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Blog: Blood On The Senate Floor

 

In 1854, Kansas Homesteaders Fought Vigilantes For Their Land And Their Lives. Southern Land Barons, Eastern Bankers And Secret Societies Killed Settlers To Enter Kansas Into The Union As A Slave State. When A US Senator Accused The Democrats Of Orchestrating The Murder Campaign, A Pro-Slavery Congressman Left Him Lying On The Floor Of The Senate In A Pool Of His Own Blood.

 

Eugene Stovall, Oakland, California

January, 2021

 

 

Northern Reconciliation To Slavery

 

By 1850. the trickle of Negro fugitives escaping the horrors of Southern slavery had turned into a flood. Negro fugitives saddled Northern cities with homelessness, poverty and crime. Members of the Anti-Slavery Society funded an underground railroad that rounded up fugitive slaves and transported them directly to refugee camps operated by the Quakers in Canada. The American Colonization Society rounded up Negroes, fugitive and free, and transported them to America’s Liberian colony on the west coast of Africa. However, the emigration of Negroes to Canada and Liberia did not meet the needs of the majority of white people who wanted the Negro problem settled once and for all.

 

In 1850, Congress passed a law that reconciled the North to the South’s peculiar institution of slavery. Known as the Fugitive Slave Act, the law required the federal government to catch and return all fugitive slaves to the South. The slave law established slave courts where citizens were required to report the presence of fugitive slaves and assist in their capture.

 

Negroes, whether slave or free, had no rights in federal slave courts. Slave court judges prohibited Negroes from testifying on their own behalf and on the behalf of any other Negro. Only a white person could testify in a slave court. Slave court judges received ten dollars for every fugitive they returned to the South, but received nothing for a Negro set free. The federal government provided slave ships and federal troops to transport fugitives from Northern cities to Southern slave markets in St. Louis, New Orleans and South Carolina.

 

Missouri Compromise

 

After 1850, Americans were no longer divided over the issue of slavery or race. However, another issue remained to be settled. Since 1829, the slave-holding land barons and eastern bankers controlled the Democratic party, the federal government and thousands of acres of land. The Louisiana purchase doubled the US territorial possessions and whites appropriated even more land through the Indian removal

Act.  In 1845, the US waged a war of aggression against Mexico and expropriated even more land, the crown jewel of which was California with its vast fertile valleys and incredible mineral wealth. Having seized more land than all of Europe, there should have been enough for everyone. But such was not the case. The Europeans who invaded

America’s shores were greedy, ruthless and mad for power. And the pro-slavery Democrats who had already amassed unimaginable wealth were not satisfied. They wanted it all and were willing to kill, not just Blacks, native Americans and Mexicans, but other whites for it. Thus, remained a brooding disagreement between geographically-polarized white supremacists over who would rule America’s empire.

 

In 1820, Congress passed a joint statehood bill known as the Missouri Act admitting Missouri into the union as a slave state while admitting Maine into the union as a free state. The joint statehood bill provided that, with the exception of Missouri, slavery would be banned in all states north of the Mason-Dixon line. In September, 1850, the Missouri Compromise caused California, the richest territory in America, to enter the union as a free, nonslavery state. The loss of California so enraged the land barons, eastern bankers and secret societies that they vowed never suffer another such loss.


Kansas-Nebraska Act

In 1854, Congress worked to admit Kansas and Nebraska into the union. The admission of new states gave the land barons the opportunity to nullify the Missouri Compromise by letting settlers decide whether the new state would be slave or free.

 

Slave-holders sent hordes of bushwhacking vigilantes into Kansas to drive out free-state homesteaders and prevent settlers from forming free-state communities. At first, the vigilantes targeted defenseless European immigrants, but soon anyone not sound on the goose was attacked.

 

As the violence in Bleeding Kansas intensified, the homesteaders like John Brown and his sons who settled on the Pottawatomie began fighting back. But when Lawrence became the center of Kansas’ anti-slavery, repudiation movement, the pro-slavery Democrats decided to crush all pro-slavery resistance. Caleb Cushing, the Attorney General of the United States, and Jefferson Davis, the Secretary of War, both pro-slavery Democrats and members of the secret societies that wielded absolute power over the US government, decided to settle the issue of Kansas, once and for all. The US Attorney General and the Secretary of War ordered the bushwhacking vigilante, William Quantrill, to invade Lawrence and crush the free-state movement. Quantrill’s vigilantes attacked Lawrence, looted and murdered the homesteaders and burned the town. The raiders even scalped their victims and displayed their trophies all over the South. Afterwards congratulating themselves for crushing the Kansas free state movement, the Democrats prepared to admit Kansas into the union as a slave state.

