previous next
[455] bear these things in mind, and remember hereafter that the bowie-knife and bludgeon are not proper emblems of senatorial debate. Let him remember that the swagger of Bob Acres and the ferocity of the Malay cannot add dignity to this body. The senator infused into his speech the venom sweltering for months,—ay, for years; and he has alleged matters entirely without foundation, in order to heap upon me some personal obloquy. I will not descend to things which dropped so naturally from his tongue. I only brand them to his face as false. I say also to that senator—and I wish him to bear it in mind—that no person with the upright form of man can be allowed— [hesitation].

Mr. Douglas.—‘Say it.’

Mr. Sumner.—‘I will say it. No person with the upright form of man can be allowed, without violation of all decency, to switch out from his tongue the perpetual stench of offensive personality. Sir, that is not a proper weapon of debate, at least on this floor. The noisome, squat, and nameless animal to which I now refer is not the proper model for an American senator. Will the senator from Illinois take notice?’

Mr. Douglas.—‘I will, and therefore will not imitate you, sir.’

Mr. Sumner.—‘I did not hear the senator.’

Mr. Douglas.—‘I said, if that be the case I would certainly never imitate you in that capacity, recognizing the force of the illustration.’

Mr. Sumner.—‘ Mr. President, again the senator switches his tongue, and again he fills the Senate with its offensive odor. I pass from the senator from Illinois.

There was still another—the senator from Virginia—who is now also in my eye. That senator said nothing of argument, and therefore there is nothing of that for response. I simply say to him that hard words are not argument. frowns are not reasons, nor do scowls belong to the proper arsenal of parliamentary debate. The senator has not forgotten that on a former occasion I did something to exhibit the plantation manners which he displays. I will not do any more now.

In all this Sumner was no aggressor. He had from first entering the Senate, as a Washington journalist politically unfriendly admitted, observed uniformly, even in the treatment of the slavery question, parliamentary law as well as the requirements of courtesy and good breeding in his personal intercourse.1 It will be recalled how during his first session he bore without retort or notice the epithets applied to him at the time of his speech against the Fugitive Slave Act,—for which he had not given the slightest provocation. It was his fixed purpose when he came to that body to discuss laws, policies, and institutions fully and fearlessly indeed, yet without

1 National Intelligencer, Oct. 5, 1854. Banks said at Waltham, Sept. 6, 1856, that Sumner ‘had never spoken a harsh or unfeeling word to his fellow-man in his life.’ Boston ‘Telegraph,’ Sept. 6, 1856.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Illinois (Illinois, United States) (2)
Waltham (Massachusetts, United States) (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Charles Sumner (5)
Douglas (3)
Nathaniel P. Banks (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
September 6th, 1856 AD (2)
October 5th, 1854 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: