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Political cartoon depicting the beating of Charles Sumner by Preston Brooks. In one of the most notorious incidents in the history of the US Senate, in 1856 South Carolina congressman Preston Brooks attacked Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner on the floor of the Senate, beating him severely with a wooden cane. The same fierce conflict between pro-slavery southerners and anti-slavery northerners that created the Sumner-Brooks incident would lead, just five years later, to the Civil War. Public domain.