tv Q A CSPAN June 21, 2015 11:00pm-11:59pm EDT
south where a sitting united states senator could be beaten to within an inch of his life on the floor of the chamber. brian: where did you get the spark? mr. puleo: it has been in my head for years. i have written five books and probably two with the caning in the back of my mind. this issue of how politically we were divided, the slavery debate, how vicious it had become. that sparked my interest. when i began to do the research, i found it fascinating. charles sumner and preston brooks. brian: what is the time period? mr. puleo: after the kansas-nebraska act. after the compromise of 1850. some contentious events. the fugitive slave law. preston brooks had two days earlier listened to a speech by charles sumner, not only has to getting the south and slavery, but personally insulting his second cousin from south carolina. brian: charles sumner was how old and from what state? mr. puleo: from massachusetts. 44 years old. probably the strongest most unwavering antislavery voice in america for 25 years. it was not william lloyd garrison or abraham lincoln, it was charles sumner. a radical antislavery voice. brian: how long had he been in the senate? mr. puleo: he comes in in 1851 in a contentious vote. they were not popularly elected, they were elected by the state legislature. he was considered a radical abolitionist. as a legislation is battling to
pick a senator, some of the leading candidates fall off and sumner emerges as a dark horse winner. brian: how old was preston brooks, when was he elected? mr. puleo: 37 years old. from south carolina. the most proslavery state at the time. the most proslavery district. a western district. a powerful, influential slave power from that area. he was elected around 1851 as well. around the same time. brian: you have a prologue, from may 19, 1856, you say, even the ladies gallery was filled to overflowing. what was it like?
mr. puleo: washington, d.c. at this time was very much pro-southern -- the abolitionist was hated by the south, despised by the south. when he gets the floor of the senate, the place is packed. there is a feeling of what will charles sumner said? it is packed. brian: how long was his speech? mr. puleo: five hours. it is called the crime against
kansas. one of the most famous in american history. kansas was the center of the slavery debate and sumner wanted to give a loud condemnation that was happening in kansas. in the process, he also delivers personal insults against preston brooks's cousin who is the senior senator. brian: will and the things that he saying? -- what kind of things did he say? mr. puleo: he was not even in the chamber. he had a stroke that left him partially paralyzed. sumner made fun of that and he said that he has a mistress who is ugly and polluted to most of us, but lovely and chaste in his eyes. the harlot slavery. he uses this. idea of slavery as a mistress. many of the northerners are also upset. preston brooks is the most outraged of all because it is his second cousin. brian: you characterize both preston brooks and charles sumner and about their person, what was sumner like as a person? mr. puleo: in history there are
many layers to people. sumner gets credit for being a strong antislavery voice. on the other hand he is not a likable guy. he is condescending, arrogant imperious, humorless. his friends are few and those friends he does have the not like to spend too much time with them. he is almost none with most of his siblings. a real tough guy. a guy that does not like to build alliances. brian: he has a twin? mr. puleo: he is a twin. his twin sister matilda. they have none of that bond that twins generally share. when she passes away, she dies very young. he does not grieve very much, at least he does not show his grief. that really factors into the story.
