Preston S. Brooks | History of SC Slide Collection

Preston S. Brooks

Born on his parents' plantation in Edgefield, Preston S. Brooks (1819-1857) was educated at the South Carolina College, from which he graduated in 1839. Prior to military service during the Mexican War, he practiced law and served in the state House of Representatives. After the war, he engaged in planting until 1852 when he was elected to the U.S. Congress. Brooks is best remembered for the Brooks-Sumner Affair (see "Southern Chivalry - Argument Versus Clubs"). In 1856, Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts, while discussing the Kansas-Nebraska Act, delivered a violent speech which denounced Brook's uncle, Senator A.P. Butler of South Carolina. Brooks was so enraged with Sumner that after two days of waiting for an apology, Brooks attacked Sumner as he sat in his desk in the Senate Chamber. Brooks struck Sumner over the head repeatedly with a cane until Sumner was unconscious on the floor. After delivering a speech in his own justification, Brooks resigned and was unanimously reelected by his district. The North fiercely denounced Brooks, while Southern states passed resolutions which approved of his conduct. He was also presented with a number of gold-headed canes. Brooks died in Washington in 1857 not long after these events.

Courtesy of the South Caroliniana Library.

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