Charles Sumner, the junior senator from Massachusetts, enters a description of Quantrill’s atrocities into the Congressional Record and horrifies Americans. Vigilantes are not only massacring Indians but white people as well. Sumner’s discussion of the Lawrence atrocities enrages Democratic lawmakers. Accusing Jefferson Davis and Caleb Cushing for the Lawrence raid humiliates the Democrats who consider themselves, gentlemen. The Democrats demand satisfaction for Sumner’s insult on Southern honor.

A Bloody Attack In The Senate: A Novel Excerpt

Pro-slavery Democrats are livid over the depiction of themselves as murderers of women and children and the takers of scalps as trophies. The image of southern gentlemen in the public eye as vicious thugs and bushwhacking vigilantes is a blow to Southern pride.

 

“Senator Sumner’s insult to our honor demands satisfaction,” Democratic lawmakers howl. Hubris prevented them from imagining anyone in Washington daring to hold them to account; pride prevents them from acknowledging that the Lawrence raid was a serious miscalculation; greed demands that they pursue their ambitions. Sumner’s accusation in the Congressional Record compels them to commit an even graver outrage.

 

****

Springtime is Washington’s most beautiful season. Cherry blossoms fall from their trees and the capitol city on the Chesapeake basks in the glow of a warm sun. But as his carriage makes its way up Washington’s Pennsylvania Avenue, the spring weather does little to lighten the mood of Preston Brooks, the Democratic congressman from South Carolina. A grimace masks Brooks’ face as the Democratic fire eater contemplates his mission to avenge Southern honor. “The scurrilous charge of our murdering white women and children will be answered in the manner it deserves,” he vows.

 

At the steps of the Capitol Building, Congressman Brooks grasps his heavy, metal-tipped cane and leaps from the carriage. Looking neither right nor left, the fire eating member of South Carolina’s foremost slaveholding family dashes up the Capitol’s granite steps, strides to the Senate chambers and pushes through the heavy wainscoted doors.

 

The Senate is in recess, but the senate chamber hums with activity. Some senators mill about, engaging colleagues in discussions; others sit at desks, reviewing senate bills and attending to correspondence. Congressman Brooks gazes over the chamber until spies Senator Lawrence Keitt, the junior senator from South Carolina and Brook’s distant cousin. The South Carolina lawmakers nod to each flashing the hand gestures symbolizing their membership in a secret society that is ‘sound on the goose.’

 

Senator Keitt leads Congressman Brooks to the desk of Charles Sumner where the Massachusetts senator hunches over a mountain of correspondence. Hovering menacingly and without ceremony, Preston Brooks shouts: “I have read your speech ‘Crime Against Kansas’ twice, sir,”

 

Looking up in surprise, Sumner wonders that a lawmaker would commit such a breach of protocol. Senate rules forbid intruding upon the privacy of a senator seated at his desk. But ignoring the rules, Preston Brooks continues his harangue. “You have libeled South Carolina and the good name of my uncle, Judge Fielding Butler.”

 

Charles Sumner turns from his correspondence to get a better view of the intruder, but the fire eater gives the Massachusetts senator neither an opportunity to reply nor space to face him. Instead Brooks raises his heavy metal-tipped cane and, with all his might, strikes Charles Sumner a vicious blow across his forehead. The force of the blow lifts the surprised senator half out of his seat, before he collapses, unconscious, onto the senate floor with a four-inch gash in his forehead gushing blood.

 

The suddenness and viciousness of Brooks’ attack shocks the senate into a hushed silence. But the South Carolina congressman is not yet satisfied. Taking a position above the senator’s prostrate body, the pro-slavery Democrat begins beating Sumner with blows so severe that Brook’s cane finally shatters on Sumner’s blood-soaked back.