brian: the city of washington was not an attractive place. explain that about the mud in the streets and the dust. hogs being herded up and down the street or the capitol building and the dome is just under construction. you see that it is being refurbished now. the fugitive slave law, just a few years earlier had stopped the sale of slaves in washington but there certainly were still slaves in washington at the time. nothing like we see today. brian: what was preston brooks like? mr. puleo: another interesting guy in his own right. he starts his career as a moderate. some of his constituents felt he
was too moderate. northern congressman would look at preston brooks to broker some deals in the house because he was considered moderate to it is not until the kansas-nebraska act that brooks begins to change. he becomes a real fire eater, a pro-slavery advocate and almost a secessionist by late 1855. he makes this transformation from moderate to radical pro-slavery. brian: here is dick kaegel are, -- digg baker, who was the historian. >> you know who charles dickens was? it was said if he dropped his money back on this carpet, he would not use his glove to pick it up. i was not here and 1860 to imagine how dirty it was, but
i can imagine it was pretty dirty. think of all the arguments and events that led up to the civil war in this room. >> this was the room where the senate became the senate that we know today. when they first moved in here it was a rubberstamp for the house of representatives. not a lot of major ideas came out the senate, but in the early period, 1819-1920, the major issue became slavery. the great orators and thinkers
in the house of representatives decide the place for them to be is in the senate. this is the forge on which the union is devised. brian: in a reaction? -- any reaction? mr. puleo: i think it is very true. the misery compromise really changes things and some of the great senators come before them. daniel webster of massachusetts. henry clay of kentucky and these are the folks that forge those compromises on slavery, right up until the 1850's, when things explode. those are the powerful men in washington. not the president at that time. lincoln really redefines the power of the presidency. they hold the power and really keep the peace for that 45 year period. brian: the speech was on may 19,
1866. when was the caning? mr. puleo: may 22, 1956. brooks here's the speech and then makes his decision to avenge andrew butler's honor. there is some debate. some of his southern colleagues originally suggest that he challenge sumner to a duel, but there is a feeling that they should only occur between gentlemen. that is how gentlemen settle their differences. sumner does not rise to the level of the gentlemen. brooks himself says, why don't i invite him outside and we settle it man-to-man? they say no, he is too arrogant. he will never come to meet you. they rule that one out. so preston brooks decides that the way to do this is with a wooden cane and take it to sumner in the senate. mr. puleo: a goudapercha cane.
a little lighter than real hickory. very heavy. there are replicas of it preston books received hundreds of replicas. after the beating. brian: why did he have a cane? mr. puleo: he had a cane because he had been shot in a duel and used a cane for assistance. he didn't use it all the time but did often use it. it wouldn't be unusual to see him come into the chamber with the cane. brian: let's look at some video of the old senate chamber and people can walk around without the restrictions in the regular senate. do you know where charles sumner was sitting?
mr. puleo: sumner was sitting front left of the chamber. when brooks comes into the chamber, he comes into center doors, sits down and was looking directly at sumner. the problem is, sumner is not looking at him. he is signing copies of his speech for his constituents. he is totally oblivious. the senate is not in session. there are maybe 35 people hovering around the senate. some senators. some staff members, some members of the press. the sergeant at arms was there. brooks and his colleagues come in from the house and sit down with his cane. brooks says at the time -- he could not do what he came to do because there was a lady present
in the chamber, and southern code of honor would suggest that he could not enact violence while a lady was present. she was talking to the sergeant at arms for 10 minutes and then she leaves. brian: than what? mr. puleo: preston brooks gets up, walks down the center aisle with his cane, approaches sumner, sumner totally oblivious. head bowed, signing copies of speech. brooks reaches him, lifts his cane over his head and says, mr. sumner i have read your speech over twice, it is a libel to my state and my relative, sumner looks up at this point, brooks is blurred through his glasses because he is so close. he strikes sumner on the head. sumner's head explodes in blood almost instantly and preston brooks loses it. i don't know if it's the
bloodlust, the excitement of the moment, or what. but he begins to beat sumner over and over again. sumner tries to get up. his legs are pinned under the desk. he cannot move. finally, with one mighty lunch, -- lunge, he tears the desk from its moorings. brooks keeps beating him. one new york newspaperman attempts to intervene. brooks's colleague says, let them be. nobody else intervenes. brooks beats sumner into submission. he is unconscious in a pool of his blood. brooks's cane is shattered and finally he is holding the golden knob and lawrence keith grabs him by the arm and says, no more, do not kill him. he pulls him out of the chamber
and brooks and keat walk out. brian: how many times did he hit him? mr. puleo: about 30 times by brooks's own estimate. he said during the beating every strike went where i intended and at the end he was bellowing like a calf. he writes that in a letter to his brother. brooks is aware of what is happening during the beating. brian: where did you find the best account? mr. puleo: wonderful accounts. lots of great primary accounts. charles sumner wrote hundreds of letters and received hundreds. preston brooks writes as well and receives hundreds of letters as a result. in the hearings in the house there are expulsion hearings for preston brooks afterward. remarkable testimony on this event. brian: how long were the hearings? mr. puleo: about two weeks and brooks pens an eight page account of the event in his paper at the university of south carolina. the expulsion hearings are fascinating.
