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Sumner, Charles,1811–74, U.S. senator from Massachusetts (1851–74), b. Boston. He attended (1831–33) and was later a lecturer at Harvard law school, was admitted (1834) to the bar, and practiced in Boston. He spent the years 1837 to 1840 in Europe. Later he became involved in several reform movements, including antislavery, and in 1851 a combination of Free-Soilers and Democrats sent him to the Senate. An aggressive abolitionist, Sumner attacked the fugitive slave laws, denounced the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, and on May 19–20, 1856, delivered his notable antislavery speech called "The Crime against Kansas." A master of invective, he singled out as his special victim Senator Andrew Pickens Butler of South Carolina, who was not there to reply. Two days later he was assaulted in the Senate chamber by Preston S. BrooksBrooks, Preston Smith,
1819–57, U.S. Congressman (1852–57), b. Edgefield District, S.C. A lawyer and the nephew of Senator Andrew Pickens Butler, he is remembered as the man who in 1856 caned Charles Sumner after Sumner had bitterly criticized Senator Butler.
..... Click the link for more information. , Butler's nephew. It took Sumner more than three years to recover from the attack, but Massachusetts reelected him, and he resumed his seat in Dec., 1859. He had been important in organizing the new Republican party and in 1861 was made chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee. In the Trent AffairTrent Affair,
incident in the diplomatic relations between the United States and Great Britain, which occurred during the American Civil War. On Nov. 8, 1861, the British mail packet Trent, carrying James M.
..... Click the link for more information. he favored the release of the captured Confederate commissioners. Sumner highly approved Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation; indeed he had been impatient at the long delay. Sumner in the Senate and Thaddeus StevensStevens, Thaddeus,
1792–1868, U.S. Representative from Pennsylvania (1849–53, 1859–68), b. Danville, Vt. He taught in an academy at York, Pa., studied law, and was admitted to the bar in Maryland.
..... Click the link for more information. in the House led the radical Republicans in their ReconstructionReconstruction,
1865–77, in U.S. history, the period of readjustment following the Civil War. At the end of the Civil War, the defeated South was a ruined land. The physical destruction wrought by the invading Union forces was enormous, and the old social and economic
..... Click the link for more information. program for the South. He held that the Southern states had "committed suicide" by their secession and thus had lost any rights under the Constitution. Reconstruction he considered the function of Congress alone and he was most active in trying to secure the conviction of President Andrew Johnson on the impeachment charges. During the administration of Ulysses S. Grant, Sumner's excessive demands regarding Civil War claims against Great Britain hampered the administration's negotiations with that country. His relationship with Grant deteriorated further when Sumner denounced Grant's questionable scheme to annex Santo Domingo; this led to his removal (Mar., 1871) from the chairmanship of the committee on foreign relations. Humiliated, Sumner helped organize (1872) the short-lived Liberal Republican partyLiberal Republican party,
in U.S. history, organization formed in 1872 by Republicans discontented at the political corruption and the policies of President Grant's first administration. Other disaffected elements were drawn into the party.
..... Click the link for more information. . Sumner wrote and spoke widely, and there are two editions of his works (15 vol., 1870–83; 20 vol., 1900).
See E. L. Pierce, Memoir and Letters of Charles Sumner (4 vol., 1877–93); D. H. Donald, Charles Sumner and the Coming of the Civil War (1960, repr. 1970) and Charles Sumner and the Rights of Man (1970).
Born Jan. 6, 1811, in Boston, Mass.; died Mar. 11, 1874, in Washington, D.C. US political figure.
Sumner was educated as a lawyer. He joined the Free Soil Party, and in 1851 he was elected to the US Senate. In 1854 he joined the Republican Party. He was a strong opponent of slavery. During the Civil War he was chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and one of the organizers of the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War. He advocated a vigorous prosecution of the war and insisted on the eradication of slavery and the granting of civil rights to Negroes. He also favored severe punishment for slaveholders and the turning over of slaveholders’ lands to former slaves. After the war, Sumner fought consistently against racial discrimination.