SUMNER, Charles (1811-1874)
Senate Years of Service: 1851-1874

SUMNER, CHARLES, A Senator from Massachusetts; born in Boston, Mass., January 6, 1811; attended the Boston Latin School; graduated from Harvard University in 1830 and from the Harvard Law School in 1833; admitted to the bar the following year and commenced the practice of law in Boston, Mass.; lectured at the Harvard Law School 1836-1837; traveled extensively in Europe 1837-1840; declined the Whig nomination in 1846 for election to the Thirtieth Congress; one of the founders of the Free Soil Party in 1848; unsuccessful candidate for election in 1848 on the Free Soil ticket to the Thirty-first Congress; elected to the United States Senate in 1851 as a Free Soiler; reelected as a Republican in 1857, 1863, and 1869 and served from April 24, 1851, until his death; chairman, Committee on Foreign Relations (Thirty-seventh through Forty-first Congresses); removed as chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations in 1871 as a result of differences with President Ulysses S. Grant over policy in Santo Domingo; chairman, Committee on Privileges and Elections (Forty-second Congress); was assaulted in the Senate chamber by Representative Preston Brooks of South Carolina on May 22, 1856, and due to injuries received did not resume full Senate duties until December 1859; died in Washington, D.C., March 11, 1874; lay in state in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol, March 13, 1874; interment in Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, Mass.

American Antiquarian Society
Worcester, MA
Papers: 1834-1874. 1 folder; 44 items. Papers and political correspondence and Harvard Law School diploma.

American Philosophical Society
Philadelphia, PA
Papers: In J. Peter Lesley papers, 1826-1898, available on microfilm; William Parker Foulke papers, ca. 1840-1865; and Charles Babbage selected correspondence, 1827-1871, on 1 microfilm reel of originals at British Museum.

Boston Public Library
Boston, MA
Papers: Ca. 200 items. Also photographs.

Boston University
Boston, MA
Papers: 1851-1873. 24 letters. Also photographs.

Brown University
Providence, RI
Papers: 1840-1869. 12 letters.

California Historical Society
San Francisco, CA
Papers: Correspondence in Jonas Winchester papers, 1829-1887.

Columbia University
Rare Book and Manuscript Library
New York, NY
Papers: Correspondence in Charles Stewart Daveis papers, 1815-1864; Sydney Howard Gay papers, ca. 1770-1900; Josephine W. Griffing papers, 1862-1872; and Jay family papers, 1828-1943.

Duke University
Special Collections Library
Durham, NC
Papers: 1835-1874. 147 items. Letters from Sumner to various correspondents relating to the assault on him by Preston Brooks, Kansas-Nebraska Act, opposition to slavery, support of civil rights for blacks after the Civil War, opposition to annexation of the Dominican Republic in 1869, Horace Greeley and the election of 1872, Emperor Maximillian of Mexico, prison and naturalization reform, and other topics reflecting his legal, intellectual, political, and international interests. Finding aid.

Harvard University
Houghton Library
Cambridge, MA
Papers: 1829-1895. 200 boxes. Chiefly correspondence including letters from antislavery leaders and other reformers, letters from constituents, and letters describing conditions in the South during Reconstruction. Also papers connected with the resolution of condemnation against Charles Sumner, 1872-1873. Available on microfilm. Finding aid.
Papers: 1833-1873. Ca. 150 items. Includes 52 letters (1839-1873) from Sumner to George Washington Green. Other correspondents include Samuel Hooper, Samuel Gridley Howe, and Mrs. and Mrs. Thomas Lamb, Washington, DC. Finding aid.
Additional Papers: Correspondence in Pickard-Whittier papers, 1815-1914; Edward Lillie Pierce papers, 1852-1888; Evert Jansen Wendell collection, 1762-1915; Henry Wadsworth Longfellow papers, 1811-1928; 32 letters in Wendell Phillips papers, 1555-1882 (bulk 1833-1881); manuscripts in Palfrey family North American review papers, 1831-1843; 15 letters in Robert Carter papers, 1851-1898 (bulk 1851-1862); and numerous letters in George Nichols papers, 1788-1882.

