The beating nearly killed Sumner and it drew a sharply polarized response from the American public on the subject of the expansion of slavery in the United States. It has been considered symbolic of the "breakdown of reasoned discourse"  that eventually led to the American Civil War. The long speech argued for the immediate admission of Kansas as a free state and went on to denounce the " Slave Power "—the political arm of the slave owners:. Not in any common lust for power did this uncommon tragedy have its origin.
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The Caning of Charles Sumner, or the Brooks–Sumner Affair, occurred on May 22, , in the United States Senate when Representative Preston Brooks. Caning is a form of corporal punishment consisting of a number of hits with a single cane usually made of rattan, generally applied to the offender's bare or.
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A signal, violent event in the history of the United States Congress, the caning of Charles Sumner on the Senate floor embodied the complex North-South cultural divide of the mid-nineteenth century. Williamjames Hull Hoffer's vivid account of the brutal act demonstrates just how far the sections had drifted apart and explains why the coming war was so difficult to avoid. Sumner, a noted abolitionist and gifted speaker, was seated at his Senate desk on May 22, , when Democratic Congressman Preston S. Brooks approached, pulled out a gutta-percha walking stick, and struck him on the head. Brooks continued to beat the stunned Sumner, forcing him to the ground and repeatedly striking him even as the cane shattered.