 

While Preston Brooks canes Charles Sumner, Lawrence Keitt wields his own cane, threatening any senator daring to interfere. Finally, Senator John Crittenden of Kentucky pushes Keitt aside and seizes Preston Brooks, before he can inflict any further injury on the stricken senator. Senator Crittenden was the uncle of Lieutenant William Crittenden who pro-slavery Democrats sent to Cuba to be executed so Francis Pickens, the governor of South Carolina, could wed Lieutenant Crittenden’s fiancé, Lucy Holcombe.

 

After the assault, Charles Sumner lingers between life and death for three months. Even after his condition stabilizes, Sumner remains bedridden for a year and three years pass before Charles Sumner resumes his seat in the US Senate. But the assault on the senator backfires on the Democrats with unintended and disastrous consequences. Irish, Jews, Catholics, Protestants, newly arrived Europeans, northern farmers all realize the seriousness of the pro-slavery Democratic Party’s threat to their freedom. The lords of the lash and the lords of the land do not intend to share America’s bounty with anyone. The land barons want absolute control of all America’s wealth. But Europeans will not accept being treated like Negroes, Mexicans or native Americans. They are white and will fight for their rights.  The raid on Lawrence and the attack on Sumner that greedy of southern landowners, eastern bankers and secret societies intended would cow their free-state opponents into submission not only backfired, it aroused settlers, homesteaders and northern industrialists take up the South’s challenge resolve the issue of whether Kansas would be admitted into the union as a free or slave state with violence.

 

Kansas erupts. Northerners who willingly supported the fugitive slave law flock into the Kansas territory to fight for land ownership and homestead rights. Pro-slavery Democrats are defeated in battle and bleeding Kansas is admitted into the union as a free state. But free-staters continue their vigilance girding themselves to fight an even bloodier civil war in order to break the control of the land barons, bankers and secret societies on the government and America’s wealth.

 

 If You Forget History, The Mistakes Will Be Repeated

 

Generations of fake news reports, craven historians and media propagandists continually lied about how the confederacy lost the civil war. Yet the overwhelming number of memorials and voluminous amounts literature extolling the virtues of southern treachery and the power the South has retained over the government tells a different story. The fact that the failed overthrow of the United States government ended with the assassination of the US president and the occupation of the White House by a confederate sympathizer and that all former confederate leaders, though somewhat chastened, retained their positions of power as well as their land holdings should convince a critical thinker that the South retained control over their states as well as the federal government. The same greedy white supremacists responsible for the civil war continued to exert such influence in the pursuit of empire that less than forty years later, the US engaged in another war of aggression against Spain to seize land in Cuba and the Philippines.

 

The ease with which oligarchs, bankers, Wall Street and secret societies have controlled political parties and put racist imperialists into the White House is a legacy of America’s lawlessness. American oligarchs have always operated outside all legal restraint. Devoid of moral compunction or social responsibility, America’s oligarchs have never shrunk from any foul or barbaric deed in pursuit of wealth and power. The supported the oligarchs who stripped revolutionary war veterans of their land and possessions, murdered WWI Army veterans demanding their bonuses and incarcerated American citizens during WWII so as to steal their land and possessions. From Shays Rebellion to the Bonus Army to regime change throughout the Middle East, the wealthy have trampled on the poor, the workers and the minorities and forced them to fight and die in their wars of aggression in their barbarous accumulation of wealth.

 

When Kansas homesteader John Brown fought to defend his family, his land and his civil rights, Robert E. Lee hung him. When Robert E. Lee, whose family owned thousands of acres of land, led a rebellion against the United States government that cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans, the government pardoned Lee and returned his land and possessions. John Brown was hung for defending the rights of ordinary citizens because he broke the law. The law did not apply to Robert E. Lee who was pardoned so that the land barons, eastern bankers and secret societies could pursue their evil designs.

 

John Brown's body lies a-moldering in the grave
John Brown's body lies a-moldering in the grave
John Brown's body lies a-moldering in the grave
But his soul goes marching on

 

The stars above in Heaven are looking kindly down
The stars above in Heaven are looking kindly down
The stars above in Heaven are looking kindly down
On the grave of old John Brown

 

Glory, Glory, Hallelujah
Glory, Glory, Hallelujah
Glory, Glory, Hallelujah
His soul goes marching on