This Day in History

May 19, 1856: Charles Sumner Crime Against Kansas Speech

Time Periods: Early 19th Century: 1800 - 1849
Themes: Democracy & Citizenship, Slavery and Resistance

Slavery shall not exist anywhere within the United States or the jurisdiction thereof; and the Congress shall have power to make all laws necessary and proper to carry this prohibition into effect.  — Senator Charles Sumner.

Sumner delivered the famous speech “Crime Against Kansas” on May 19 – 20, 1856 denouncing slavery and the need for Kansas to become a free state. Democrat Preston Brooks, nearly killed Sumner on the Senate floor two days after Sumner delivered an intensely anti-slavery speech.

Sumner was also outspoken for full recognition of Haiti, against the U.S.-Mexico War, for true reconstruction with land distribution, against school segregation, and more. When someone asked him whether he ever looked at the other side of the slavery question, he answered: “There is no other side.”

Charles Sumner Speech 1856

Preston Brooks’ 1856 attack on Sumner; the artist depicts the faceless assailant bludgeoning the learned martyr.