Sunday, March 28, 2010
In 1856, during the Bleeding Kansas crisis when "border ruffians" approached Lawrence, Kansas. Charles Sumner, a Republican Senator from Massachusetts, denounced the Kansas-Nebraska Act in his "Crime Against Kansas" speech on May 19th and 20th. Sumner attacked the authors of the act, Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois and Andrew Butler of South Carolina, and compared Butler to Don Quixote and Douglas to Sancho Panza.
Sumner said Douglas was a "noisome, squat, and nameless animal ... not a proper model for an American senator." He also portrayed Butler as having taken "a mistress who, though ugly to others, is always lovely to him; though polluted in the sight of the world, is chaste in his sight --- I mean, the harlot, Slavery." Sumner's three-hour oration later became personally insulting as he mocked the 59 year old Butler's manner of speech and physical mannerisms, which were impaired by a stroke.
Two days later, on the afternoon of May 22nd, Preston Brooks, a Democratic congressman from South Carolina and Butler's relative, confronted Sumner as he sat writing at his desk in the almost empty Senate chamber. Brooks was accompanied by Lawrence M. Keitt also of South Carolina and Henry A. Edmundson of Virginia.
Brooks said, "Mr. Sumner, I have read your speech twice over carefully. It is a libel on South Carolina, and Mr. Butler, who is a relative of mine." As Sumner began to stand up, Brooks began beating Sumner on the head with a thick gutta-percha cane with a gold head before he could reach his feet. Summer was knocked down and trapped under the heavy desk that was bolted to the floor, but Brooks continued to bash Sumner until he ripped the desk from the floor. By this time, Sumner was blinded by his own blood, and he staggered up the aisle and collapsed, lapsing into unconsciousness. Brooks continued to beat Sumner until he broke his cane, then quietly left the chamber. Several other Senators tried to help Sumner, but were prevented by Keitt who was holding a pistol and shouting, "Let them be!"
The recent behavior of our elected officials in Washington, DC brings to mind this dastardly act. While this behavior certainly isn't new (Please see Norman Ornstein's article "Foul mouths in Congress? Big [expletive] deal") for a list of Congressional bad deeds.
The actions of this Congress started with the "you lie" shout by Representative Joe Wilson (R, SC) during the State of the Union Address and continued with the "baby killer" outburst by Representative Randy Neugebauer (R, TX). We can add to the roll the apparent lack of vocabulary on the part of public officials. Vice President Joe Biden cursed over an open mike when congratulating President Obama. Let's not forget the bad manners that President Obama displayed during the State visit of Israeli President Netanyahu. Since when is good diplomacy defined by the President of the United States refusing to have his picture taken with a visiting Head of State or leaving a diner in Netanyahu's name.
Disrespectful manners among our nation's leaders seem be the only bipartisan effort underway in DC. It is fine for Republicans to trash Democrats it is business as usual political rhetoric, but when Democrats ravage Republicans it is bad behavior. The same holds true for the Democrats.
Both parties set a horrible example for young people with their lack of respect and bad language. The actions are childish and unworthy of our nation's leaders. However I guess it could be worse, they could be using gutta-percha canes.
Thursday, March 25, 2010
I got a call this morning from a re-enactor in North Carolina about pictures that I had taken at the Bentonville, NC battlefield. He told me to check out the photos of the Harper House and said that there were some strange blurs on two of the images that were not present on the others.