they deal not just with the beating but the big issue of slavery. sectionalism between north and south. during those hearings, the issues that come up, north and south, the gulf is very apparent. brian: at this time how many slave states and how many non-slave states? mr. puleo: there were 15 and 15 until california gets admitted to the union in 1849. it becomes 16 free and 15 slave. that is one of the reasons for the compromise of 1850. the south needed to be thrown a
bone of some sort. that balance of power had shifted. part of that compromise was the strict fugitive slave law which required northerners who encountered runaway slaves northern police department northern sheriff's, northern courts, to play a part in returning those slaves back to bondage. very different than what they had done in the past. usually when they escaped to the north, they were free. brian: how often did that happen that police departments would go after a slave and return them? mr. puleo: frequently. in the case of males between 18-25, the most valuable slave property for slave owners, worth $1800-$2000, most often those masters sent slave hunters to bring slaves back. you had situations in northern cities, boston was one, that returns a slave back to slavery in 1851. thomas sims.
it changes the dynamic completely. because they are such an influential community, it makes them much more militant and help slaves in a much more tangible way with money, alibis, hiding places, escape routes, you name it. this changes the dynamic. brian: did anybody have slaves in the north? mr. puleo: there were slaves in the north up until that 1810 timeframe when the slave trade basically is prohibited in the united states. most of the north at that point
had got rid of their slaves by that point. however, very important to note, and preston brooks notes it. the textile industry in the north, which made many people in the northeast, massachusetts, new york, rhode island -- the textile industry made many people very rich and the textile industry used cotton. cheap cotton picked by slaves. lots of talk by the south of the hypocrisy of the north on the issue of slavery. brian: so what physically happened to charles sumner after his beating? mr. puleo: charles sumner suffers brain trauma, spinal injuries, back injuries, severe neck injuries and i believe some form of posttraumatic stress syndrome at this point. he is trying to recover and convalesce for three years.
he can't get back to work. he tries going to the mountains, to the seashore to recover. he tries going to europe. while in europe, he undergoes excruciating treatments that a french surgeon claims he has developed to treat spinal injuries, which is using an open flame on the victims back and running up and down with an open flame to ease the pressure and your the back injuries -- cure the back injuries. he undergoes these burn treatments. terrible boils on his back in the humidity of paris. so terrible, terrible treatments that he undergoes to try to ease the pain. he is unable to do so. the couple of times he does try to get back to work, the closer
he gets to washington d.c., the worse it becomes. that is part of that post-traumatic stress. brian: you do say that during those years he comes back to the senate? mr. puleo: he comes back one time and is unable to finish the day. he doesn't get back until january of 1860. 3.5 years he is out. while he is out, many of his northern colleagues, many members of the antislavery republican party urge him not to rush back. why? because they say his vacant chair spoke even more eloquently than he did. they used his absence, his caning as a way to recruit members into the antislavery republican party and it works masterfully. thousands joined the republican party during the summer of 1856 after the beating.
brian: who is the president? mr. puleo: james buchanan in 1856 becomes president. he just beats john c fremont the first candidate that the republicans put up. and only because he loses a few northern states. he doesn't receive a single electoral vote in the south that he does lose a couple of northern states and that allows buchanan to get in, but the south seas that as a harbinger of the united north could elect a president of the united states
without a single southern electoral vote. that does happen in 1860 with a man named abraham lincoln. brian: there is no television or radio. i assume there is telegraph. mr. puleo: yes. brian: what kind of press did this issue get? how visible was it to the person in california, georgia or maine? mr. puleo: mentioning the telegraph is critical. invented just 12 years earlier and makes it possible for the caning to become a nationwide story almost instantly. there are about 3000 newspapers and almost everybody who can read reads one and all everybody gets their news from one. sometimes people would read them to each other or gather on the street corner. pertaining was front-page news almost instantly. it spreads like a brush fire or it very different reactions north and south. in the north, there is shock and outrage. even people who were not charles sumner fans and there were many who felt that sumner was too radical. even those folks believed this was a freedom of speech issue and that a man should be able to say what he wanted without being subjected to such a beating. even moderates had no place to go that to support sumner. in the south, the opposite
response. almost universal acclaim for brooks. he is lionized as a hero. he received hundreds of canes, many of which are inscribed with the words, hit him again. almost every southern newspaper supports brooks. there are a couple of exceptions and in those exceptions they take the tone of, brooks attacked a man who was defenseless. a sneak attack. that is a violation of the southern code of honor. the minimal criticism of brooks that there was revolved around that point. brian: where did you go in the process of writing the book and how long did it take? mr. puleo: i lived in the boston-area. most of charles sumner's papers were in boston.
