99 Facts About Charles Sumner


Charles Sumner was an American lawyer and statesman who represented Massachusetts in the United States Senate from 1851 until 1874.


An influential orator, Sumner was the leader of the anti-slavery forces in the state and a leader of the Radical Republicans during the American Civil War.


Charles Sumner fell into a dispute with President Ulysses Grant, a fellow Republican, over the control of Santo Domingo, leading to the stripping of his power in the Senate and his subsequent effort opposing Grant's re-election.


Charles Sumner changed his political party several times as anti-slavery coalitions rose and fell in the 1830s and 1840s before coalescing in the 1850s as a member of the Republican Party.


Charles Sumner devoted significant effort to the destruction of perceived Slave Power and sought an end to Southern pro-slavery influence over the federal government.


The widely reported episode left Charles Sumner severely injured and both men famous.


Charles Sumner specialized in foreign affairs and worked closely with Lincoln to ensure that the British and the French refrained from intervening on the side of the Confederacy during the Civil War.


Charles Sumner, teaming with House leader Thaddeus Stevens, battled Andrew Johnson's reconstruction plans and sought to impose a Radical Republican program on the South.


In 1871, President Grant and his Secretary of State Hamilton Fish retaliated; through Grant's supporters in the Senate, Charles Sumner was deposed as head of the Foreign Relations Committee.


Charles Sumner had become convinced that Grant was a corrupt despot and that the success of Reconstruction policies called for new national leadership.


Charles Sumner bitterly opposed Grant's re-election by supporting the Liberal Republican candidate Horace Greeley in 1872 and lost his power inside the Republican Party.


Charles Sumner was controversial in his time; even the 1960 Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of Charles Sumner by David Herbert Donald described him as an arrogant egoist.


Charles Sumner was known for being an ineffective political leader in contrast to his more pragmatic colleague Henry Wilson.


Ultimately, Charles Sumner has been remembered positively, with biographer Donald noting his extensive contributions to anti-racism during the Reconstruction era.


Charles Sumner was born on Irving Street in Boston on January 6,1811.


Charles Sumner was the son of Charles Pinckney Sumner, a liberal Harvard-educated lawyer abolitionist and early proponent of racially integrated schools, who shocked 19th-century Boston by opposing anti-miscegenation laws, and was a second cousin of Edwin Vose Sumner.


Charles Sumner's father had been born in poverty and his mother, Relief Jacob, shared a similar background and worked as a seamstress prior to her marriage.


Charles Sumner's father practiced law and served as Clerk of the Massachusetts House of Representatives from 1806 to 1807 and again 1810 to 1811, but his legal practice was only moderately successful, and throughout Sumner's childhood, his family teetered on the edge of the middle class.


Charles Sumner's father hated slavery and told Charles Sumner that freeing the slaves would "do us no good" unless they were treated equally by society.


Charles Sumner was a close associate of William Ellery Channing, an influential Unitarian minister in Boston.


Charles Sumner attended the Boston Latin School, where he counted Robert Charles Winthrop, James Freeman Clarke, Samuel Francis Smith, and Wendell Phillips among his closest friends.


Charles Sumner attended Harvard College, where he lived in Hollis Hall and was a member of the Porcellian Club.


Charles Sumner contributed to the quarterly American Jurist and edited Story's court decisions as well as some law texts.


From 1836 to 1837, Charles Sumner lectured at Harvard Law School.


Charles Sumner joined other Americans who were studying medicine on morning rounds at the city's great hospitals.


In 1838, Charles Sumner visited Britain, where Lord Brougham declared that he "had never met with any man of Charles Sumner's age of such extensive legal knowledge and natural legal intellect".


In 1840, at the age of 29, Charles Sumner returned to Boston to practice law but devoted more time to lecturing at Harvard Law, editing court reports, and contributing to law journals, especially on historical and biographical themes.


Charles Sumner developed friendships with several prominent Bostonians, particularly Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, whose house he visited regularly in the 1840s.


Charles Sumner was elected a member of the American Antiquarian Society in 1843.


Charles Sumner served on the society's board of councilors from 1852 to 1853, and later in life served as the society's secretary of foreign correspondence from 1867 to 1874.


Charles Sumner's gestures were unconventional and individual, but vigorous and impressive.


That same year, Sumner represented the plaintiffs in Roberts v Boston, a case which challenged the legality of segregation.


