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faith of some believing soul years ago with some miserable sneer of yours, with some cynical and skeptical disparagement of God and of the man who is the utterance of God upon the earth. You taught the soul that was enthusiastic to be full of skepticisms and doubts. You wronged a woman years ago, and her life has gone out from your life, you cannot begin to tell where. You have repented of your sin. You have bowed yourself, it may be, in dust and ashes. You have entered upon a new life. You are pure to-day. But where is the skeptical soul? Where is the ruined woman whom you sent forth into the world out of the shadow of your sin years ago ? You cannot touch that life. You cannot reach it. You do not know where it is. No steps of yours, quickened with all your earnestness, can pursue it. No contrition of yours can draw back its consequences. Remorse cannot force the bullet back again into the gun from which it once has gone forth. It makes life awful to the man who has ever sinned, who has ever wronged and hurt another life because of this sin, because no sin ever was done that did not hurt another life. I know the mercy of our God, that while he has put us into each other's power to a fearful extent, he never will let any soul absolutely go to everlasting ruin for another's sin; and so I dare to see the love of God pursuing that lost soul where you cannot pursue it. But that does not for one moment lift the shadow from your heart, or cease to make you tremble when you think of how your sin has outgrown itself and is run. ning far, far away where you can never follow it.
Thank God the other thing is true as well. Thank God that when a man does a bit of service, however little it may be, of that, too, he can never trace the consequences. Thank God that that which in some better moment, in some nobler inspiration, you did ten years ago to make your brother's faith a little more strong, to let your shop boy confirm and not doubt the confidence in man which he had brought into his business, to establish the purity of a soul instead of staining it and shaking it, thank God, in this quick, electric atmosphere in which we live, that, too, runs forth.
PRESTON S. BROOKS
(1819–1857) He address in which Preston S. Brooks, of South Carolina, exS plained his motives for the assault on Senator Sumner is a
tal historical document rather than an oration, but its importance in its bearing on the history of the time is too great to allow its omission. It was delivered July 14th, 1856. Brooks, in the controversy of which this speech was a part, challenged Congressman Burlingame, of Massachusetts, who accepted and named for the duel a place near Niagara Falls. Brooks did not approve the location which he believed involved an unfair hazard for himself, and the duel never took place. According to biographers, who were his contempo raries, Burlingame's popularity was greatly increased by the affair.
THE ASSAULT ON SUMNER (Delivered in the House of Representatives, July 14th, 1856) Mr. Speaker :COME time since a Senator from Massachusetts allowed himself, s in an elaborately prepared speech, to offer a gross insult to
my State, and to a venerable friend, who is my State representative, and who was absent at the time.
Not content with that, he published to the world, and circulated extensively, this uncalled-for libel on my State and my blood. Whatever insults my State insults me. Her history and character have commanded my pious veneration; and in her defense I hope I shall always be prepared, humbly and modestly, to perform the duty of a son. I should have forfeited my own self-respect and perhaps the good opinion of my countrymen, if I had failed to resent such an injury by calling the offender in question to a personal account. It was a personal affair, and in taking redress into my own hands I meant no disrespect to the Senate of the United States or to this House. Nor, sir, did I design insult or disrespect to the State of Massachusetts. I was aware of the personal responsibilities I incurred, and was willing to meet them. I knew, too, that I was amenable to the laws of the country, which afford the same protection to all, whether they be members of Congress or private citizens. I did not, and do not now believe, that I could be properly punished, not only in a court of law, but here also, at the pleasure and discretion of the House. I did not then, and do not now, believe that the spirit of American freemen would tolerate slander in high places, and permit a Member of Congress to publish and circulate a libel on another, and then call upon either House to protect him against the personal responsibilities which he had thus incurred.
But if I had committed a breach of privilege, it was the privilege of the Senate, and not of this House, which was violated. I was answerable there, and not here. They had no right, as it seems to me, to prosecute me in these Halls, nor have you the right in law or under the Constitution, as I respectfully submit, to take jurisdiction over offenses committed against them. The Constitution does not justify them in making such a request, nor this House in granting it. If, unhappily, the day should ever come when sectional or party feeling should run so high as to control all other considerations of public duty or justice, how easy it will be to use such precedents for the excuse of arbitrary power, in either House, to expel Members of the min. ority who may have rendered themselves obnoxious to the prevailing spirit in the House to which they belong.
