previous next
[479] suggest questions for witnesses, did not attend. the committee took testimony on four successive days, taking Sumner's at his lodgings on the first day; and on Friday they agreed upon a report, with a preamble and resolutions, by a vote of the three Republicans, the two Southern members dissenting. The preamble adjudged Brooks guilty of an assault with most aggravated circumstances of violence, which was a breach of the privileges of the Senate, of the senator assailed, and of the House itself, in violation of the Constitution, which declares that senators and representatives ‘for any speech or debate in either house shall not be questioned in any other place;’ and also guilty of an act of ‘disorderly behavior’ punishable under the Constitution with expulsion by a two-thirds vote. The resolutions declared the expulsion of Brooks, and the censure of Keitt and Edmundson for the countenance they had given to his purpose. The minority insisted in their dissenting report that the act complained of, not being committed on a member of the house, or in the House during a session, the House had no jurisdiction; and they argued that the questioning for speeches and debates forbidden by the Constitution only protected against legal liability and proceedings, and did not extend to assaults punishable in the courts, and at the most must be limited to the delivery of speeches without protecting the publication. Further, they set up that Congress could not punish for a breach of privilege until it had defined the privilege in a law.1 Some weeks passed before the report was debated in the house.

The reserve which senators imposed on themselves on the day Wilson called their attention to the assault was not to last. On Tuesday, May 27, Slidell, Toombs, and Douglas made explanations called out by Sumner's testimony as to where he thought he saw them as he was recovering consciousness. He was mistaken in his impression that he saw, while he was prostrate, Douglas and Toombs standing on either side of Brooks, and their statements as to where they were and what they did were probably correct. The three senators, however, took occasion to add some comments. Slidell stated that being in the anteroom conversing with Douglas, Fitzpatrick of Alabama, and J.

1 Von Holst (vol. v. p. .324) says that the minority report, though having ‘on superficial examination the appearance of a calm and thorough constitutional investigation because richly interlarded with quotations,’ was, ‘when looked at more closely, a coarse tissue of sophistry.’

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.
Alabama (Alabama, 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.
Douglas (3)
Preston S. Brooks (3)
R. Toombs (2)
Charles Sumner (2)
Slidell (2)
Keitt (1)
Von Holst (1)
Fitzpatrick (1)
Edmundson (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.
May 27th (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: