Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Brown Bag on the Caning of U.S. Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts and the coming of Civil War

Join us for a Brown Bag Lunch
On Thursday, June 19th, 2014
State Library of Massachusetts
Room 442, State House
12 until 1:30 PM

Bring your lunch and hear Boston-area author and historian Stephen Puleo (The Caning, Dark Tide, A City So Grand, The Boston Italians) talk about one of the most dramatic and provocative events in American history, which was the "no-turning-back" incident leading to the Civil War.  On May 22, 1856, Charles Sumner, anti-slavery United States Senator from Massachusetts, was beaten severely in the Senate Chamber by ardent pro-slavery South Carolina Congressman Preston Brooks. It was a retaliatory attack  forty-eight hours earlier, Sumner had concluded a speech, during which he vilified Southern slave-owners for violence occurring in Kansas, and personally insulted Brooks's second cousin, South Carolina Senator Andrew Butler.  Brooks not only shattered his cane during the Sumner beating, but also destroyed any pretense of civility between North and South.  The caning convinced each side that the gulf between them was unbridgeable and that they could no longer discuss their vast differences of opinion regarding slavery on any reasonable level.  This transformative event had an enormous impact on events that followed over the next four years  the meteoric rise of the Republican Party and Abraham Lincoln, the Dred Scott decision, the increasing militancy of abolitionists. As a result of the caning, the country was pushed, inexorably and unstoppably, to war.

To register, please visit:  You may also call the Reference Department at 617-727-2590 or send an e-mail to to let us know you will attend.