the harvard library and the massachusetts public society. his birthplace is on beacon hill near the boston massachusetts statehouse. he is a harvard graduate. most of the research took place there. very privileged and very blessed to go to south carolina for the brooks portion of the research. i did go to edgefield, the western part of the state and visited the two homes that brooks owned. the homes are now privately owned. the site of his plantation in the courthouse where his will is that lists all of his assets including his 85 slaves. i feel like both of these characters represent their region in an important way.
sumner in massachusetts, a strong antislavery state. the research worked out well for that standpoint. brian: you say there was a fellow in south carolina who knows more about preston brooks than anybody alive. mr. puleo: he is the edgefield county historian. ironically, he attended harvard and then returned back to south carolina. he was so gracious and took me around and is also the owner of the best restaurant in edgefield. the edgefield town grill. i got to eat there as well. brian: is he known down there? mr. puleo: well-known. there is a big obelisk tower. in colombia at the university of south carolina, there is a plaque at the university holds was originally in a chapel on his plantation.
he is known. brian: go back to the age. charles sumner is 44-years-old. preston brooks? mr. puleo: 37-years-old. brian: what happened to preston brooks in his own political life? mr. puleo: he becomes a hero. if you use may 22, he becomes a hero and is uncomfortable with that. by the fall of 1856, he is uncomfortable being the face of slavery but he is an enormous hero.
right up until his untimely sudden death in january, 1857 he dies of a throat infection in washington, d.c. there is a huge funeral attended by the president, congressman and senators. then a remarkable thing happens. 26 men from edgefield, south carolina make their way to washington to bring preston brooks's body back to edgefield for burial. they bring it back by boat, they bring it back by stage, horse and along the way, hundreds of thousands lined the streets and towns across the south to pay homage to this funeral procession. preston brooks is as big in that seven or eight month period as john c. calhoun beforehand and as robert e. lee was afterward. he does not have the historic staying power of either one but in the moment he is a huge celebrity across the south.
brian: what happens to charles sumner? mr. puleo: he gets back in january 1860, bides his time for a bit and in june, delivers another major speech on the floor of the senate called the barbarism of slavery where he takes apart the institution of slavery. it is the last major antislavery speech in american history because there is not much in the summer of 1860. abraham lincoln is elected in november, the south secedes and the war occurs and a slavery is abolished. charles sumner delivers the last major antislavery speech in american history. after the war he becomes very active in reconstruction. he is a harsh reconstructionist. he is not from the lincoln school of charity to all.
the south probably hates him worse between 1866 and 1877 then they did prior. he is a harsh abolitionist. he does play a great role in the amendments. the 14th of which says that the children of slaves born here would become citizens, and the 15th amendment which gives black men the right to vote. brian: were either of these men married? mr. puleo: brooks was but was not married until 1866. a disastrous marriage that lasts less than a year. his wife humiliates him here in washington by dating other men seeing other men. sumner is aghast. his wife believes that he is too arrogant and loveless to have a relationship with so it becomes an issue almost right away. lots of talk afterward about him being humiliated in this way. brian: why did she marry him? mr. puleo: there was some
celebrity attached to sumner. he is very powerful and very well-known. at the root of it, it begins to unravel quickly. brian: what was she doing? mr. puleo: i don't remember. she was a socialite and sumner had this appeal. brian: what ever happened to andrew butler? mr. puleo: butler comes back to the senate for some time but not very long. he is ill and the stroke does take an impact on him so he later resigns and passes away shortly after.
