America in the 1850s

The Emergence of John Brown

Had there ever been a physical attack like this before in the House or Senate?

Not in the U.S. Senate and not in the House of Representatives. This attack was something quite unprecedented. Perhaps that is why the dozen-odd persons in the chamber did nothing to help Sumner; they watched with horror as Brooks hit him on the head, time and again.

Sumner attempted to rise, but was prevented by the iron bolts that connected the writing desk to the floor. In a few minutes, he keeled over and fell to the floor, unconscious. No one precisely described how Preston Brooks looked, but one suspects that he straightened his suit, tucked his cane back under his arm, and strode away with a look of self-satisfaction.


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