“Without any particular emotion” John Slidell Explains Himself, Part 1

John Slidell

The Caning: parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 678, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13

The House report on the caning

We left Charles Sumner moving into the Senate lobby, covered in his own blood and supported by Edwin Morgan. There they came upon John Slidell (D-LA), who Sumner later testified “retreated” rather than offer aid, ask about his health, or even express idle dismay at a fellow senator’s state. Slidell didn’t care for how Sumner reported that at all, so he got up on the Senate on May 27 to offer an explanation for himself.

After the Senate adjourned on the day of the caning, Slidell went out into the antechamber. He saw Stephen Douglas in conversation with a few others, all sitting together. Slidell asked if he could join them and they obliged. A few minutes went by, during which Slidell believed them alone in the room, then a messenger of the Senate rushed in “rushed in, apparently in great trepidation” and told them that someone had commenced beating Senator Sumner.

We heard this remark without any particular emotion; for my own part, I confess I felt none. I am not disposed to participate in broils of any kind. I remained very quietly in my seat; the other gentlemen did the same; we did not move.

Word came a few minute after that Brooks, his name entering into it for the first time, left Sumner “very badly beaten” and the fight had ended. This changed things for Slidell. He previously thought the fight an incidental one. Now he “felt a little more interest” but remained disinclined to involve himself. He started for the Senate chamber with a mind to reaching his desk

A crowd surrounded the second chair on the other side of the lobby, and I was told that Mr. Sumner was there extended in a state of insensibility, prostrate on the floor. I did not endeavor to approach him; I did not see him; I suppose there were twenty or thirty persons around him.

Charles Sumner (R-MA)

All the witnesses assume a frustrating familiarity with the layout of the Senate and surrounding rooms, but Slidell offers more help than most. He places the lobby within the Senate chamber, but different from the anteroom he and Douglas occupied. From the lobby, you could still follow floor proceedings. It appears that Slidell first saw Sumner before he moved far and Sumner missed him. Slidell asked and got a brief explanation of what happened and went back to the anteroom to resume his conversation.

Slidell crossed paths with Sumner “in the door-way of the reception-room, leaning on two persons whom I did not recognize. His face was covered with blood.”

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