Charles Sumner

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Charles Sumner was an antislavery activist in Massachusetts during the nineteenth century. He was a powerful orator with strong anti-slavery sympathies who served in the United States Senate as a leader of the Radical Republicans during the American Civil War. He was a professionally qualified lawyer who advocated for a variety of issues, including prison reform, world peace, and educational reforms, as well as supporting the anti-slavery movement. Charles was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of a liberal lawyer who advocated for racially mixed schools and felt that everyone, regardless of race, should have equal rights. Sumner obtained a strong education and went on to Harvard Law School, where he earned a degree. On a trip to Europe, he noticed that, unlike in America, blacks and whites coexisted in an integrated society. When he returned to his homeland, he was inspired to become an abolitionist. He entered politics and rose to become the Senate’s anti-slavery leader. During the Civil War, he advocated for the legal abolition of slavery, and during Reconstruction, he sponsored the bill that became the Civil Rights Act of 1875 (after his death).

Childhood and Adolescence

Charles Sumner was born on January 6, 1811, in Boston, Massachusetts, to Charles Pinckney Sumner and his wife. His father was a Harvard-educated liberal lawyer who was an abolitionist and an early supporter of racially mixed schools. His was a middle-class household.

He attended Boston Latin School, where he met Robert Charles Winthrop, James Freeman Clarke, and Samuel Francis Smith, all of whom would go on to become well-known men in their own right.
He attended Harvard College after finishing high school, graduating in 1830, and then to Harvard Law School. In 1834, he was admitted to the bar.

Charles Sumner’s Career

He formed a partnership with George Stillman Hillard and began practicing law together. From 1836 through 1837, he lectured at Harvard Law School.
In 1837, Sumner visited Europe and began learning French in Paris. He noticed that black people interacted easily with whites in Europe, and this openness helped him realize how widespread racism was in the United States.

In 1840, he went to the United States and resumed lecturing, editing court reports, and contributing to law journals at Harvard Law School.

In 1845, during the Mexican–American War, he ventured into the political realm. He gave an Independence Day oration in Boston on “The True Grandeur of Nations,” condemning the use of force to settle international issues and advocating for arbitration instead. His superb delivery earned him a reputation as a sought-after public speaker.

In 1851, he was elected to the United States Senate from Massachusetts by a Democratic-Free-Soil combination in the Massachusetts legislature. In 1852, he gave his first big speech, “Freedom National; Slavery Sectional,” in which he denounced the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act.

In the Senate, he became a leader of the anti-slavery movement. In 1856, when Kansas was debating slavery, he delivered a two-day oration called “The Crime Against Kansas,” in which he severely attacked Southern support for slavery expansion.

Sumner expressly opposed the Kansas–Nebraska Act and verbally assaulted its writers, Democratic Senators Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois and Andrew Butler of South Carolina, in a speech that enraged Butler’s cousin, Representative Preston Brooks, who decided to “punish” him. On May 22, 1856, he and a handful of his cronies beat up Sumner with a cane, repeatedly beating him in the head and other places of the body.

Sumner’s caning stunned the public, and he was hailed as a hero in the South for upholding Southern honor. Despite his survival, Charles Sumner had suffered significant head injuries and had to spend months recovering. Even though he was unable to continue his duties, he was re-elected to his constituency in November 1856. It was thought that his vacant seat in the Senate chamber served as a potent symbol of free speech and resistance to slavery.

Sumner traveled to various nations on the recommendation of his doctor, including France, Germany, and Scotland. He was compelled to stop working for a few years due to the trauma he sustained as a result of his attack.

In 1859, Sumner was re-elected to the Senate. From March 1861 to March 1871, he was the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He had developed friendships with famous Englishmen such as Richard Cobden, John Bright, and William Ewart Gladstone throughout his travels in Europe, which had helped him gain a comprehensive understanding of international events and so benefitted him significantly in this job.

During the American Civil War, he advocated for slave freedom and brought the Thirteenth Amendment into the Senate in 1864. Following the war, he backed the Radical Republicans’ objectives and fiercely condemned President Johnson’s Reconstruction programs, becoming an early and vocal supporter of his impeachment.

He was a staunch supporter of black civil rights to the end of his life. He was a co-author and introducer of the bill that became the Civil Rights Act of 1875 months after his death. It was the final piece of civil rights legislation for 82 years until the Civil Rights Act of 1957 was passed.

Sumner’s Major Projects

Charles Sumner was the leader of Massachusetts’ antislavery forces and a prominent advocate for African-American civil rights. He was a great orator who delivered a number of controversial speeches, notably the “Crime Against Kansas” address in 1856 during the Bleeding Kansas issue.

Working with John Mercer Langston, a renowned African American who established the law school at Howard University, he co-authored the Civil Rights Act of 1875, which was eventually passed. Sumner began working on the Act in the early 1870s, but he did not live to see it passed.

Personal History and Legacy

In 1866, he married Alice Mason Hooper, Massachusetts Representative Samuel Hooper’s widowed daughter-in-law. The marriage was miserable, and in 1873, they divorced.
On March 11, 1874, Charles Sumner died of a heart attack at his home in Washington, D.C.

Charles Sumner High School in St. Louis, Missouri, Charles Sumner Elementary School in Roslindale, Massachusetts, and the Charles Sumner School and Museum in Washington are among the educational institutions named after him.

Estimated Net worth

Charles Sumner is one of the wealthiest politicians in the world. Charles Sumner is also included in the list of notable persons born on January 6th and the wealthiest celebrities born in the United States. According to Forbes, IMDb, Wikipedia, and other internet sources, Charles Sumner’s net worth is around $1.5 million.