He was wounded at the Battle of Mansfield on April 8, 1864 and died of his injuries in Kingston, Louisiana a little more than three months later.

Sources: The Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, The Political Graveyard, The Handbook of Texas Online, "From Washington" in the New York Times on May 12 1856, "The Herbert Trial" in the New York Times on Jul. 14 1856, Reports of Cases, Civil and Criminal, Argued and Adjudged in the Circuit Court of the District of Columbia by John A. Hayward and George O. Hazleton, Hinds' Precedents of the House of Representatives of the United States by Asher C. Hinds, The Birth of the Grand Old Party: The Republicans' First Generation by Robert Francis Engs and Randall M. Miller, Centennial History of the City of Washington, D.C. by Harvey W. Crew and William Benson Webb and John Wooldridge, Recollection of Men and Things at Washington by Lawrence Augustus Gobright, The Executive Documents of the Senate of the United States, Third Session, Thirty-Fourth Congress

Thursday, October 8, 2009

J. Herbert Burke: only there for the articles

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By 1978, J. Herbert Burke had firmly established himself as the representative from Florida's 10th District. He had won six elections, was set to run for a seventh term, and, though not one of the more well-known members of Congress, had still earned a reputation as a respectable congressman. That would literally change overnight, however, with an incident in Burke's home state and a questionable explanation for it.

Burke was a native of Chicago, born in the city in 1913 and attending Central YMCA College there as well as nearby Northwestern University. In 1940, he graduated from Kent College of Law and was admitted to the bar. Burke's entry into the legal profession was soon delayed by World War II, and he served with the U.S. Army in Europe between 1942 and 1945. He was discharged as a captain, having picked up the Purple Heart, Bronze Star, European Theater Medal, and American Theater Ribbon along the way. Upon his return to the United States, Burke began practicing law in Chicago and stayed there until 1949.

In that year, Burke decided to move to Hollywood, Florida. Three years later, he was elected as a Republican to be a Broward County commissioner. He held the position until 1967, and continued to build his political resume in other ways, including serving as a Republican state committeeman from 1954 to 1958. Burke's first stab at a national office came in January of 1955, when he ran for an opening in the House of Representatives created by the death of Democratic Representative Dwight Rogers. In the late stages of that campaign, Burke personally visited President Dwight D. Eisenhower and declared that he could "get more done under President Eisenhower than a Democrat can get."

Burke lost the race to Paul Rogers, another attorney and the late congressman's son. Eisenhower was apparently impressed with Burke, however, as he appointed him to the Southeastern Advisory Board of Small Business in 1956. That same year, Burke became the assistant campaign manager for Republican gubernatorial candidate William A. Washburne, Jr. Burke's law practice and commissioner's duties likely kept him busy, as he disappeared from the state and national radar for the next decade. When a new congressional district was allotted to Florida in 1966, though, Burke threw his hat into the ring and this time was successful in his bid for the House.

Burke's first serious challenge came only two years later, when the 10th District was redrawn. As a result, a more conservative portion of northern Broward County was excised and the more liberal areas of northern Dade County attached. Burke complained that the move amounted to gerrymandering, but was nonetheless able to eke out a victory over Democratic state representative Elton Gissendanner. In September of 1967, less than a year into his first term, the ultraconservative group Americans for Constitutional Action rated Burke (and 23 other congressmen) as 100 percent in alignment with their ideals.

Burke's most notable activities in Congress were his trips to numerous foreign countries as part of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. In February of 1969, he and Democratic Representative Charles Diggs of Michigan visited Biafran leader Odumegwu Ojukwu at his official residence in Nigeria to discuss the civil war in that country. Noam Chomsky later criticized him for his reaction to congressional testimony from James Dunn, who had interviewed refugees from East Timor about atrocities committed in that country after Indonesia invaded in December of 1975. A ranking minority member on the House Subcommittee on Asian and Pacific Affairs, Burke wrote, "I have my own suspicions regarding what might be behind the testimony, and I agree with you that it is in all our best interests to bury the Timor issue quickly and completely."

Burke's most notable action regarding foreign affairs was his recommendation that Ukraine and Byelorussia be expelled from the United Nations. He argued that despite the strong sense of nationalism in the regions, they were still a part of the Soviet Union and serving to give that country an extra two votes in the UN. Not sparing any words, Burke said the two regions "have been transformed into one constituent part of one vast slave state created from the blood of countless millions of murdered people who believe in their independence and who lost their lives because of that basic belief that we take for granted." In July of 1974, he criticized news coverage of the Symbionese Liberation Army, which had recently kidnapped Patty Hearst, of creating sympathy for the organization.

