Charles Hale’s dedication of “Debates and Proceedings in the Convention of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts” to Charles Sumner

Charles Sumner Harvard bookplate

Here is something one does not see every day. In my research for a project I have been working on I pulled up the “Debates and Proceedings in the Convention of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.” The convention to which the title refers was the Commonwealth’s 1788 gathering at which they debated ratification of the U.S. Constitution, which itself had been approved at the Philadelphia convention in September 1787. The edition of “Debates and Proceedings” from which these images came was edited by Charles Hale and Bradford K. Peirce in 1856. This was during Bleeding Kansas when the sectional crisis was coming to boil. South Carolina congressman Preston Brooks’s savage caning of Massachusetts senator Charles Sumner was on May 22, 1856, the same year of the publication of this book, which again I have been reading in digital format when I stumbled across the Sumner connection.

I cannot tell with 100% percent certainty but based on the introductory material this edition of “Debates and Proceedings” most likely was published after May of that year. That is, the monograph came out after the caning of Sumner, which made the Massachusetts legislator a martyr for Constitution and Union. Thus, Hale gave Sumner a signed copy–the one we see here. As we see from the bookplate above, Sumner’s personal library went to Harvard in 1874, the year he died. It was Sumner’s copy from the Harvard collection that was digitized and put online.