Wacky things happen in political arenas all the time. Sometimes fights break out. Which isn’t really a huge surprise – I mean, think about it: Hundreds of powerful people, cooped up in one place for stretches of time, debating everything under the sun. Sometimes the topics are boring and full of minutia that no one can bring themselves to care about except maybe the one Representative whose district will reap the benefits. But, more often than not, the publicized cases of bickering and fighting don’t come to blows. Usually, people will shout and holler, and rail about why their views are more important and correct. But, on the odd occasion, legislative violence breaks out. Such was the case in the United States Senate in 1856 when Charles Sumner gave a “Crime Against Kansas” speech in relation to Bleeding Kansas. Two days after vilifying authors of the Kansas-Nebraska act, Stephen Douglas and Andrew Butler, Sumner was attacked on the floor of the Senate by Butler’s relative, fellow congressman Preston Brooks.
Brooks said, “Mr. Sumner, I have read your speech twice over carefully. It is a libel on South Carolina, and Mr. Butler, who is a relative of mine.” As Sumner began to stand up, Brooks began beating Sumner severely on the head with a thick gutta-percha cane with a gold head before he could reach his feet. Sumner was knocked down and trapped under the heavy desk (which was bolted to the floor), but Brooks continued to bash Sumner until he ripped the desk from the floor. By this time, Sumner was blinded by his own blood, and he staggered up the aisle and collapsed, lapsing into unconsciousness. Brooks continued to beat the motionless Sumner until he broke his cane, then quietly left the chamber.
After that, Sumner took quite some time to recover, not returning to the Senate for 3 years. He often suffered from headaches and nightmares.
Unfortunately, there’s no video footage of this beat-down. I can, however, present you with this video of pandemonium in the Ukrainian Parliament earlier today, brought on by an extension of the lease to Russia for use of a naval port. Check it out: