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Biography of Charles Sumner


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CHARLES SUMNER, American statesman, was born at Boston, Massachusetts, January 6th, 1811. His father was a lawyer and for many years sheriff of the county. He was educated at Harvard College, where he graduated in 1830; studied law at the Cambridge Law School; was admitted to the bar in 1834, and entered upon a large practice; edited the "American Jurist"; published three volumes of Sumner's "Reports of the Circuit Court of the United States;" gave lectures at the Law School, but declined a proffered professorship; and from 1837 to 1840, visited England and the continent of Europe. On his return he edited "Vesey's Reports," in 20 volumes, and in 1845, made his debut in politics in a Fourth of July oration, on The True Grandeur of Nations - an oration against war and the war with Mexico, pronounced by Mr. Cobden the noblest contribution of any modern writer to the cause of peace.

Identifying himself with the Free-soil party, he was in 1850, chosen United States senator from Massachusetts, in place of Daniel Webster, where he opposed the Fugitive Slave Law, and declared "freedom national - slavery sectional." In 1856, he made a two days speech, on "the crime against Kansas," some of which was of a violent personal character, in consequence of which he was attacked in the Senate Chamber, May 22nd, and severely beaten by Preston S. Brooks and so severely injured that his labors were suspended for three years during which he visited Europe for repose and health. On his return home he was appointed chairman of the Committee of Foreign Relations, and about the end of 1862, was again elected a senator for six years, ending March 4th 1869, and re-elected in 1869, for the succeeding six years. At the close of the Civil War he advocated the reconstruction of the seceded states on the basis of impartial suffrage: During the war he was a confidential adviser of Mr. Lincoln, urged upon him the Proclamation of Emancipation, was the author of the Freedmen's Bureau Bill, continued to advocate the cause of republican liberty in opposition to President Johnson and his cabinet, and witnessed the triumph of the principles for which he so long and strenuously contended. He died March 11th, 1814.