Anonymous Charles Sumner
Medium Albumen carte-de-visite
Mount on original mount
Photo Date 1860c Print Date 1860c
Dimensions 0 x 0 in. (0 x 0 mm)
Photo Country United States (USA)
Photographer Country United States (USA)
Contact Alex Novak and Marthe Smith
About This Image
Written in ink on verso mount "Charles Sumner."
Charles Sumner (January 6, 1811 – March 11, 1874) was an American politician and senator from Massachusetts. An academic lawyer and a powerful orator, Sumner was the leader of the antislavery forces in Massachusetts and a leader of the Radical Republicans in the United States Senate during the American Civil War and Reconstruction, working to control the ex-Confederates and guarantee equal rights to the Freedmen.
Sumner changed his political party several times, gaining fame as a Republican. One of the most learned statesmen of the era, he specialized in foreign affairs, working closely with Abraham Lincoln to keep the British and the French from intervening on the side of the Confederacy during the Civil War. He devoted his enormous energies to the destruction of what he considered the Slave Power, that is the efforts of slave owners to take control of the federal government and ensure the survival and expansion of slavery.
In 1856, South Carolina Representative Preston Brooks nearly killed Sumner on the Senate floor for ridiculing his relative, Sen. Andrew Butler, as a pimp for slavery in his vitriolic denunciation of the "Crime against Kansas." After three years of medical treatment Sumner returned to the Senate as the war began. He became the chief Senate spokesman on foreign affairs, and a leader of the Radical Republicans who sought to destroy slavery and radically transform the South. As the chief Radical leader in the Senate during Reconstruction, 1865–1871, Sumner fought hard to provide equal civil and voting rights for the freedmen on the grounds that "consent of the governed" was a basic principle of American republicanism, and to block ex-Confederates from power so they would not reverse the North's victory in the Civil War. Sumner, teaming with House leader Thaddeus Stevens, defeated Andrew Johnson's reconstruction plans and imposed Radical views on the South. In 1871, however, he broke with President Ulysses Grant. Grant's Senate supporters then took away Sumner's power base, his committee chairmanship. Sumner concluded that Grant's corrupt despotism and the success of Reconstruction policies called for new national leadership. He opposed Grant's reelection by supporting the Liberal Republican candidate Horace Greeley in 1872 and lost his power inside the Republican party. Less than two years later, he died in office.
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