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The Caning: The Assault That Drove America to Civil War Hardcover – October 10, 2012
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The book not only focuses on the caning but also discusses Sumner's physical and mental suffering as a result of his injuries and his quest to regain his health.
In addition author Stephen Puleo points out the political ramifications of the beating. A great number of Northerners defended Sumner and the right to free speech as well as united together against slavery; while many Southerners sided with Brooks. They believed the beating was justified because Brooks was defending the southern way of life, particularly the owning of slaves as well as the honor of his cousin.
Other related issues discussed in the book include the Dred Scott decision by the U.S. Supreme Court.
I strongly recommend the book to anyone interested in the antebellum period.
We come to know Brooks and Sumner quite well, and Brooks is the more likable of the two. Sumner is such a rude, egotistical blowhard that he is hard to like, though his unyielding antislavery stance is admirable. A Senator from Massachusetts, Sumner gave a fiery speech in the Senate in May of 1856 in which he denigrated slavery, the South, and several individuals. Among those he castigated was Senator Andrew Butler of South Carolina, second cousin of Preston Brooks.
Brooks was a slave-owning congressman from South Carolina known for being a level-headed, good-natured gentleman. To defend his state and his relative, Brooks entered the Senate on May 22, 1856, after the daily session, and proceeded to savagely beat a defenseless Charles Sumner with a cane. Sumner was so severely injured that it would be three years before he was able to return to the Senate.
Puleo tells the tale and tells it well, successfully demonstrating how the caning further polarized an already divided North and South. But here Puleo takes the matter just a bit too far. He believes, as he states in his subtitle, that the caning was "The Assault That Drove America To Civil War." Of course, what caused the war AND the caning was slavery. But Puleo puts such emphasis on this one incident, that he even asks "Without the caning, would the Civil War have broken out?" The answer, he says, is "eventually, perhaps." Perhaps!Read more ›
But in "The Caning," author Stephen Puleo asserts that the caning of Charles Sumner, a senator from Massachusetts and staunch abolitionist, by Preston Brooks, a congressman from South Carolina and equally staunch supporter of slavery, was the one incident that made war unavoidable. Puleo states that the caning "destroyed any pretense of civility between North and South" and "hardened positions on both sides and convinced each that the gulf between them was unbridgeable."
Puleo offers brief biographical sketches of both Brooks and Sumner and recalls the path that both took to the caning. Sumner was someone whom we would describe today as a cold fish and simply a jerk--while his stand on abolition was certainly admirable, the author notes that he was exceptionally overbearing and moralistic in his desire to enlighten those who disagreed with him, and he was such a difficult person that his relationships even with his family were strained.
In some ways both Brooks and Sumner lived down to the worst, cartoonish stereotypes of their respective regions, but in the book's overall look at the personalities and characters of both men in their entirety the South Carolinian comes across as more likable.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Mr. Puleo points out that the caning of Charles Sumner was the issue that actually divided the US once and for all and put us on the path to what became, then, an inevitable Civil... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Mark from Cincy
Beautifully written work by Stephen Puleo's, an incredible writer who makes history come alive!Published 2 months ago by Cape Cod Deesie
I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the Civil War. As a Massachusetts native I am proud of the part our State's citizens played as abolitionists.Published 8 months ago by Kathryn A. Kenney
Well written. Tries a bit to hard to "sell" his premise that the caning was the major event that led to the war. Read morePublished 11 months ago by Amazon Customer
I'm a student of the politics of the American Civil War and managed to learn much from The Caning. Brooks's assault on Sumner changed the conversation, rather stopped it. Read morePublished 11 months ago by David W. Wilma
A terrifica book. Much history related. Glad to have read it and added it to my book collection.Published 13 months ago by James Ray
Slavery divided the nation and compromise was not working. Slavery had haunted the young American nation since its founding. Read morePublished 16 months ago by George J. Heidemark