Burke also opposed welfare reform, arguing it would lead to an increased allocation of tax money and "socialism." When Congress voted to seat Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. at the cost of a fine, Burke said, "I couldn't conscientiously vote to seat him. Things haven't changed from two years ago. But I am glad the thing is disposed of." Despite these opinions, another conservative group, the Committee for the Survival of a Free Congress, ranked him only "moderately conservative" in October of 1977. One possible reflection of this opinion is Burke's about-face regarding President Richard Nixon. Though he was one of 36 House members urging Nixon to declare his intentions to run for President in January of 1968, Burke opposed granting immunity to Nixon after he resigned in 1974 in the wake of the Watergate scandal.

While Burke's activities sometimes earned him mention or even headlines in the news, he was a fairly low-key individual. That changed in the early morning hours of May 27, 1978 when police were called to the Centerfold Bar, a night club in Dania, Florida that included the attractions of naked go-go dancers. According to a police report, Burke was there, being "belligerent and verbally abusive," and "yelling, shouting, disrupting business." He was arrested on charges of disorderly intoxication and resisting arrest, without violence, by the two officers.

Burke was released after being briefly jailed, and almost immediately threatened to sue the Dania Police Department for wrongful arrest. He said that he was only at the club because he'd followed two men there after overhearing them discussing a narcotics deal. Burke said he never took in the dancers, but instead stayed outside to witness what looked like a drug exchange. After finding that his car wouldn't start, he told the bar manager, a man named Joseph Dangles, to call the police. He claimed to be caught completely off-guard when the cops put the cuffs on him instead.

Aside from his word, the only thing backing up Burke's story was the fact that he was a member of the House Select Committee on Narcotics Abuse and Control at the time. Aligning more with the drunk and disorderly version was a rambling rant Burke wrote on the wall of his jail cell: "My name is J.H. Burke. The time is 12:20 a.m. I have not been charged. I want to make a charge against the (illegible) by the Dania police. I was molested by the Dania police without right of counsel with charges being made against me. I was abused, molested, abused and prevented from calling a lawyer, a friend or making a complaint. J. Herbert Burke."

Burke was indicted by a grand jury in June, and another charge was added to the two he'd been arrested on: influencing a witness. This charge alleged that Burke had tried, without intimidation or bribery, to get Dangles to falsely testify about the incident. The indictment concluded, perhaps a little melodramatically, that Burke had provided an "evil example" and offended "the peace and dignity of the state of Florida." Three months later, Burke pleaded guilty to disorderly intoxication and resisting arrest without violence, and no contest to the witness tampering charge. He was fined $177.50 and put on probation for three months.

The plea took place with only about a month to go before Election Day. The Democratic runoff chose Ed Stack, a Broward County sheriff and former Republican who had unsuccessfully challenged Burke for the party's nomination for the House in 1966 and 1968, over state representative John Adams, who had tipped off the press to Burke's arrest. Both Stack and Burke said they did not think the incident at the Centerfold Bar would significantly affect the contest, but it was later blamed for the election result that turned Burke out of office. "I never felt what I did was a sinful thing," he said. "I didn't rob anyone. No one wanted to face my side and when I faced the whole thing and pleaded guilty, I felt if one incident can wipe out 26 years of public service, well..."

Burke did not return to political life, and split his time between homes in Falls Church, Virginia and Fern Park, Florida. The most prevalent result of the scandal was that it inspired Carl Hiaasen, a resident of Burke's district, to write a novel entitled Strip Tease. The story follows a congressman who becomes obsessed with a stripper, and was later made into a movie starring Burt Reynolds and Demi Moore. In June of 1993, Burke died of a heart attack at a hospital in Altamonte Springs, Florida.