brian: 21 years ago we did the lincoln debates and here is a moment in the jonesboro debate and the southern part of illinois. >> brooks, the man that had that difficulty with sumner on the floor of the united states senate was complemented by dinners and silver pictures, and gold headed canes and a good many other things for that deed performed by him. in one of the speeches he made about that time, he declared that nobody had expected slavery to exist to this day, but that we have grown wiser than were our fathers. brian: you mentioned that
abraham lincoln, elected in 1860, that was 1858, two years after the caning, how often did this come up? mr. puleo: every debate. lincoln makes that point in every single debate. his basic argument is, if the slave power, as they called, were as unreasonable as brooks then perhaps compromise would be difficult. it would be very, very tough to compromise on this issue. this is at a point in time when abraham lincoln was not an avowed abolitionist. he was opposed to the expansion of slavery, but at this point in 1858, he is not actively involved in the abolition of slavery. very important to note that.
but the brooks beating of sumner is part and parcel of his thinking and moving forward. brian: as you reference in your book, david herbert donald wrote a book about charles sumner, but is the first time a book written about preston brooks. a biography. mr. puleo: i think david donald's biography of sumner is still the standard. the first volume in 1960, the second in 1970. it is brilliant. brooks, for the most part, has been portrayed as a cliche. the assassin, the bully brooks the ruffian and nobody has done much on brooks the man as i tried to do in this book. it is a dual biography approach of sumner and brooks. i was excited to do it for that reason. brian: you did this in what year? mr. puleo: the writing of the book? brian: the publishing.
mr. puleo: the book comes out in 2012 in hardcover and 2013 in paperback. brian: do people pay attention to this today? mr. puleo: i receive many e-mails on this book, north and south. the book has gone over very well. it is used in school curricula. the response from both parties -- sometimes people say is the response from the north and the south much different? i would say, know it is pretty consistent. the reviews have been good. i think people appreciate the research. brian: what do you do full-time? mr. puleo: i do some writing teaching and speaking. that is my author life. i do public relations and communications and speech coaching. that kind of thing in the
corporate world is the other part of my life. brian: when did all start? mr. puleo: i was born in the boston area, just outside of boston. i worked in the newspaper business, wrote magazine articles. brian: where did you work? mr. puleo: outside of boston. daily newspapers and weekly newspapers as well. fantastic experience for any kind of writing.
went into corporate communication. always loved history. got my masters in history later. umass boston. the same weekend i turned 40. my wife called it the older and wiser weekend. that really launched my history research and writing, so to speak. my first book came out in 2003. "the caning" is my fifth book. it is all narrative history. brian: the audience cannot see this, but sitting outside our door are a bunch of eighth-graders and your wife. you are around washington now with these young folks, do you find them interested in this? mr. puleo: my wife is a principle of the saint jerome's school in massachusetts. we are here with the eighth grade. a great bunch of kids. very smart, very well behaved and very interested in history. we have done that whirlwind to -- whirlwind tour. we have the rest of today and tomorrow. when you make history come alive, and you make that personal part of history part of the story, kids get interested. these kids are a wonderful example. brian: you have spoken a lot of this book. where do you get the audience's attention? mr. puleo: the whole story gets their attention.
the beating is such a dramatic moment, but keep in mind that the beating lasted 90 seconds. the issue of slavery still fascinates audiences. how we got to that point. i go back to the declaration of independence discussions, the constitution discussions and the compromises made. people are fascinated with that whole part of our history. this event transforms that debate, the slavery debate from the political, intellectual almost academic debate into this gutwrenching, visceral moment.
there are those moments in history on all kinds of topics. the caning is that moment in the slavery debate. it is the no turning back point. brian: were there other well-known people in the senate or the house at that time? mr. puleo: daniel webster has just finished and he has retired. keats is very well known from south carolina. there are those kinds of folks. i would say that the calhouns, the henry clays, the websters, that era has largely passed. that is the reason compromise was becoming so difficult. stephen douglas was there from illinois. a powerhouse. has his aspirations on the presidency. has other reasons for wanting to do things besides strike compromise. he is the architect of the kansas-nebraska act. a disastrous act.