Charles Sumner lost the case, but the Massachusetts legislature abolished school segregation in 1855.


Charles Sumner worked with Horace Mann to improve the system of public education in Massachusetts.


In 1847, Charles Sumner denounced a Boston Representative's vote for the declaration of war against Mexico with such vigor that he became a leader of the Conscience Whigs faction of the Massachusetts Whig Party.


Charles Sumner declined to accept their nomination for USRepresentative in 1848.


Charles Sumner became chairman of the Massachusetts Free Soil Party's executive committee, a position he used to continue advocating for abolition by attracting anti-slavery Whigs and Democrats into a coalition with the Free Soil movement.


The impasse was broken after three months and Charles Sumner was elected by a one-vote majority on April 24,1851, a victory he credited to Free Soil organizer and colleague Henry Wilson.


Charles Sumner's election marked a sharp break in Massachusetts politics, as his abolitionist politics contrasted sharply those of his most well-known predecessor in the seat, Daniel Webster, who had been one of the foremost supporters of the Compromise of 1850 and its Fugitive Slave Act.


Charles Sumner took his Senate seat in late 1851 as a Free Soil Democrat.


Charles Sumner later said that he intended to challenge Sumner to a duel, and consulted on dueling etiquette with fellow South Carolina Representative Laurence M Keitt, a pro-slavery Democrat.


Keitt told him that dueling was for gentlemen of equal social standing, and that Charles Sumner was no better than a drunkard, due to the supposedly coarse language he had used during his speech.


Brooks said that he concluded that since Charles Sumner was no gentleman, it would be more appropriate to beat him with his cane.


The episode revealed the polarization in America, as Charles Sumner became a martyr in the North and Brooks a hero in the South.


When Charles Sumner returned to the Senate in 1857, he was unable to last a day.


Charles Sumner sailed once more for Europe on May 22,1858, the second anniversary of Brooks' attack.


Charles Sumner chose to refuse anesthesia, which was thought to reduce the effectiveness of the procedure.


Charles Sumner spent the summer rallying the anti-slavery forces and opposing talk of compromise.


In May 1861, Charles Sumner counseled Lincoln to make emancipation the primary objective of the war.


Charles Sumner believed that military necessity would eventually force Lincoln's hand and that emancipation would give the Union higher moral standing, which would keep Britain from entering the Civil War on the side of the Confederacy.


In October 1861, at the Massachusetts Republican Convention in Worcester, Charles Sumner openly expressed his belief that the war's sole cause was slavery and the primary objective of the Union government was the end of slavery.


Charles Sumner argued that Lincoln could command the Union Army to emancipate slaves under color of martial law.


Secretary of State William Seward believed Mason and Slidell were contraband of war, but Charles Sumner believed that the men did not qualify as war contraband because they were unarmed.


Charles Sumner argued that their release with an apology by the United States government was appropriate.


On December 25,1861, at Lincoln's invitation, Charles Sumner addressed the cabinet.


Charles Sumner read letters from prominent British political figures including Richard Cobden, John Bright, William Ewart Gladstone, and the Duke of Argyll as evidence of political sentiment in Britain.


Charles Sumner joined his fellow Republicans in overriding President Johnson's vetoes and imposed some of their views, though Charles Sumner's most radical ideas were not implemented.


When Congress did open the vote to all loyal adult males in the South the following year, Charles Sumner was strongly supportive.


Charles Sumner objected to Lincoln's and later Andrew Johnson's more lenient Reconstruction policies as ungenerous to the former slaves, inadequate in their guarantees of equal rights, and an encroachment upon the powers of Congress.


Charles Sumner was a friend of Samuel Gridley Howe and a guiding force for the American Freedmen's Inquiry Commission, started in 1863.


Charles Sumner was one of the most prominent advocates for suffrage for blacks, along with free homesteads and free public schools.


Charles Sumner was largely excluded from work on the Thirteenth Amendment, in part because he did not get along with Illinois Senator Lyman Trumbull, who chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee and did much of the work on it.


Charles Sumner introduced an alternative amendment that combined the Thirteenth Amendment with elements of the Fourteenth Amendment.


Charles Sumner viewed segregation and slavery as two sides of the same coin.


Charles Sumner introduced a civil rights bill in 1872 to mandate equal accommodation in all public places and required suits brought under the bill to be argued in the federal courts.


The bill failed, but Charles Sumner revived it in the next Congress, and on his deathbed begged visitors to see that it did not fail.


