Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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BROOKS, Preston Smith, congressman, born in Edgefield District, South Carolina, 4 August, 1819; died in Washington, District of Columbia, 27 January, 1857. He was graduated at the South Carolina College in 1839, studied law, and was admitted to the bar in May, 1843. In 1844 he was elected to the state legislature. During the Mexican war he served as captain in the Palmetto regiment of South Carolina volunteers, and on his return he gave his exclusive attention to planting. He was elected a representative from South Carolina to congress, as a state-rights democrat, in 1853. and was re-elected twice. On 22 May, 1856, Senator Sumner having incensed the members from South Carolina by expressions in his speech on "the crime against Kansas," Mr. Brooks entered the senate-chamber after that body had adjourned, approached Mr. Sumner from behind, while the senator was still seated at his desk, and struck him repeatedly on the head with a cane, till Mr. Sumner fell insensible to the floor. Friends of Mr. Brooks, among them Mr. Barksdale, of Mississippi, accompanied him, and with drawn revolvers prevented any interference. Subsequently a committee of the house reported in favor of Mr. Brooks's expulsion; but in the final action on the report there were 121 votes in favor and 95 opposing it, which, being less than the requisite two thirds, prevented the house from agreeing to the resolution. Afterward, during a debate in the house, words were passed between Anson Burlingame, then a member from Massachusetts, and Mr. Brooks, in consequence of which the former was challenged to a duel. The challenge was accepted, Canada chosen as the place of meeting, and rifles as the weapons ; but Mr. Brooks failed to appear, giving as his reason that he would have to "pass through the enemy's country" to get there. The poet Bryant celebrated the event by some verses in the "Evening Post," in which the refrain was, "Bully Brooks is afraid." Mr. Brooks resigned his seat, and was unanimously reelected by his constituents. He also received numerous costly canes and other testimonials from different parts of the south.
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