it says for new territories that want to apply for states instead of using the missouri compromise or the famous 36-30 parallelm that we allow people in those territories to vote. popular sovereignty is the term. that is what he proposed as a way to settle the debate in those territories for when the states were admitted to
the union. he has political reasons for doing that. stephen douglas has his eyes on the presidency and believes he will need southern democratic support. there is also talk of a transcontinental railroad. it doesn't come until 12 years later. the south wants the eastern
terminus to be in st. louis, douglas once it to be in chicago. he believes this popular sovereignty will be beneficial to the south, that they will appreciate it and it will throw them a bone. he is right the south loves the , idea, the north hates it. lots of demonstrations. anti-stephen douglas demonstrations. he is burned in effigy and he himself makes the comment that he believed he could find his way home in washington dc to illinois by the light of his own burning effigies. a man was aware of his status. brian: in
1860, what was charles sumner's relationship? mr. puleo: at first he does not believe that lincoln is antislavery enough. he believes he is a good man, he comes around as the campaign goes on that he is a decent man but does not believe at first that he is radical enough. and in fact, he is not. sumner is correct. think about this abraham lincoln , had a meeting with franklin douglas about returning slaves
to liberia and other places in africa and compensating slaveowners for that. so very early in his presidency , he has that made that evolution. -- he has not made that evolution. so at the outset, he will say, he is a good man, but he is concerned about his dedication to abolishing slavery. brian: a couple weeks ago, david mccullough was here and he talks about charles sumner going to france, you talk about it in your book, but you will get another voice in here and we will see your reaction. >> sumner graduated from harvard, went to harvard law school, practiced law and decided, i don't know enough. my education is not sufficient. i want to learn more. i want to know more. i will go to paris.
so he borrowed $3000, closed up , his law office and went to the sorbonne. attending lectures and everything. he writes about what he is listening to, who he is meeting and what he is learning, but there is one entry where the speaker was tedious and he found himself looking around the lecture hall, mind wandering and he noticed that the other students, several thousand in this lecture hall, that the other students treated the black students who were there just as though they were like everybody else. and he wrote in the diary, maybe , how we treat black people at home is the result of what we have been taught and not part of the natural order of things. brian: did you read the diary?
mr. puleo: i did and it is a great quote. not only does he run into that in france, but he runs into it in italy as well. there are black people that are part of the academic community there, and learning some of the same things that mccullough talks about. brian: weren't there free blacks in the north? mr. puleo: yes but in europe he faces this strong condemnation of slavery in england, france and italy. he begins to understand that in europe there is more enlightenment on the issue of slavery. what the europeans don't say is that only 50 years earlier they had slaves, too. just as many and it was a vibrant part of their economy, but they do abolish slavery earlier than we do. he took a great deal of
criticism in europe about the fact that america is still had slavery. brian: how much of what charles sumner did was to his own political interests. you say he was an arrogant man narcissistic, deep insecurity, inflexibility, alienation -- he seemed not to be interested in people. mr. puleo: i think that is true. i don't think he developed alliances with people, good friendships with people, those issues. but i do think his political opposition to slavery is genuine , as opposed to self-serving. if you look at his writing through the years, he is very consistent in his opposition to slavery. i think he is genuine. i don't see him as somebody seeking the presidency or higher office or that kind of claim. i think that he believes what he believes.
brian: how much of it is just money? 85 slaves he has, it's a lot of money then. mr. puleo: i think that is true of brooks and the south. one of the big issues that the southerners detest abolitionists is because they wanted uncompensated freedom and the south is aghast. brooks had close to $50,000 worth of slaves. the notion of uncompensated abolition was an anathema. they couldn't believe it. in so, the abolitionist point of view in the south is as though you would have dropped down from mars. totally unheard of. brian: a lot of people in this country think this is the worst it has ever been in history in this country.
no compromise and all that. how does this compare to today? mr. puleo: i run into that a lot. is this the most polarized we had ever been? not even close. no question that the 1850's is the most polarized decade in american history. i don't think it is even a debate. compared to the issues we discussed today, i don't mean to say our issues today are not important but we talk about issues like who should pay taxes and how much should they pay? what do we do about illegal immigration and how do we fund health care? those are the debates we have today. again, those are important. but the debates on the floor of the house and the floor of the senate were questions like should one man be able to own another? should one man be able to sell a husband to one buyer, a wife to another buyer and their children to a third buyer?
are blacks people or property? those are the debates being held. as though they are just normal debates. hard for us to believe today. those are the debates being held in the 1850's. so the stuff that we are dealing with today seems more manageable to me after i think about that. brian: going back to the money aspect, how much of today's immigration issue is politically driven for votes? in other words, one side comes out very strongly for it. they see the possibility and the other side is against it, why would they be against it? mr. puleo: i see a couple of sides. i think you are right there is a , vote aspect here. this notion of following the rules. so many people, and i am one of those people, whose great grandparents came through ellis island. i am the grandson of immigrants.
