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This Day In Founding Fathers History – 22 May
On this day in 1807, in the Hall of the Virginia House of Delegates in Richmond Virginia, the treason trail of “Aaron Burr opened in Richmond. On the bench sat Chief Justice Marshall and Virginia District Judge Cyrus Griffin. Surrounding Burr was his team of defense lawyers including Edmund Randolph, John Wickham, Benjamin Botts, Charles Lee, and Luther Martin, a former Maryland delegate to the Constitutional Convention often called the ‘Thersites of the law.’ (In addition, Burr himself would play a major role in the trial, cross-examining most of the prosecution’s witnesses himself.) The cast for the prosecution included George Hay, Caesar Rodney, William Wirt, and Alexander McCrae.” On September 1, the jury found Burr not guilty. 1
In 1856 on this day, violence erupted in Congress when Representative Preston Brooks of South Carolina entered the Senate chamber and beat Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts with a cane. Sumner was an antislavery Republican and gave a speech called “Crime Against Kansas,” discussing the issue of Kansas’s admittance into the Union. He accused Democratic senators Stephen Douglas of Illinois and Andrew Butler of South Carolina as “principal culprits in the crime.” Butler was not present but his fellow South Carolinian, Preston Brooks, was. Brooks took a cane, such as the ones used “to discipline unruly dogs,” and once the Senate adjourned for the day, Brooks entered the chamber and found Sumner. Without warning, Brooks slammed the metal-topped cane onto Sumner’s head, striking him repeatedly. As Sumner, bloody and unconscious from the beating, was carried from the chamber, Brooks calmly exited without being detained. He survived a House censure resolution, resigned, and was immediately reelected. He died shortly thereafter at the age of 37. Sumner, however, made a slow recovery and then resumed his seat in the Senate, serving for another 18 years. 2
1 “The Treason Trial of Aaron Burr,” law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/burr/burraccount.html
2 “The Caning of Senator Charles Sumner,” United States Senate, www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/minute/The_Caning_of_Senator _Charles_Sumner.htm