Matters may go smoothly enough when one House asks the other to punish a Member who is offensive to a majority of its own body; but how will it be when, upon a pretense of insulted dignity, demands are made of this House to expel a Member who happens to run counter to its party predilections, or other demands which it may not be so agreeable to grant? It could never have been designed by the Constitution of the United States to expose the two Houses to such temptations to collision, or to extend so far the discretionary power which was given to either House to punish its own Members for the violation of its rules and orders. Discretion has been said to be the law of the tyrant, and when exercised under the color of the law, and under the influence of party dictation, it may and will become a terrible and insufferable despotism.
This House, however, it would seem, from the unmistakable tendency of its proceedings, takes a different view from that which I deliberately entertain in common with many others.
So far as public interests or constitutional rights are involved, I have now exhausted my means of defense. I may, then, be allowed to take a more personal view of the question at issue. The further prosecution of this subject, in the shape it has now assumed, may not only involve my friends, but the House itself, in agitations which might be unhappy in their consequences to the country. If these consequences could be confined to myself individually, I think I am prepared and ready to meet them, here or elsewhere; and when I use this language I mean what I say. But others must not suffer for me. I have felt more on account of my two friends who have been implicated, than for myself, for they have proven that “there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.” I will not constrain gentlemen to assume a responsibility on my account, which, possibly, they would not assume on their own.
Sir, I cannot, on my own account, assume the responsibility, in the face of the American people, of commencing a line of conduct which in my heart of hearts I believe would result in subverting the foundations of this government and in drenching this hall in blood. No act of mine, on my personal account, shall inaugurate revolution; but when you, Mr. Speaker, return to your own home and hear the people of the great North - and they are a great people — speak of me as a bad man, you will do me the justice to say that a blow struck by me at this time would be followed by revolution - and this I know.
If I desired to kill the Senator, why did not I do it? You all admit that I had him in my power. Let me tell the Member from New Jersey that it was expressly to avoid taking life that I used an ordinary cane, presented to me by a friend in Baltimore, nearly three months before its application to the “bare head ” of the Massachusetts Senator. I went to work very delib. erately, as I am charged, -and this is admitted, -and speculated somewhat as to whether I should employ a horsewhip or a cow. hide; but, knowing that the Senator was my superior in strength, it occurred to me that he might wrest it from my hand, and then— for I never attempt anything I do not perform -I might have been compelled to do that which I would have regretted the balance of my natural life.
The question has been asked in certain newspapers, why I did not invite the Senator to personal combat in the mode usually adopted. Well, sir, as I desire the whole truth to be known about the matter, I will for once notice a newspaper article on the floor of the House, and answer here.
My answer is, that the Senator would not accept a message; and, having formed the unalterable determination to punish him, I believed that the offense of «sending a hostile message," superadded to the indictment for assault and battery, would subject me to legal penalties more severe than would be imposed for a simple assault and battery. That is my answer.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I have nearly finished what I intended to say. If my opponents, who have pursued me with unparalleled bitterness, are satisfied with the present condition of this affair, I am. I return my thanks to my friends, and especially to those who are from non-slave-owning States, who have magnanimously sustained me, and felt that it was a higher honor to themselves to be just in their judgment of a gentleman than to be a Mem. ber of Congress for life. In taking my leave, I feel that it is proper that I should say that I believe that some of the votes that have been cast against me have been extorted by an outside pressure at home, and that their votes do not express the feel. ings or opinions of the Members who gave them.
To such of these as have given their votes and made their speeches on the constitutional principles involved, and without indulging in personal vilification, I owe my respect. But, sir, they have written me down upon the history of the country as worthy of expulsion, and in no unkindness I must tell them that, for all future time, my self-respect requires that I shall pass them as strangers.
And now, Mr. Speaker, I announce to you and to this House, that I am no longer a Member of the Thirty-Fourth Congress.