Henry E. Huntington Library
San Marino, CA
Papers: 1835-1874. 204 items. Includes 120 letters (1857-1873) to Elizabeth Georgiana Campbell, Duchess of Argyll, in an attempt to win her husband, a privy councillor, to the side of the Union. Subjects covered in these and other letters include: relations with great Britain and British opinion of the Civil War; national politics in the years preceding, during, and following the war; Sumner's opinion of Andrew Johnson; travels in England, France, and Italy; and law and literature. Also ca. 25 letters in various collections.

Historical Society of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA Papers; Correspondence in Richard Peters correspondence, 1820-1847 (bulk 1826-1847);
Galesburg, IL
Papers: 2 letters (no date) in Bookfellow Foundation autograph collection, 1705-1940.

Library of Congress
Manuscript Division
Washington, DC
Papers: 1841-1874. 1 container. Correspondence and printed matter chiefly concerning government publications, appointments to office, the Republican party, his law practice, and his political speeches and writings.
Additional Papers: Correspondence in Nathaniel Prentice Banks papers, 1829-1911; Andrew and John White Stevenson family papers, 1756-1882; Whiting Griswold papers, 1843-1874; and James Redpath papers, 1861.

Maryland Historical Society
Baltimore, MD
Papers: Correspondence in the David Warden papers, available on microfilm.

Massachusetts Historical Society
Boston, MA
Papers: 1779-1873. 3 linear feet. Congressional, personal, and family correspondence and papers, speeches and writings.
Additional Papers: Correspondence in William Foster papers, 1734-1879; Appleton family papers, 1539-1940; Dana family papers, 1654-1933; William Schouler papers, 1840-1872; photographs; and portraits.

New England Historic Genealogical Society
Boston, MA
Papers: Correspondence in William Foster papers, 1734-1879.

New Jersey Historical Society
Newark, NJ
Papers: Correspondence in William Nelson papers, 1690-1875.

New-York Historical Society
New York, NY
Papers: Correspondence in King family papers, 1754-1908; and Walker family papers, 1775-1876.

New York Public Library
New York, NY
Papers: Correspondence in John Wolcott Phelps papers, 1833-1884; William Cullen Bryant papers, 1804-1913 (bulk 1820-1898).

New York State Library
Manuscripts and Special Collections
Albany, NY
Papers: 1 letter (August 11, 1872) to Miss Luce, concerning his support for Horace Greeley for President; and correspondence in Edwin Denson Morgan papers, 1830-1872.

Peabody Essex Museum
Salem, MA
Papers: 26 letters including correspondence in Gilbert F. Streeter papers, 1845-1905; Young Men's Union papers, 1855-1880; John Greenleaf Whittier papers, 1781-1922; and Salem Female Anti-Slavery Society records, 1834-1866.

Pierpont Morgan Library
New York, NY
Papers: 8 items (1848-1867); and ca. 34 items (1848-1874) on slavery and political topics in the Gilder Lehrman collection. Finding aid.

Providence Athenaeum
Providence, RI
Papers: 1 letter in Manuscript collection, 1749-1899.

Radcliffe College
Schlesinger Library
Cambridge, MA
Papers: In Agnes Goldman Sanborn papers, 1752-1984 (1808-1984); Ellis Gray Loring family papers, 1809-1942; Julia Ward Howe family papers, 1787-1984, available on microfilm; Harriet Goodhue Hosmer papers, 1834-1959, available on microfilm; Jane Gray Dodge papers, 1861-1951; Browne family papers, 1802-1963 (bulk 1833-1908); and Almy family papers, 1649-1984.

Syracuse University
George Arents Research Library
Syracuse, NY
Papers: 34 letters and 2 incoming letters (1845-1872) in the Gerrit Smith papers; in Samuel Hooper collection, 1856-1874; and Francis William Newman papers, 1864-1905.