Sources: The Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, "Candidates For Congress Busy With Campaign" in the Ocala Star-Banner on Jan. 9 1955, "Washburne Names Aide In Governor Campaign" in the St. Petersburg Times on Sept. 20 1956, "Right Wing Rates Congressmen" in the St. Petersburg Times on Sept. 6 1967, "36 In House Urge Nixon To Declare" in the New York Times on Jan. 12 1968, "Two New Faces Added To Florida's Delegation" in the St. Petersburg Times on Nov. 7 1968, "Gibbons Decries 'Fee'" in the St. Petersburg Times on Jan. 4 1969, "Florida's 14 Congressmen Voted, Fought...And Sat" in the St. Petersburg Times on Jan. 2 1972, "Florida's Congressmen Got Around" in the St. Petersburg Times on Apr. 26 1972, "S.L.A. Sympathy Charged" in the New York Times on Jul. 24 1974, "Leaders Divided On Nixon Immunity" in The Ledger on Aug. 8 1974, "Congressional Rating Game Is Underway" in The Ledger on Oct. 24 1977, "Florida Congressman Arrested At Nightclub Featuring Nude Dancers" in the St. Petersburg Times on May 28 1978, "Burke Says He Will File False Arrest Suit Against Police" in the Boca Raton News on May 29 1978, "Burke Still Tough Foe Despite Arrest" in The Ledger on May 29 1978, "Attorney To Represent Rep. Burke" in the Ocala Star-Banner on Jul. 21 1978, "Burke Will Skip Hearings" in the Boca Raton News on Jul. 18 1978, "Burke Says Plea Won't Hurt Bid" in the Boca Raton News on Sept. 27 1978, "Congressional Police Blotter" in The Village Voice on Oct. 30 1978, "U.S. House: Democrats Now Have 12-3 Margin" in the St. Petersburg Times on Nov. 9 1978, "J. Herbert Burke Dies; Was Florida Congressman" in the Washington Post on Jun. 18 1993, The Washington Connection and Third World Fascism by Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman, Beyond Entitlement: The Social Obligations of Citizenship by Lawrence M. Mead, Writers on Writing: Collected Essays from the New York Times

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Preston S. Brooks: dignity vs. decorum

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The brutal attack of Preston Smith Brooks on a fellow congressman was not the first time violence had erupted on the floor of Congress, or even the first time an assault involving canes occurred there. What made Brooks' action so noteworthy was the severity of the injuries he dealt, and the cheerful acceptance of the act by the majority of the South. The incident, which clearly demonstrated the increasing polarization between the North and South, is rightfully included as one more factor in the increasing tensions between the two regions that later exploded into the Civil War.

Brooks was born in Edgefield, South Carolina, in 1819, and 20 years later he graduated from South Carolina College. One year later, a dispute over James Henry Hammond's gubernatorial bid led Brooks to challenge Louis Wigfall, a future Senator from Texas, to a duel. Wigfall had already dueled with two members of Brooks' family, killing one, but Brooks had better luck. Each man wounded the other but came away alive, Brooks with a bullet lodged in his hip. The injury would require him to use a walking stick for the remainder of his life.

Brooks served as an aide-de-camp to Hammond from 1842 to 1844, and around this time he was admitted to the bar. He began practicing law in his hometown, and in 1844 served a single term in the state house of representative. During the Mexican War, Brooks fought in the Palmetto Regiment of the South Carolina Volunteers. During Brooks' later notoriety, the New York Times said Sumner had commanded companies at both Mexico City and San Angel. However, the newspaper also said that in the latter neighborhood he "distinguished himself by gallantly discharging the six barrels of his revolver into a crowd of men and women in the market-place, for some fancied insult to his dignity."

In 1852, Brooks was elected to the House of Representatives as a Democrat. Two years later he was re-elected, and became chairman of the Committee on Expenditures in the Department of State. Like many politicians before and since him, his career would not have elevated him to much note in history, but for the imbroglio he involved himself in.

On May 19 and 20 of 1856, Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts, who had been elected in 1851 as a Free Soil candidate, gave a speech entitled "The Crime Against Kansas." A pronounced opponent of slavery, the speech supported the admission of Kansas into the Union under the Free State Constitution. Sumner also pinned the blame for the violence in the territory on pro-slavery raiders, and targeted some members of Congress for what he saw as their complicity in the bloodshed. Sumner named these people early in his speech, though he referenced them throughout. One of the lawmakers named was Democratic Senator Andrew Butler of South Carolina, who was not present during the speech. Sumner compared Butler and Senator Stephen Douglas of Illinois to Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, and charged Butler with denouncing opposition to slavery as "sectional and fanatical" while promoting sectionalism himself. "The Senator from South Carolina has read many books of chivalry, and believes himself a chivalrous knight, with sentiments of honor and courage," said Sumner. "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 sight of the world, is chaste in his sight. I mean the harlot Slavery." Sumner also accused Butler of hypocrisy in his denunciations of abolitionists as fanatics. "If the Senator wishes to see fanatics, let him look round at his own associates, he said. "Let him look at himself."

