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[493]

Keitt answered from his seat, ‘That is false.’ Burlingame continued: ‘I will not bandy epithets with the gentleman. I am responsible for my own language. Doubtless he is responsible for his.’ Keitt answered, ‘I am.’ Burlingame said, ‘I shall stand by mine,’ and then went on:—

One blow was enough; but it did not satiate the wrath of that spirit which had pursued him through two days. Again and again, quicker and faster, fell the leaden blows, until he was torn away from his victim, when the senator from Massachusetts fell in the arms of his friends, and his blood ran down on the Senate floor. Sir, the act was brief, and my comments on it shall be brief also. I denounce it in the name of the Constitution it violated. I denounce it in the name of the sovereignty of Massachusetts, which was stricken down by the blow. I denounce it in the name of humanity. I denounce it in the name of civilization, which it outraged. I denounce it in the name of that fair play which bullies and prize-fighters respect. What! strike a man when he is pinioned,—when he cannot respond to a blow! Call you that chivalry? In what code of honor did you get your authority for that?

He ended thus:—

Sir, if we are pushed too long and too far, there are men from the old Commonwealth of Massachusetts who will not shrink from a defence of freedom of speech and the honored State they represent, on any field where they may be assailed.

Brooks called Burlingame to account for this language, according to the duellist's code of honor. In an interview between the friends of the parties Burlingame distinguished between Brooks and his act, confining his denunciation to the act itself; and on the basis of this nice distinction it was supposed a combat would be avoided. The arrangement encountered public criticism; and Burlingame withdrew from it in a card, taking his position again upon his speech. Brooks at once sent him a challenge. It was promptly accepted, and Burlingame's friend selected the Clifton House, Canada, as the place of meeting, with the rifle as the weapon. Brooks, prudent as always in exposing himself, declined to go to Canada, for the alleged reason that he would not be safe from popular violence during the journey through the free States.1 The affair thus ended. Though Burlingame's constituents were by conviction and tradition against the duel, he did not under the circumstances lose their confidence.2

1 Wilson's ‘Rise and Fall,’ vol. II. pp. 491, 492; New York Tribune, July 28, 1856.

2 Sumner deeply regretted that Burlingame, by accepting a challenge, recognized the duel as a proper resort in personal difficulties.

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