Charles Sumner repeatedly tried to remove the word "white" from naturalization laws.


Charles Sumner introduced bills to that effect in 1868 and 1869, but neither came to a vote.


On July 2,1870, Charles Sumner moved to amend a pending bill in a way that would strike the word "white" wherever in all Congressional acts pertaining to naturalization of immigrants.


Charles Sumner co-authored the Civil Rights Act of 1875 with John Mercer Langston and introduced the bill in the Senate on May 13,1870.


Charles Sumner wanted to block British expansion from Canada, arguing that Alaska was geographically and financially strategic, especially for the Pacific Coast States.


Charles Sumner said Alaska would increase America's borders, spread republican institutions, and represent an act of friendship with Russia.


Charles Sumner was well regarded in the United Kingdom, but after the war he sacrificed his reputation in the UK by his stand on US claims for British breaches of neutrality.


Charles Sumner held that since Britain had accorded the rights of belligerents to the Confederacy, it was responsible for extending the duration of the war and consequent losses.


Charles Sumner demanded $2,000,000,000 for these "national claims" in addition to $125,000,000 for damages from the raiders.


Charles Sumner did not expect that Britain ever would or could pay this immense sum, but he suggested that Britain turn over Canada as payment.


Charles Sumner stated that he had only promised to give the treaty friendly consideration.


Charles Sumner, opposed to American imperialism in the Caribbean and fearful that annexation would lead to the conquest of the neighboring black republic of Haiti, became convinced that corruption lay behind the treaty, and that men close to the president shared in the corruption.


Charles Sumner had been leaked information from Assistant Secretary of State, Bancroft Davis, that US Naval ships were being used to protect Baez.


Charles Sumner's committee voted against annexation and at Charles Sumner's suggestion and quite possibly to save the party from an ugly fight or the president from embarrassment, the Senate held its debate of the treaty behind closed doors in executive session.


Charles Sumner stated that Grant's use of the US Navy as a protectorate was a violation of International law and unconstitutional.


Charles Sumner believed that the civil rights program he championed could not be carried through by a corrupt government.


Charles Sumner never saw his support for civil rights as hostile to the South.


The proposal was not new: Charles Sumner had offered a similar resolution on May 8,1862, and in 1865 he had proposed that no painting hanging in the Capitol portray scenes from the Civil War, because, as he saw it, keeping alive the memories of a war between a people was barbarous.


Charles Sumner's proposal did not affect the vast majority of battle-flags, as nearly all the regiments that fought had been state regiments, and these were not covered.


Charles Sumner's resolution had no chance of passing, but its presentation offended Union army veterans.


Charles Sumner succeeded early in 1874 with the help of abolitionist Joshua Bowen Smith, who happened to be serving in the legislature that year.


Charles Sumner was able to hear the rescinding resolution presented to the Senate on the last day he was there.


On November 17,1873, when located by a reporter, Charles Sumner stated his views in an interview on the Virginius Affair at a local library in Boston.


Charles Sumner believed that although the ship was flying a US flag, the mission of the ship was illegal.


Charles Sumner, who opposed the Cuban insurgent neutrality of the Grant Administration, believed that the United States needed to support the First Spanish Republic.


Long ailing, Charles Sumner died of a heart attack at his home in Washington, DC, on March 11,1874, aged 63, after serving nearly 23 years in the Senate.


Charles Sumner lay in state at the United States Capitol rotunda, the second senator and fourth person so honored.


Donald concludes that Charles Sumner was a coward who avoided confrontations with his many enemies, whom he routinely insulted in prepared speeches.


However, none of his friends at the time doubted his courage, and abolitionist Wendell Phillips, who knew Charles Sumner well, remembered that southerners in the 1850s in Washington wondered, every time Charles Sumner left his house in the morning, whether he would return to it alive.


Just before he died, Charles Sumner turned to his friend Ebenezer Rockwood Hoar.


Charles Sumner was a great man in his absolute fidelity to principle, his clear perception of what his country needed, his unflinching courage, his perfect sincerity, his persistent devotion to duty, his indifference to selfish considerations, his high scorn of anything petty or mean.


In 1866, Charles Sumner began courting Alice Mason Hooper, the widowed daughter-in-law of Massachusetts Representative Samuel Hooper, and the two were married that October.


Charles Sumner obtained an uncontested divorce on the grounds of desertion on May 10,1873.