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The public caning of Charles Sumner for extending an olive branch
Sumner, Charles

Sumner, Charles – Civil War Senator from Mass. An ALS on three pages of a bifolium 8vo sheet dated March 8, 1873 pertaining to his censure by the Massachusetts Legislature. In part: “I am sure that the time will come when that measure now condemned will be hailed with honor. An acute politician here has recently congratulated me upon it as the shrewdest move possible. I introduced it because I knew it was right.” Folds and old dealer pencil marks, some smudges and offset of in on the facing page. An outstanding Sumner piece on one the last controversies of his long political career. [#2026]

Sumner was one of the leading national figures opposing slavery. He gained near heroic stature as the victim of a caning attack on the Senate Floor from a Southern Congressman over debate of the Kansas-Nebraska Act. Notwithstanding his credentials as an abolitionist and pro-union senator he was a moderate Republican on reconstruction. In a symbolic gesture to close wounds Sumner filed legislation in December 1872 to remove the names of Civil War battles from U.S. Regimental flags, concerned about the insult to southerners who would serve in the military. The effort so angered veterans and radicals that the Massachusetts Legislature voted to censure Sumner two weeks after he filed the bill. The aged Senator accepted the attacks as partial proof of his independence, integrity and devotion to principle. He perhaps even viewed it as a figurative public caning that would again raise his national prominence. Local supporters viewed it as an unnecessary blemish on his distinguished career and an embarrassment to the state. Notable citizens stepped forward and waged a campaign to have the legislature rescinding the censure. It did so a year after this letter was written. Sumner heard the state resolution read on the Senate Floor and suffered a fatal heart attack that night.

Private

Washington
8th March ‘73

My dear ____,

Others may have offended my feelings, but I have never uttered a word of kind ever on the actions of the Legislature.

I am sure that the time will come when that measure now condemned will be hailed with honor. An acute politician here has recently congratulated me upon it as the shrewdest move possible. I introduced it because I knew it was right.

Ever yours,
Charles Sumner

P.S. Let me convey-- through tardily – my regrets that you too have been under legislative displeasure.

$375.00