Last modified on November 12, 2021, at 03:21

Charles Sumner

Charles Sumner
Former U.S. Senator from Massachusetts
From: April 25, 1851 – March 11, 1874
Predecessor Robert Rantoul, Jr.
Successor William B. Washburn
Party Whig (1840 – 1848)
Free Soil (1848 – 1854)
Republican (1854 – 1870)
Liberal Republican (1870 – 1872)
Republican (1872 – 1874)
Spouse(s) Alice Hooper
Religion Unitarian

Charles Sumner (January 6, 1811 – March 11, 1874) was a Republican U.S. Senator from Massachusetts who sought to end slavery; he was the Senate leader of the Radical Republican faction during the American Civil War and Reconstruction, where he fought to suppress Confederate nationalism and sought to promote the equality of the Freedmen (the freed slaves). A founder of the Republican Party, Sumner served Massachusetts in the U.S. Senate for 23 years. He broke with President Ulysses Grant in 1871 and supported the Liberal Republican Party in 1872; Grant retaliated by having the Senate strip away his powerful chairmanship of the Foreign Relations Committee.

His strident stand against slavery and insulting language drove Congressman Preston Brooks of South Carolina to fly into a rage and violently beat Sumner with the head of his cane, as Sumner sat at his desk on the floor of the U.S. Senate.[1] Sumner did not recover for three more years, when he retook his seat on the Senate.[2] The beating is the subject of a famous political cartoon by John Magee subtitled: Southern Chivalry: Argument vs Clubs?

Sumner once declared:[3]

Familiarity with that great story of redemption, when God raised up the slave-born Moses to deliver His chosen people from bondage, and with that sublimer story where our Saviour died a cruel death that all men, without distinction of race, might be saved, makes slavery impossible. ...
There is no reason for renouncing Christianity, or for surrendering to the false religions; nor do I doubt that Christianity will yet prevail over the earth as the waters cover the sea.

Sumner was among the supporters of a proposed constitutional amendment that would edit the Preamble so that it would explicitly say that the United States is a Christian nation.

Sumner's conception of Christianity, however, was not orthodox. He was a Unitarian who denied the divinity of Jesus Christ.[4]

He helped create the short-lived Liberal Republican Party.[5][6]

See also