Sumner never named Brooks in the speech, though he was not very charitable to South Carolina. He said the state had a "shameful" history in its association of slavery, including a qualification requiring a state representative to own "a settled freehold estate, or 10 Negroes." He also compared the state to the Kansas territory, saying the territory had already established more scholarly institutions than South Carolina and there was nothing in the state's history comparable to the "heroic spirit in a heroic cause" of the repulse of pro-slavery raiders at Lawrence. "Were the whole history of South Carolina blotted out of existence, from its very beginning down to the day of the last election of the Senator to his present seat on this floor, civilization might lose..." Sumner apparently paused, then continued, "I do not say how little; but surely less than it has already gained by the example of Kansas, in its valiant struggle against oppression, and in the development of a new science of emigration."

The oration was, of course, denounced in the slave states of the South as a grave insult. There was also some question of whether Sumner was implying other barbs, including the suggestion that the reference to Butler's marriage to "the harlot Slavery" insinuated the rape of female slaves by their masters. More insulting was Sumner's phrase that Butler "overflowed with rage at the simple suggestion that Kansas had applied for admission as a state; and, with incoherent phrases, discharged the loose expectoration of his speech, now upon her representative, and then upon her people." Some saw this as a low blow referring to Butler's condition, as he was recovering from a stroke which had left him unable to stop himself from drooling.

Brooks was one of the many people offended by the speech, especially since Butler was a family member (sources differ as to whether he was an uncle or cousin). He considered challenging Sumner to a duel, but felt that Sumner had not distinguished himself as a gentleman and therefore unworthy of the challenge. In fact, Brooks thought Sumner was so lowly that he was more deserving of a chastisement via whipping, a method approved in a pamphlet entitled Code of Honor. Brooks consulted with some of his peers on his plans to "punish" Sumner, with Democratic Congressman Henry A. Edmundson of Virginia advising him against attacking Sumner outside the Capitol because he would tire himself in the climb up the steps.

On May 22, as Sumner wrote at his desk following the adjournment of the Senate, Brooks entered the sparsely-populated chamber with Democratic Congressman Laurence Keitt, also of South Carolina. Brooks waited until a few women in the galleries had departed, and then approached Sumner, who was too immersed in his work to notice Brooks until he began to speak to him. His exact words differ from account to account, though the meaning remains the same in all of them. "Mr. Sumner, I have read your speech twice over carefully," Brooks said, according to the most popular rendition. "It is a libel on South Carolina, and Mr. Butler, who is a relative of mine."

One account sympathetic to Brooks claims that Sumner tried to attack him, though most agree that Brooks was already beginning his assault as he spoke or did so after Sumner began to stand up. Though a strong individual, Sumner was almost powerless as Brooks began to strike him multiple times with a heavy inch-thick gutta percha cane; he was unarmed and seated with his legs under the desk, which was fastened to the floor. Sumner was finally able to tear the desk out of the floor and stagger away, but Brooks continued to beat him until he collapsed, bleeding and unconscious. Overall, Brooks managed to land dozens of blows, only stopping when he shattered the cane. At one point, Senator John Crittenden of Kentucky came forward to intervene, but Keitt, who was standing near Brooks and armed with his own cane and a pistol, ordered Crittenden to stay back. The two congressmen from South Carolina left after Brooks retrieved the gold-topped head of his broken walking stick.

Brooks was briefly detained and brought before a judge, and put up $500 as a surety for his court appearance. The bail was more than his punishment for the crime. In July of 1856, the Criminal Court of the District of Columbia fined him $300. The New York Times opined that the punishment was "a mockery of justice, and an insult to the country."