from italy. my maternal grandparents came from italy. my maternal grandmother was born here. two through ellis island and one through the port of boston. but, i think there is this feeling of following the rules. that it is an important part of the american experience. that you don't come illegally you don't cross the border. you go through this process and it gets done. there is that feeling that some of that has changed. i think the debate is something that people can compromise on. brian: does anybody deserve to feel holier than thou in this country because they live in the north or the south?
you go back to that era, were there different motivations? mr. puleo: i don't think people should feel holier than thou. today, is some of that sectionalism still with us today? absolutely. one of the things when i talk about this book, some of the common stereotypes that northerners have of southerners and southerners have of northerners stem not just from this decade of the 1850's but from this particular incident. in the north, the stereotypical view southerners are uneducated, quick to anger. those cliches were the same kinds of things that sumner's allies were saying about brooks and his colleagues. the southern feeling that people from the north and northeast and massachusetts, are arrogant and condescending and they talk too fast and are impolite, those are almost the same things that brooks's colleagues were saying about sumner and his colleagues. i think that those stereotypes have not changed much.
brian: from the beginning of your research to the end, what surprised you the most? mr. puleo: the extent of the slavery debates in congress during this time. the extent and the eloquence -- they are fascinating debates. i would urge anybody to go back and look at them. of course you know that the arguments were there. the polarization and the gulf between north and south was there. but seeing these people debating on the floor of the house and the senate, and some of the big issues they bring into it, economic issues. preston brooks criticizes sumner for being hypocritical, not just because of the textile-cotton issue, but brooks says, you are criticizing us for having slaves, you try to treat -- we try to treat our slaves well you have thousands of irish immigrants living in squalor on your streets begging for food. which was true. sumner's response was we do not
own them. a legitimate and good response but i thought, i never even thought of that. i never even put that into my thinking and here is brooks talking about. brian: what happened to charles sumner? when did he die? and of what? mr. puleo: he dies in 1874, in washington. his body is taken to boston by train. he lays in state at the statehouse in massachusetts and 50,000 people go by his grave,
an enormous number for a senator. he is beloved in boston and buried not far from harvard. his grave is still there today. you can walk to that cemetery and visit his grave today. in south carolina, at the time and keep in mind it is a reconstructionist government the flag is lowered to half-staff in his honor. something most residents of south carolina would not be pleased with, but the reconstructionist government does to that. brian: who has done a better job, the north or the south and honoring these two men from their own perspective and who has the best archive? mr. puleo: it is an interesting question. charles sumner was larger-than-life in 1874.
when his statue is erected in the public garden, only the word "sumner" is engraved on that statue and that is all you needed. charles sumner's cache' and fame has largely dissipated. boston prides itself in two major areas of history. the revolution, of course. two is the emergence of the irish politician. jack kennedy is huge. the kennedy family. james michael curley. if you passed 100 people in downtown boston, and asked them who charles sumner was, maybe 15 people could tell you. the vast majority could tell you who jack kennedy was, or paul revere or john hancock. brian: what about the south? mr. puleo: brooks is not honored in the south.
people ask me how has the south come to terms. they know what he did was despicable and violent, but in general, the south does a better job of her memory and honoring -- of remembering and honoring her history, and has a great civil war history. but for the most part, the history of the civil war in the south is better portrayed and better understood. brian: which one of these men would you rather have dinner with? mr. puleo: i would much rather have dinner with preston brooks but my ideas are much closer to charles sumner. the infamous, who would you rather have a beer with? brooks. much more likable.
i am working on another book that will be out next spring narrative history. i am very close to being able to talk about the topic, but i am very excited. brian: it is history? mr. puleo: yes. brian: what era? mr. puleo: it is covering a big swath. brian: have you finished it? mr. puleo: the manuscript is in. brian: our guest has been stephen puleo, the book is called "the caning: the assault that drove america to civil war." thank you. mr. puleo: my pleasure. [captioning performed by the national captioning institute,which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2014] >> for free transcripts, or to give us your comment, visit us at c-span.org.