The Caning of Charles Sumner and the Exposed Feelings

The act occurred after Preston Brooks, a Democrat who was all for pro-slavery, attacked Charles Sumner with a cane, a senator, and a Republican from Massachusetts who was against slavery. A few days earlier the attack, Sumner delivered a speech condemning the Kansas-Nebraska Act. (Pethel, 2011) This is evident in his speeches criticizing slaveholders, including Andrew Butler, a relative to Brooks. The conflict arose since Sumner opposed the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which raised the possibility that slavery could spread in territories where it was abandoned. The caning of Sumner indicates long-harbored feelings of pro-slavery and anti-slavery about the Kansas-Nebraska Act by both the north and the south people.  

Emotions arise among the people of the north, anti-slaves, and the south, pro-slave due to the politics and political culture. The resentment of freedom-loving people, mainly the Northern, is widely expressed by being sympathetic and respectable with highly valued anger. The rituals gathered citizens together to resolve public problems and influence the officials, making them express their feelings against Sumner’s assault and resistance to southern slavery. The northern people experienced unity that bridged partisan and ideological division, thus creating unity among the two regions.

Sumner’s beating expresses honor and idealism as Sumner himself did not react to the defeat. Instead, he just kept calm as he was stunned and repeatedly stroked until he collapsed at the feet of Congressman Edwin B. Morgan. His colleagues also expressed honor since they intervened after Sumner was near to death. Brooks was fined three hundred dollars only, and after his death, Sumner served out a senate career until his death. Hoffer’s narrative explains the difference between free and enslaved person states and describes the Southern honor culture. (Pearson Custom Publishing 484) He also helps us get to know why Brooks chooses to use a cane instead of other methods of harm; rather, this was to meet the obligation of the south.

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The North citizens also feel that the government is losing control with the Kansas-Nebraska Act after Sumner’s caning and other national events in the United States. (Efford, 2015) The peoples feel that their country is in struggle after the caning of Sumner, and the language used in these scenes since their cabinet is involved. This results in a civil war that even the government cannot take control over it. Citizen is forced to form indignation meetings that eventually lowers their feelings.


Overall, the caning of Sumner is a reflection of the failure of government responsibilities and the resulting issues arising. Brooks and Sumner appear to be the main protagonists, and they help us understand the role of the government to its citizens. The article gives the idea that the citizens also have responsibilities to one another despite their differences. The indignation meetings they held to themselves mainly reflect this


Woods, Michael E. “The indignation of freedom-loving people”: the caning of Charles Sumner and emotion in antebellum politics.” Journal of social history 44.3 (2011): 689-705.

 Pethel, Mary Ellen. “Williamjames Hull Holler. The Caning of Charles Sumner: Honor, Idealism, and the

 Origins of the Civil War.” Teaching History: A Journal of Methods 36.1 (2011): 54-56.

Pearson Custom Publishing. American Perspectives: Readings in American History. 4th

Ed. Pearson Custom Publishing, 2008 p.484

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