Some Southern newspapers sought to diminish the severity of the assault, which had left Sumner with injuries to his head that were considered life-threatening for a time. Though Brooks later boasted that Sumner "bellowed like a calf" after about 30 blows, the Richmond Enquirer incorrectly reported that Brooks had bested Sumner with a single blow when the Senator deserved "nine-and-thirty every morning." The Richmond Whig was cold in its assessment, arguing that the reports of grievous injuries were a "miserable Abolition trick" intended to gain sympathy for Sumner and the anti-slavery movement. "Nigger-worshiping fanatics of the male gender, and weak-minded women and silly children, are horribly affected at the thought of blood oozing out of a pin-prick," the article spat. "And Sumner is wily politician enough to take advantage of this little fact."

Brooks later sent a note of apology to the Senate, saying he had intended the assault as a redress for personal wrongs rather than a breach of the privilege of that body. A Senate committee determined that they had no authority to punish Brooks, since he was a member of the House of Representatives, and could only ask the other chamber to take action. A House committee recommended the expulsion of Brooks, as well as censures for Keitt and Edmundson. However, a minority report expressed the opinion that no breach of privilege had been committed and any action would go beyond the scope of the Constitution.

A vote to accept the minority report failed, with 145 voting against it and 66 in favor. When the vote to expel Brooks came to the floor, 121 supported it (including a solitary Southerner) and 95 voted against it. Brooks was spared, because the tally did not meet the two-thirds majority needed for expulsion. Keitt was censured, but Edmundson was not.

Brooks and Keitt both chose to resign from the House after the vote, with Brooks giving a departing speech on July 14. Brooks said he would have been ill-regarded by the people of his state if he had taken no action against Sumner, and that he meant no insult to Congress or Massachusetts. "Whatever insults my state insults me," he said. "I did not then, and do not now, believe that the spirit of American freemen would tolerate slander in high places, and permit a member of Congress to publish and circulate a libel on another, and then call upon either House to protect him against the personal responsibilities which he had thus incurred." Brooks also said that the House had no power to punish him for an action that took place in the Senate, and that the collusion between the two chambers was risking tyranny. "Matters go smoothly enough when one House asks the other to punish a member who is offensive to the majority of its own body," he said, "but how will it be when, upon a pretense of insulted dignity, demands are made to this House to expel a member who happens to run counter to its party predilections, or other demands which it may not be so agreeable to grant?"

Brooks also denied that he ever intended to kill Sumner, which was why he had used a cane given to him by a friend in Baltimore three months before the assault rather than a more potent weapon. He appeared to recognize that his attack had done much to fan the flames of hatred in a none-too-fraternal nation. "Sir, I cannot, on my own account, assume the responsibility, in the face of the American people, of commencing a line of conduct which in my heart of hearts I believe would result in subverting the foundations of this government and in drenching this hall in blood," he told the Speaker. After saying that he believed some of the votes in favor of his expulsion were "extorted" by constituents rather than a reflection of some members' own opinions, Brooks announced that he was no longer a member of Congress and walked out.

The absence of Brooks and Keitt was short-lived. Both returned on the first day of August after being elected to fill their own vacancies, and also won re-election in November. Sumner, though re-elected to the Senate in 1857, did not recuperate enough to return to his seat until December of 1859. Until that time, his empty seat stood as a silent reminder of the attack. When Governor Henry Gardner proposed having the state pay for Sumner's medical bills, Sumner is said to have responded, "Whatever Massachusetts can give, let it go to suffering Kansas."

The divide in the nation was starkly visible in the reactions to the assault. Northerners were revolted, and held spontaneous meetings to condemn Brooks. Along with a dummy of President Franklin Pierce, "Bully Brooks" was hung in effigy in front of the New Hampshire State House in June. The abolitionist movement gained some support, and thousands of copies of "The Crime Against Kansas" were run off for use in the 1856 elections. One cheeky New York City man challenged Brooks to a duel with gutta percha canes somewhere along the Mason-Dixon line, "I having the privilege to take him sitting with his legs under a desk with his cane half a mile from him."

Writing in the New York Tribune, William Cullen Bryant asked, "Has it come to this? Are we to be chastised as they chastise their slaves? Are we too, slaves, slaves for life, a target for their brutal blows, when we do not comport ourselves to please them?" The Economist referred to the incident as "the most ruffianly attack ever committed in a country claiming to be civilized." The newspaper reported that only one Southern newspaper was condemning the attack; this was apparently the Mobile Advertiser, which the Examiner said in another report was giving the rather tepid opinion that "considering the time and place of the act, it admits of no justification."

