“This damn fool Sumner is going to get himself shot by some other damn fool.” – Sen. Stephen Douglas

Today in History, May 22, 1856:

Years before the Civil War. On May 20, 1856 US Senator Charles Sumner, a free soil Democrat and later Republican from Massachussetts, had given a firey speech entitled “Crime Against Kansas” about the violence in that state over slavery.

A devout abolitionist, he excoriated the south, in particular Senator Andrew Butler of South Carolina, who he likened to a pimp abusing a prostitute (slavery).

This enraged Butler’s nephew, Senator Preston Brooks. When Sen. Stephen Douglas heard the speech, he commented, “this damn fool Sumner is going to get himself shot by some other damn fool.”

On the 22nd, Brooks entered the Senate chamber with two other Southern Senators, found Sumner at his desk writing and proceeded to bludgeon him nearly to death with his heavy metal tipped cane while Sumner was trapped within his desk, defenseless.

Southerners hailed Brooks a hero.

Northerners called him a coward. One of these, Republican Representative Anson Burlingame called him such on the House floor.

Brooks challenged Burlingame to a duel. When Burlingame actually accepted and showed up, Brooks did not.

Sumner would suffer debilitating pain for the rest of his life from his injuries, but would recover to become a key proponent of abolitionist policies during reconstruction, living until 1872.

Brooks on the other hand died in January 1857, less than a year after the attack, of the croup.

Women’s Army Corps

Today in History, May 15, 1942:

President Franklin Roosevelt signs a bill passed the previous day creating the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps.

The bill had been put forward by Massachusetts Representative Edith Nourse Rogers in mid-1941, who had seen women volunteer in the first World War…on their own dime and without compensation or benefits. The bill lingered until after the attack on Pearl Harbor, when it was taken more seriously.

The many women who served as WACS and WAVES (Navy) during WWII were paid and received benefits, although not as much as the men. It would be decades before they received pensions.

Their service was to be in non-combat roles…secretarial, air traffic control, ferrying aircraft, and hundreds of other positions.

While the inclusion of the hundreds of thousands of women in the military was a huge step forward for a nation which had only given women the vote two decades before, it was still repleat with gender bias. Women could not command men.

The move also was born of necessity, rather than revolutionary thinking. It had the full support of the Army’s commanding General, George C. Marshall, who testified before Comgress on behalf of the legislation.

Marshall expected the “Two-Ocean War” to quickly overwhelm the nation’s ability to provide “manpower”. He believed women already trained in administrative jobs would be more efficient and effective than men.

While the women served in “non-combat” roles as operators, etc, you can’t serve in a combat zone without the risks of combat. WACS were killed in action. One source indicated 16.

Veto Override

Today in History, March 3: 1845 – Congress overrides a Presidential Veto for the first time. Representative Jabez Huntington of Connecticut had authored a bill restricting the President from authorizing the building of ships for the Revenue Marine Service (precursor to the Coast Guard) unless the Congress had approved the funds first. President John Tyler, in an attempt to protect current contracts and Presidential prerogative, promptly vetoed the bill. On March 3rd, the last day of the 28th Congressional session, the Senate voted to override the veto unanimously, and the House voted 126-31 after midnight to override. Presidents have vetoed over 2,500 bills, with Congress overriding less than 5% of them.

Senate Bombing…Not as Rare as You’d Think


Today in History, November 7: 1983 – A bombing in the US Senate. 

The Senate was expected to be in session late, but managed to finish early, around 7 PM. A few hours later a bomb which had been placed beneath a bench outside the Republican cloakroom exploded. The device blew the doors off of the office of Democrat leader Robert Byrd and nearly destroyed the painting of Senate legend Daniel Webster. 

A five year investigation led to the arrest of six members of the “resistance conspiracy” for the Senate bombing, and bombings at Ft. McNair and the historic Washington Navy Yard. 

Shocking, but not as unusual as one might think. 

In 1971 a bomb was set off in the Senate by the “weather underground”, another radical group. 

In 1915, a German Harvard University professor planted 3 sticks of dynamite in the Senate building in protest of American financiers who we assisting Great Britain in WWI.  He then attempted to assassinate JP Morgan. After being arrested, he committed suicide. 

Senate Bombing…Not as Rare as You’d Think


Today in History, November 7: 1983 – A bombing in the US Senate. 

The Senate was expected to be in session late, but managed to finish early, around 7 PM. A few hours later a bomb which had been placed beneath a bench outside the Republican cloakroom exploded. The device blew the doors off of the office of Democrat leader Robert Byrd and nearly destroyed the painting of Senate legend Daniel Webster. 

