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[255]

LVI.

But the most significant and instructive incidents and utterances remain to be noted. Much of what has already been adduced might be safely referred to passion, wounded feeling and inflamed hatred. The language of Slidell, Douglas, Toombs and Brooks, was evidently spoken in hot blood, and the votes of Mr. Brooks's constituents were cast in obedience to feelings that had been roused to the highest pitch of embittered and vengeful indignation. No adequate conception of the state of public sentiment and feeling then existing can be found without reference to the cooler and more deliberate expressions of public men and presses outside of the narrow circle of the immediate actors in this tragedy of violence and blood. Unfortunately the evidence is far too conclusive to leave any doubt as to the anarchical sentiments that prevailed too generally at the South, and far too largely, indeed, at the North.

Referring to a meeting of Brooks's constituents, at which resolutions of approval were adopted, and a cane, with a brutal inscription, voted him, a paper published at the capital of the State remarked: ‘Meetings of approval and sanction will be held not only in Mr. Brooks's district, but throughout the State at large, and a general and hearty response of approval will re-echo the words “well done!” from Washington to the Rio Grande.’ The students and officers of the University of Virginia also voted him a cane, on which the leading Democratic organ of the South remarked approvingly: ‘The chivalry of the South, it seems, has been thoroughly aroused.’ The Richmond Examiner said: ‘Far from blaming Mr. Brooks, we are disposed to regard him as a conservative gentleman, seeking to restore its lost dignity to the Senate, * * * whose example should be followed by every Southern gentleman whose feelings are outraged by unprincipled Abolitionists.’ The Richmond Enquirer, some weeks after the assault, said: ‘In the main, the press of the South applaud the conduct of Mr. Brooks, without condition or limitation. Our approbation, at least, is entire and unreserved. * * * It was a proper act, done at the proper time and in the proper place.’

Nor were leading statesmen less explicit in their approval. Mr. Mason, in reply to an invitation to attend a public dinner in honor of Mr. Brooks, after referring to his ‘social and political intercourse’ with

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Preston S. Brooks (14)
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