Union College
Schaffer Library Special Collections
Schenectady, NY
Papers: 79 letters to or from Sumner in Bigelow collection, 1848-1880.

University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA
Papers: 1848-1873. 9 items. Letters to Rev. William Henry Furness and Horace Howard Furness.

University of Rochester
Rush Rhees Library
Rochester, NY
Papers: 248 letters by and 67 to Sumner (1852-1869) in various collections. Finding aid.

University of Virginia
Alderman Library
Charlottesville, VA
Papers: Correspondence in various collections; and an account of Representative Preston Brooks' attack on Sumner in Lawrence O'Bryan Branch papers, 1840-1962. Finding aid.

Wellesley College
Special Collections
Wellesley, MA
Papers: 1843-1862. 5 items. Includes 104-page diary (1857), 1 letter by Sumner (September 15, 1862) and 3 letters to Sumner (November 1843 and December 1, no year).

Wichita State University Library
Wichita, KS
Papers: Correspondence in Eunice McIntosh Merrill collection of William Lloyd Garrison papers, 1814-1879.

Yale University Libraries
Manuscripts and Archives
New Haven, CT
Papers: In Daniel Webster papers, 1800-1895 (bulk 1824-1852), on 8 microfilm reels of originals at Library of Congress; John McLean papers, 1817-1861, on 18 microfilm reels of originals at Library of Congress; Loomis-Wilder family papers, 1790-1912; William Smith Mason autograph collection, 1800-1929; Anson Conger Goodyear collection, 1813-1890; Samuel Bowles papers, 1853-1890; and S. Griswold Flagg collection, 1825-1938.

Pomona College
The Papers of Charles Sumner
Clarement, CA

Research Libraries Information Network In addition to the institutions listed above, items are also cataloged in collections at: Buffalo and Erie County Public Library, Buffalo, NY; Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH; Harvard College Library, Theatre Collection, Cambridge, MA; Harvard Divinity School, Andover-Harvard Theological Library, Cambridge, MA; Harvard Law School Library, Cambridge, MA; Harvard University Archives, Cambridge, MA; Indiana State Library, Indianapolis, IN; Johns Hopkins University, Special Collections, Baltimore, MD; New York Times Archives, New York, NY; Northwestern University Library, Evanston, IL; Rosenbach Museum and Library, Philadelphia, PA; Schomberg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York, NY; Stanford University Libraries, Stanford, CA; State Historical Society of Wisconsin, Madison, WI; State University of New York, Albany, Special Collections, Albany, NY; University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library, Ann Arbor, MI; University of Rochester, Rush Rhees Library, Rochester, NY; and University of Toledo Library, Toledo, OH.

  • Dictionary of American Biography.
  • The Yale Biographical Dictionary of American Law.
  • Blue, Frederick J. Charles Sumner and the Conscience of the North. Arlington Heights, IL: Harlan Davidson, 1994.
  • ___. "The Poet and the Reformer: Longfellow, Sumner, and the Bonds of Male Friendship.'' Journal of the Early Republic15 (Summer 1995): 273-97.
  • Bourke, Paul F., and Donald A. DeBats. "Charles Sumner, the London Ballot Society, and the Senate Debate of March 1867." Perspectives in American History 1 (1984): 343-357.
  • Chaplin, Jeremiah, and Jane Dunbar Chaplin. The Life of Charles Sumner. Boston: D. Lothrop & Co., 1874.
  • Cohen, Victor H. "Charles Sumner and Foreign Relations.'' Ph.D. dissertation, University of Oklahoma, 1951.
  • ___. "Charles Sumner and the Trent Affair." The Journal of Southern History 22:2 (May 1956): 205-219.
  • Cornell, William Mason, ed. Charles Sumner: Memoir and Eulogies. Boston: J.H. Earle, 1874.
  • Woods, Michael E. "‘The Indignation of Freedom-Loving People’: The Caning of Charles Sumner and Emotion in Antebellum Politics." Journal of Social History 44:3 (Spring 2011): 689-705.