Charles Sumner

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Sumner, Charles

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. Brooks, 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 Affair 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 Stevens in the House led the radical Republicans in their Reconstruction 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 party. 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).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Sumner, Charles


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.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Sumner, Charles

(1811–74) U.S. senator; born in Boston, Mass. An exceptional law student, he originally rejected a law practice and political career to become a lecturer at Harvard Law School and an editor of legal textbooks. Between 1835–37 he traveled in Europe. He emerged as a public figure when he denounced the Mexican War at an Independence Day speech in Boston in 1845 and he toured as a lyceum lecturer. He then entered the U.S. Senate through a coalition of Free Soilers and Democrats (Mass., 1851–54), later becoming the Republican senator (1854–74). He became an outspoken abolitionist and was physically assaulted by Representative Preston Brooks (S.C.) while sitting at his Senate desk (1856) and was left slightly crippled for life. He continued to advocate the emancipation of slaves, and as a Radical Republican after the Civil War, he pressed for imposing harsh terms on the former Confederate states and for the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson. He soon fell out with President Ulysses Grant's administration, but he remained a voice of moral integrity until his death.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
References in periodicals archive ?
Spooner's anarchistic fury is first seen in his 1864 letter to Charles Sumner, in which his anarchistic views are not made explicit.
To Radical Republican leaders such as Senator Charles Sumner and Representative Thaddeus Stevens, it seemed white residents of the South were treated with remarkable leniency.
Charles Sumner on the Senate floor can be explained by Mars being in retrograde, a time of heightened tension.)
Take the phrase "non absoluta decernendi ratio" (56), which the first translator, Charles Sumner, renders as "contingent decrees." John Carey, the second translator, verbosely retranslates the phrase as "making decrees in a non-absolute way" and our editors, most absurdly, as "non-absolute decreeing" (57).
Senator from Massachusetts Charles Sumner; Confederacy leader Jefferson Davis; transcendentalist essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson; author Nathaniel Hawthorne; U.S.
His letters were sent to US Senator Charles Sumner and presented to the US Senate, including Lincoln.
When Congress passed the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, a bill that allowed slavery to extend into the western territories by popular sovereignty, Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts seethed in outrage, fearful that Kansas would enter the Union as a slave state.
history, such as Samuel Morse, James Fenimore Cooper, Harriet Beecher Stowe and Charles Sumner, wander in and out of McCullough's tale as the decades unfold.
For example, an entry for March 6, 1862, addressing Lincoln's attempt to convince abolitionist Senator Charles Sumner to support a gradual, compensated emancipation scheme is followed by a sidebar titled "why compensated emancipation failed" (p.
At one point, for instance, Representative Charles Brooks almost killed Senator Charles Sumner in a cane assault, while other southern members of Congress stood by and even prevented interference.
The divide was so bitter that members of Congress carried weapons, and one representative, Preston Brooks notoriously brutalized Senator Charles Sumner with a cane, almost killing him.