The Caning of Senator Sumner (American Stories)

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9780155063471: The Caning of Senator Sumner (American Stories)

In May of 1856, when Southern Congressman Preston S. Brooks caned Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner on the Senate floor, he shocked the nation and shattered the fragile truce that had existed between North and South. Part of the American Stories series, Benson's book introduces students to this key turning point in the coming of the War and as one of the most pivotal moments in American history. Because its story incorporates so many of the era's key issues like slavery and abolition, personal liberty laws and state rights, "Bleeding Kansas" and territorial expansion, ideals of gender and manhood, competing visions of labor and the economic order, and the revolutionary shift between the Whig-based "second party system" and its Republican-dominated third party successor, it provides an excellent window into the mind of a nation on the brink of conflict. These broad implications and the incident's inherent drama make this a natural topic for the American Stories series. The passionate language and sharp controversy of the collection's editorials and speech excerpts should appeal to a wide range of undergraduates. The narrative is complemented by a number of graphics, including images of the incident and maps showing the politics and intellectual geography of the era and how they were affected by the incident.

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Review:

Part 1: THE CANING AND ITS ORIGINS. 1. Prologue: The Incident. 2. Senate Violence and the Transformation of Mid-century America. 3. The Social Origins of an Abolitionist Senator. 4. The Personal World of Brooks and Butler. 5. The Personal Politics of the Nebraska Bill and Fugitive Slaves. 6. Sumner and Petitions for the Repeal of the Fugitive Slave Act. 7. The Know-Nothing Interlude. Part 2: THE CRIME AND THE CANING. 8. Introduction: The Territorial Crisis. 9. The Crime Against Kansas. 10. Reaction from the Senate. 11. The Attack: Firsthand Accounts. 12. The Assault: Legislative Debate. Part 3: COMPREHENDING THE CANING. 13. Editorial Reactions. 14. Home Town Responses: Boston. 15. Home Town Responses: South Carolina. 16. Violence in the Political Arena. 17. Chivalry and Degradation. 18. Freedom of Speech. 19. Editorial Implications. 20. Public Rallies and Resolutions. 21. Private Letters of Praise, Consolation, and Condemnation. 22. Images of the Caning. 23. The Fate of Preston Brooks. 24. Duels. 25. Sumner's Illness: Was he Shamming? 26. Implications. Guide to Further Research. Index.

About the Author:

Dr. T. Lloyd Benson is the Walter Kenneth Mattison Associate Professor of History at Furman University. A native of Ithaca, New York, Benson holds an A.A. degree from the State University of New York's Empire State College and B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. degrees in history from the University of Virginia. He lives in Tryon, North Carolina, with his wife Vicki and his son Joshua.

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