The result was exactly the opposite in the South. Public meetings, especially in South Carolina, supported Brooks' action. One held in Columbia endorsed him for "inflicting upon Mr. Sumner the punishment he so richly earned by his libelous attack upon the state of Carolina and its faithful Senator, and upon the entire South." A meeting in Edgefield supported his conduct and promised "encouragement and sympathy to all similar and future instances of vindication of the character of Southern institutions and Southern men." Incredibly, the Columbia Times reported that a delegation of slaves was planning to present Brooks with an "appropriate token of their regard to him who has made the first practical issue for their preservation and protection in their rights and enjoyment as the happiest laborers on the face of the globe."

Brooks was also showered with gifts, which included a silver pitcher and golden goblet. The most popular presents by far, however, were canes sent to replace the one he had broken over Sumner's head. Brooks' rapidly growing collection would have quickly become common knowledge, but the repeated implication was that Brooks should treat each new stick as he had his old one. Their inscriptions included "Revilers Beware" and "Hit him again." A representative from Brooks' district said the ladies there would send hickory canes "with which to chastise Abolitionists and Red Republicans" whenever Brooks wanted one. Embracing the carnage that would arrive some five years later, the Charleston Mercury opined, "The South certainly has become generally convinced that it is by hard blows, and not by loud blustering and insulting denunciation, that the sectional quarrel is to be settled."

Congress was less accommodating of Brooks. Despite his earlier denunciation of sectional strife, he now made sure to uphold the reputation he had established with his assault. In September, the New York Times reported that Brooks had called for the South to invade the nation's capital and make off with its archives and treasure. When Republican Senator Henry Wilson of Massachusetts denounced the attack as "brutal, murderous, and cowardly," Brooks challenged him to a duel, which Wilson refused to accept. Brooks finally met his match with Republican Congressman Anson Burlingame of Massachusetts, who accepted Brooks' challenge of a duel after denouncing the attack "in the name of that fair play which bullies and prizefighters respect." Burlingame named Clifton House on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls as the dueling site, and even started for the location before Brooks rescinded the challenge. He said the location was unfair to him, as he would have to venture through hostile territory to get there.

Brooks died unexpectedly of the croup in Washington, D.C. in January of 1857. The furor over his attack had died down enough that most of the eulogies in Congress steered clear of mention of the assault. Sumner is said to have forgiven him, saying when asked how he felt about Brooks, "Only as to a brick that should fall upon my head from a chimney. He was the unconscious agent of a malign power." On another occasion, Sumner was quoted as saying, "What have I to do with him? It was slavery, not he, that struck the blow."

Sources: The Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, "The Washington Brutality--The Pro-Slavery Side Of The Story" in the New York Times on May 24 1856, "The Brooks Affair" in the New York Times on Jun. 3 1856, "President Pierce, Preston S. Brooks, and Col. George Hung In Effigy At Concord, N.H." in the New York Times on Jun. 6 1856, "Outrage In The American Senate" in The Economist on Jun. 7 1856, "Brooks In The Mexican War" in the New York Times on Jun. 10 1856, "Testimonials to the 'Gallant Conduct' of Preston S. Brooks" in the New York Times on Jun. 10 1856, "The Outrage On Mr. Sumner" in The Economist on Jun. 21 1856, "The Sumner Case" in The Examiner on Jun. 21 1856, "Bully Brooks Challenged By A Gentleman Of His Own Kidney" in The Agitator on Jun. 26 1856, "The Case Of Brooks" in the New York Times on Jul. 9 1856, "The Sumner Outrage" in The Examiner on Aug. 2 1856, "More Honors To Preston S. Brooks" in the New York Times on Aug. 23 1856, "Compliments To Mr. Preston S. Brooks" in the New York Times on Sept. 1 1856, "Invasion And Capture Of Washington" in the New York Times on Sept. 8 1856, "Posthumous Honors" in The Agitator on Feb. 5 1857, The World's Best Orations: From the Earliest Period to the Present Time edited by David J. Brewer, The Magazine of History with Notes and Queries Vol. XIV, The Crime Against Kansas by Charles Sumner, Life of Charles Sumner by Walter Gaston Shotwell, The Road to Disunion: Secessionists Triumphant 1854-1861 by William H. Freehling, Encyclopedia of the American Civil War edited by David S. and Jeanne T. Heidler, The House: The History of the House of Representatives by Robert Vincent Remini, The Shattering of the Union: America in the 1850s by Eric H. Walther