During the month of May, 1856 an extremely unusual event took place in the senate. Charles Sumner, a Whig (soon to become the Republican party) senator from Massachusetts, orated an outlandish speech. His speech was so contemptuous and outrageous that the democrats flew into an outrage. It has been said that there has never been, before the fact or after, a senator who spoke so boldly in such an inappropriate way as did Sumner In May of 1856. So outrageous was his speech that it evoked a fellow senator, Preston Brooks, to approach him on the topic.

However, Mr. Brooks, a democratic senator from South Carolina, did not approach Mr. Sumner with any form of respect or reserve. In fact Brooks stomped up to Sumner and dished out a severe beating to his head. Brooks, using the metal top of his cane, severely wounded Sumner, to the point that Sumner had to be sent over seas to be treated for severe brain damage and was not able to return to the states for several years.

Interestingly enough, this encounter evoked extreme sectionalism on the part of both South Carolina and Massachusetts. In fact, in the following Senate election South Carolina re-elected Brooks as their senator. Similarly, also in an act of defiance, Massachusetts re-elected Sumner as their senator even in light of his over seas absence.

To think this whole ordeal was in result of Sumner's speech regarding the admission of Kansas to the Union as a free state. One of the so called controversial sections of his speech was as follows.

"the fury of the propagandists and the calm determination of their opponents...marshalling hostile divisions, and foreshadowing a conflict which, unless happily averted by freedom, will become war--fratricidal, parricidal war."

Reference: The American Pageant