One of the sharpest denunciations of the assault was made by Anson Burlingame, a Massachusetts Representative (afterwards United States Minister to China, and still later Chinese Minister to the United States). “I denounce it,” he said, “in the name of the Constitution it violates. I denounce it in the name of the sovereignty of Massachusetts, which was stricken down by the blow. I denounce it in the name of humanity. I denounce it in the name of civilization, which it outraged. I denounce it in the name of that fair-play which bullies and prize-fighters respect.” For this, after some efforts had been made by friends to bring about an amicable understanding, Brooks sent him also a challenge. Mr. Burlingame accepted the challenge, and his second designated the Clifton House in Canada as the rendezvous and rifles as weapons. Burlingame at once started on the journey; but Brooks declined to go, on the excuse that his life would not be safe on such a trip through the North.
Broadened into national significance by all these attendant circumstances, the Sumner assault became a leading event in the great slavery contest between the South and North. It might well rank as one of the episodes of the civil war then raging in Kansas, out of which it had in reality grown, and with which it was intertwined in motive, act, and comment. In result the incident was extremely damaging to the South, for it tended more than any single Border-Ruffian crime in Kansas to unite hesitating and wavering opinion in the North against the alarming flood of lawlessness and violence, which as a rule found its origin and its defense in the ranks of the pro-slavery party. Certainly no phase of the transaction was received by the North with such popular favor as some of the bolder avowals by Northern Representatives of their readiness to fight, and especially by Burlingame’s actual acceptance of the challenge of Brooks.
The shock of the attack, and the serious wounds received by Mr. Sumner, produced a spinal malady, from which he rallied with great difficulty, and only after severe medical treatment and years of enforced abstinence from work. As the constituents of Brooks sent him back to the House, so also the Legislature of Massachusetts, in January, 1857, with but few dissenting votes, reelected Sumner to a new senatorial term, beginning the 4th of March. He came to Washington and was sworn in, but within a few days sailed for Europe, and during the greater part of the long interim between that time and the succeeding Presidential campaign his seat in the Senate remained vacant.
It was on the 4th of June, 1860, that he again raised his voice in debate. Some changes had occurred: both Butler and Brooks were dead; the Senate was assembled in its new hall in the north wing of the Capitol extension. But in the main the personnel and the spirit of the pro-slavery party still confronted him. “Time has passed,” he said, “but the question remains.” A little