Imágenes de páginas



Delivered in the Broadway Tabernacle, May 30th, 1856. Why is it that the people are gathered here in thousands tonight? It is not because they require information; it is not because they need to be told what has been done. No! It is because they know what has transpired, and desire to express their opinions and give their decision upon it, and upon the rights and privileges and principles involved. It is not the name of Brooks that gives importance to this occasion. Let that name be sunk. It is not the name of SUMNER, great though that name is. Let even that name be sunk when the principles involved are to be considered. It is the fact that a Senator of the United States has been stricken down while in his seat upon the floor of the Senate chamber, that gives interest and importance to this occasion. And it is in view of the fearful importance of that act that we are to express what we think of Free Speech, a Free Press, and Free Thought. It is a question of order or anarchy; of law or lawlessness. The audience do not require to be told what has been done, and they know in general how important are the principles involved; but that you may know generally what it means, I will read from a debate, introduced into the Senate by Mr. Slidell, on the death of a member of the House of Representatives.

It was at such a time and on such an occasion that the man from South Carolina went into the Senate chamber—a place where treaties are made where debates are not to be conducted by young men—a place for the exhibition of mental, and not physical strength. It was there that he went to do an act of violence. He found a man there who had grown prematurely old, in consequence of the nature of his labors--and what did he do! I will read to you what he did, from the statement of Senator Sumner. The Senator said:

“I attended the Senate as usual on Thursday the 22d of May. After some formal business, a message was received from the House of Representatives, announcing the death of a member of that body from Missouri. This was followed by a brief tribute to the deceased from Mr. Geyer, of Missouri, when, according to the usage and out of respect to the deceased, the Senate adjourned at once. Instead of leaving the Senate chamber with the rest of the Senators on the adjournment, I continued in my seat, occupied with my pen ; and while thus intent, in order to be in season for the mail, which was soon to close, I was approached by several persons who desired to converse with me; but I answered them promptly and briefly, excusing myself for the reason that I was much engaged. When the last of these persons left me, I drew my armchair close to my desk, and with my legs under the desk, continued writing. My attention at this time was so entirely drawn from all other subjects, that, though there must have been many persons in the Senate, I saw nobody. While thus intent, with my head bent over my writing, I was addressed by a person who approached the front of my desk entirely unobserved, that I was unaware of his presence until I heard my name pronounced. As I looked up, with pen in hand, I saw a tall man, whose countenance was not familiar, standing directly over me, and at the same moment caught these words: 'I have read your speech twice over, carefully; it is a libel on South Carolina, and Mr. Butler, who is a relative of mine.' While these words were still passing from his lips, he commenced a succession of blows, with a heavy cane, on my bare head, by the first of which I was stunned so as to lose my sight. I saw no longer my assailant, nor any other person or object in the room. What I did afterwards was done almost unconsciously, acting under the instincts of self-defence. With head already bent down I rose from my seat, wrenching up my desk, which was secured to the floor, and then pressing forward, while my assailant continued his blows. I had no other consciousness until I found myself ten feet forward, in front of my desk, lying on the floor of the Senate, with my bleeding head supported on the knee of a gentleman whom I soon recognized by voice and man

[ocr errors]


ner as Mr. Morgan, of New York. Other persons there were about me, offering me friendly assistance, but I did not recognize any of them. Others there were at a distance, looking on and offering no tance, of whom I recognized only Mr. Douglas, of Illinois, Mr. Toombs, of Georgia, and I thought, also, my assailant standing between them. I was helped from the floor, and conducted into the lobby of the Senate, where I was placed upon a sofa. Of those who helped me here I have no recollection. As I entered the lobby I recognized Mr. Slidell, of Louisiana, who retreated; but I recognized no one else, until I felt a friendly grasp of the hand, which seemed to come from Mr. Campbell, of Ohio. I have a vague impression that Mr. Bright, President of the Senate, spoke to me while I was on the floor of the Senate or in the lobby. I make this statement in answer to the interrogatory of the Committee, and offer it as presenting completely all my recollections of the assault and the attending circumstances, whether immediately before or immediately after. I desire to add, that besides the words which I have given, as uttered by my assailant, I have an indistinct recollection of the words old man;' but they are so enveloped in the mist which ensued from the first blow, that I am not sure whether they were uttered or not."

On the cross-examination of Mr. Sumner he stated that he was entirely without arms of any kind, and that he had no notice or warning of any kind, direct or indirect, of this assault.