A five year investigation led to the arrest of six members of the “resistance conspiracy” for the Senate bombing, and bombings at Ft. McNair and the historic Washington Navy Yard. 

Shocking, but not as unusual as one might think. 

In 1971 a bomb was set off in the Senate by the “weather underground”, another radical group. 

In 1915, a German Harvard University professor planted 3 sticks of dynamite in the Senate building in protest of American financiers who we assisting Great Britain in WWI.  He then attempted to assassinate JP Morgan. After being arrested, he committed suicide. 

Senate Bombing…Not as Rare as You’d Think


Today in History, November 7: 1983 – A bombing in the US Senate. 

The Senate was expected to be in session late, but managed to finish early, around 7 PM. A few hours later a bomb which had been placed beneath a bench outside the Republican cloakroom exploded. The device blew the doors off of the office of Democrat leader Robert Byrd and nearly destroyed the painting of Senate legend Daniel Webster. 

A five year investigation led to the arrest of six members of the “resistance conspiracy” for the Senate bombing, and bombings at Ft. McNair and the historic Washington Navy Yard. 

Shocking, but not as unusual as one might think. 

In 1971 a bomb was set off in the Senate by the “weather underground”, another radical group. 

In 1915, a German Harvard University professor planted 3 sticks of dynamite in the Senate building in protest of American financiers who we assisting Great Britain in WWI.  He then attempted to assassinate JP Morgan. After being arrested, he committed suicide. 

“Damn Fools” in the Senate


Today in History, May 22: 1856 – Remember when politics used to involve honorable statesmen, not like the politicians we see today? If you do, then standby…its an illusion. On May 20, 1856 US Senator Charles Sumner, a free soil Democrat and later Republican from Massachussetts, had given a firey speech entitled “Crime Against Kansas” about the violence in that state over slavery. A devout abolitionist, he excoriated the south, in particular Senator Andrew Butler of South Carolina, who he likened to a pimp abusing a prostitute (slavery). This enraged Butler’s nephew, Senator Preston Brooks. When Sen. Stephen Douglas heard the speech, he commented, “this damn fool Sumner is going to get himself shot by some other damn fool.” On the 22nd, Brooks entered the Senate chamber with two other Southern Senators, found Sumner at his desk writing and proceeded to bludgeon him nearly to death with his heavy metal tipped cane while Sumner was trapped within his desk, defenseless. Southerners hailed Brooks a hero, Northerners called him a coward. One of these, Republican Representative Anson Burlingame called him such on the House floor. Brooks challenged Burlingame to a duel. When Burlingame actually accepted and showed up, Brooks did not. Sumner would suffer debilitating pain for the rest of his life from his injuries, but would recover to become a key proponent of abolitionist policies during reconstruction, living until 1872. Brooks on the other hand died in January 1857, less than a year after the attack, of the croup.

This was not the first incident of violence in Congress, and would not be the last. 

A First in History

10348458_10202357307972827_7106192061614048799_n

Today in History, February 25: 1870 – On a strict party line vote (we’ve heard that a lot lately) of 48 Republicans for and 8 Democrats against, Methodist minister Hiram Rhodes of Mississippi is confirmed as the first African-American US Senator, the first African-American member of Congress. Rhodes had been a minister, had helped raise the first two black regiments to fight in the Civil War, had been a veteran of the Battle of Vicksburg in Mississippi. Ironically he had served in Lincolnton, North Carolina as a barber with his brother, and served in a seminary in UNION county, Indiana. Democrats had attempted to use the 1857 Dredd Scott decision, A ridiculous Supreme Court decision that decided black people were not citizens, as a basis for preventing Rhodes from attaining the Senate seat.

“Where Else Would We Find Him?”

Today in History, February 21: 1848 – “Where else would we find him?” Former President, former Secretary of State, Former US Senator from Massachusetts, current Representative to the House John Quincy Adams, collapses after suffering a stroke while vehemently stating his opinion on the House floor. Adams had, by most reports, been a mediocre President. However he had authored the Monroe Doctrine telling European nations that America was in charge of police actions in the Western Hemisphere; he had served as the Ambassador to the Court of St. James (England); had negotiated the ceding of Florida to the US from Spain; had acted as the attorney for the slaves in the Amistad Trial; stated his vehement abolitionist views, and served 17 years in the House after his Presidency…because that’s what a servant to the people was supposed to do. His contemporaries were not surprised that he would die while serving the people. He was carried to the office of the Speaker of the House, where he would die two days later. What an example!