The New Student's Reference Work/Sumner, Charles


Sum′ner, Charles, an American statesman, was born at Boston, Mass., Jan. 6, 1811. He studied at Harvard and adopted the profession of law. He edited The American Jurist and three volumes of law-decisions, chiefly those of Judge Story, and lectured in the law-school at Harvard. He carried his law-studies farther in Europe at the Sorbonne, and spent two or three years in travel, receiving marked attention when in England. His appearance in politics dates from July 4, 1845, when he delivered his oration on The True Grandeur of Nations, which denounced the use of war to decide national questions and attracted general attention both in America and Europe. He succeeded Daniel Webster in the senate of the United States in 1850, and retained his position through successive re-elections until his death. He helped to form the Free Soil party, and stood almost alone in the senate at that time in his opposition to slavery. His strong, uncompromising attacks upon slavery were bitterly resented by the south. This hostile feeling resulted in an attack upon Sumner while sitting at his desk in the senate-chamber, from the effects of which he suffered for nearly four years. His speech on The Barbarism of Slavery, delivered in June, 1860, was occasioned by the struggle over the admission of Kansas as a free state. As chairman of the committee on foreign relations, in March, 1861, he argued against the seizure of the Confederate commissioners in the Trent affair, and made a powerful speech on Our Foreign Relations and one on Our Claims against England. He was selected in April, 1865, to deliver the eulogy on Lincoln. His opposition to the treaty with Santo Domingo in 1869, brought him into difficulty with President Grant, and ended in his supporting Greeley for the presidency in 1872. Among has last important measures were the introducing of the civil-rights bill and of the resolution to remove the names of battles of the Civil War from the colors of the army. His publications are made up of his public addresses, and fill 15 volumes, prepared for the press partly by himself and partly by Longfellow, his literary executor. Consult Memoirs and Letters by Pierce and Life by Lester. He died at Washington, D. C., March 11, 1874.