Here, then, we have a man going into the Senate, not to carry out any public object, but because, in his private opinion, a relative of his had been seriously spoken of, and saying to a Senator, “I came to deal you a blow.” And that blow was dealt not one, but many—until a Senator of the United States lay weltering in his blood upon the floor of the Senate chamber. Could a case be presented in which would be more distinctly presented the destruction of Senatorial privilege of free speech and of free thought? It is not my vocation to load with epithets, and I will not do so now. I came with you, only to say what should be acted upon, and what we should tell such men hereafter awaits any similar act of theirs. But in arriving at an adequate idea of the danger to be apprehended from such an act as that of Brooks, it is proper and of the utmost importance to know in what light it is viewed by Senators themselves. [By way of ascertaining that, he read from the explanation of Senator Slidell, when that Senator said he had not spoker with Senator Sumner for two years, and therefore he did not think he was in a position to express sympathy.]

Here was a Senator of the United States, who saw his brother Senator stricken down, and because he had not spoken with him for two years, did not think he was in a position to express sympathy. Was that, I would ask, the character of a public man? Was that the proper feeling for a Senator? Was that common humanity? Why, if it were my worst enemy that lay bleeding, I cannot conceive it in my nature, nor in yours, to pass him by without one sympathizing look. Senator Slidell had not spoken to Mr. Sumner for two years, and therefore he was not in a position to express sympathy.

Then there came Senator Douglas with his explanation. His first impulses were, so he said, to go in and restore quiet. Senator Douglas not having the hot blood of the South in his veins, was inclined to be conservative. But he feared his motives might be misconstrued, so he did not interfere. Another Senator saw his brother wounded upon the floor, and did not interfere, because he feared his motives might be misconstrued. I would tell Mr. Douglas, that when a man was being beaten by another in the manner in which Senator Sumner was beaten by the man from South Carolina, he might interfere to“ restore quiet” without danger of having his motives misconstrued.

I will now introduce to you another Senator, a gentleman that I know in private life to be a man of liberal mind and of courteous manner. I am at a loss to know how such a man could agree in sentiment with the other Senators I have named, in reference to the striking down of Senator Sumner. But so it

Senator Toombs corroborated the statements of Slidell and Douglas. He approved of the act, and had no disposition to interfere, at least not in aid of Senator Sumner. This was a man representing the best he knew in social life. How is it that he could look with such an eye upon the reign of brutality in the Senate ? I cannot answer, unless it was because of the unwholesome atmosphere that pervades Washington. I am unwilling to say that such is the spirit of the South : that slavery-base in


itself-debases all who come in daily contact with it. I cannot believe that the South, at large, would coincide with Mr. Toombs. I call upon you to think of it as it is. It may be that the taint is all-perva ling-more so than we are willing to believe.

Again, there is the statement of Senator Butler, the uncle of the nephew. He had just arrived, and had said that had he been present he would have taken all the responsibility that had been taken by his gallant nephew. His gallant nephew! This, then, is what is called chivalry. It was the custom among the Romans, when an act of disgraceful violence had been done, to express their disapprobation of it by calling it “ Punic chivalry.” I think that hereafter, in order to give a proper name to such acts, we shall have to call them “South Carolina chivalry." I think it well to look for a moment at what the Senate has done in the matter. The effect of it depends very much upon what the Senate thinks of it as a body—what they think of their privileges. What are their privileges ? Protection to them simply as men? No! because they are Senators. A protection similar to that given to the sailor under our flag-an important, a necessary protection; for without it their freedom as law-makers is at an end. It is our privileges that make the Senate chamber sacred. These Senators are the judges of their privileges—the exclusive judges. When, therefore, Senator Sumner made his speech, if the Senate did not deem his remarks improper, no one outside had a right to judge. But one outside has judged, and accompanied his judgment by an outrage upon the privileges of the Senate. If the President, feeling offended at something that had been said, had marched to the Senate with a file of marines, it would have been a revolutionary act; and was the act of Brooks less an outrage than such an act would be ?

But the subject has a still graver aspect. It has been said by the Committee that the Senate has no power to defend its privileges. This has been said, while it has been decided that every great deliberative body has the power to protect itself: they say, however, that they have no power to adjudicate upon itthat it must go to the House. Do they mean by that, that there is no greater protection in the Senate chamber than in a private parlor ? If so, then there is an end to this government. Can they not interfere when there has been a breach of privilege ?

« AnteriorContinuar »