He said at the outset that if he had been present he should have demanded a retraction or modification, and none being made, he should not have submitted to the speech; but he declined to say what mode of redress he should have resorted to. He should at least, he said, have assumed all the consequences, even if ending in blood and violence; and if they so ended, Sumner
should be prepared to repent in sackcloth and ashes.
What this language meant is not clear; but it looks like mere bravado, as Butler
had done nothing but talk loosely two years before when Sumner
had said far more about him and South Carolina
than in the recent speech.
He, as well as other Southern senators and representatives, showing the want of the chivalric sensibility which they were in the habit of asserting for themselves, belittled Sumner
's wounds, and pretended to believe that he was ‘shamming’.1
He spoke of Sumner
freely as ‘criminal aggressor,’ ‘calumniator,’ ‘rhetorical fabricator,’ ‘charlatan,’ ‘degenerate son of Massachusetts
;’ compared him to Thersites
, ‘deserving what that brawler received from the hands of the gallant Ulysses
;’ assumed that by maintaining intercourse with Sumner
at the first he had given him a currency far beyond what he would otherwise have had, and approved Brooks
's entire conduct.
the speech was a curious jumble of rambling talk, and justified all Sumner
had said of his looseness, extra vagance, and inaccuracy of speech.
, taking the floor at once,2
's assumptions of social superiority, particularly the claim that he had given Sumner
social position, calling it ‘a piny-wood doctrine,—a plantation idea’ but the strength of his speech was a vindication of his colleague by a list of apt quotations from Butler
's speeches at different times, with dates and pages of the official record, showing how continually he had been the aggressor; how early, even before Sumner
had said a word on slavery in the Senate, Butler
had begun to apply to him offensive epithets, and the language aggravated by the manner in which it was uttered.
's speech he said:—
The senator complains that the speech was printed before it was delivered.
Here, again, is his accustomed inaccuracy.
It is true that it was in the printer's hands, and was mainly in type; but it received additions and