In the summer of 1856, constituents of Representative William Gilbert
of New York petitioned the House to expel Representative Preston Brooks
of South Carolina for a violent attack he perpetrated against Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner the previous month. Brooks entered the Senate Chamber on May 22 and beat Sumner with a walking cane, in response to an earlier antislavery speech the Senator had delivered. The petition describes the “inhuman, brutal, & cowardly conduct” of Brooks and calls him “unfit to occupy a seat in the councils of any civilized nation.” When the House took up the issue on July 14, it did not acquire enough votes to expel Brooks, but he resigned in protest the same day. He returned to his same House seat after a special election held later in July.