Sen. Stephen Douglas had been excoriated by Sen. Charles Sumner of Massachusetts. Sen. Douglas let it slide confiding to a confidant,
“This damn fool is going get himself shot by some other damn fool.”
Not long after that comment Sen. Sumner lit out after Sen. Andrew Butler of South Carolina over issues touching on slavery. Sumner also excoriated Butler as he had Douglas previously but this time Sumner dropped innuendos about Butler’s taking delight in black slave female flesh in the boudoir.
The damn fool Sumner, contra Douglas’ prediction, wasn’t shot, but he did discover the Southern concept of “honor.”
Sen. Butler, being a gentleman, would not descend to defend his own honor against Sen. Sumner, however, unfortunately for Sumner, Sen. Butler had kin in political Washington D.C. Sen. Butler’s cousin, Preston Brooks was a US Congressman representing a district in South Carolina.
Brooks, hearing of how his cousin had been slandered on the floor of the US Senate, originally desired to challenge Sen. Sumner to a duel but was talked out of that decision by fellow South Carolina Congressman Laurence Keit upon the basis that dueling was only for gentlemen and Sumner was no gentlemen and as such it would denigrate Brooks’ honor by challenging such human refuse as Sumner to a duel.
So, on May 22 Brooks, having his back covered by Rep. Keitt who was wielding a brace of pistols to ward off the other Senators who tried to come to Sumner’s defense, gave Sumner the beating he was worthy of. With the caning Brooks was communicating that Sumner was nothing more than a cur dog that has to be shown its place when it snarls at the wrong person.
Immediately after the beating Congressman Brooks resigned his seat as a matter of honor and then stood in the special election to fill his resigned seat. Preston Brooks was overwhelmingly re-elected by the people of his district in August and then again elected when his seat came up again in the natural election cycle for that seat three months later.
The South had communicated, by its electoral stamp of approval on Brooks, that the South was done with the slander and libel of the abolitionist types like Sumner. The South, by voting for Brooks, metaphorically communicated that they only wished that they could have been there with Brooks beating the shite out of Sumner.
Two years later Preston Brooks died unexpectedly from the croup. His funeral fell on a day that was remarked upon for how foul the weather was. Thousands attended both the memorial service and funeral despite the weather.
And Congressman Brooks pistelero accomplice, Congressman Keitt?
Congressman Laurence Keitt also resigned his seat in Congress after being censured by the Congress for his covering Brooks back with pistols while Brooks was beating Sumner silly. Keitt, likewise stood for re-election of the seat he resigned and was resoundingly re-elected by the South Carolinians of his district. Keitt served in Congress until South Carolina seceded. Two years subsequent to his role with Brooks in caning Sumner, Keitt unsuccessfully tried to choke a Yankee Congressman from Pennsylvania for insulting him in the Well of the US Congress.
Keitt, upon leaving the US Congress served for two years in the Provisional Confederate Congress, whereupon he joined the Confederate military force and rose to the rank of Colonel commanding the 20th South Carolina infantry regiment and later the well known “Kershaw’s Brigade,” after Kershaw as promoted to the next level. Keitt was wounded at Cold Harbor on 01 June 1864 and three days later in the Southern Capital succumbed to his battle wounds.