Sunday, February 15, 2015

Today in American History: The First Congressional Brawl 02/15/1798

On this day in American History, February 15th, 1798, the first fist fight on the floor of the House of Representatives took place.  When Federalist Representative Roger Griswold (Connecticut) took a hickory stick and began assaulting the Representative Matthew Lyon (Kentucky) of the Democratic-Republican party.  Lyon was able to scrabble to the fireplace and pick up fire tongs and began to return the blows.  Griswold tripped Lyons, and Lyons fell to the ground where Griswold beat him with his stick repeatedly before being separated.  The two were peaceful for a couple of minutes, but Griswold had not had enough -- and reignited the brawl before being stopped for one final time.

The two certainly had a past history of conflict.  On January 30th, 1798 Griswold had accused Lyon of being a coward during a debate.  In the debate, Lyon described himself as a "champion of the common man."  Griswold scoffed and asked if he defended the common man with his "wooden sword", openly mocking Lyon and referring to his cowardly service during the American Revolutionary War.  The previous incident ended with Lyon spitting tobacco in Griswold's face and consequently having charges filed against him with the ethics committee.  But, when Lyon escaped the charges with no vote in the house, Griswold became enraged and this scuffle is attributed to this event.

After the incident, both men were subject to a vote to be expelled that failed 73-21.  Even after this incident was passed, the tensions in the Philadelphia-based house continued.  There was increasing dissension in the political body, which had not yet drawn definitive party lines, over President Adams public opposition towards France.  Previous to this, France had been a staunch ally to the United States, sending troops and resources during the Revolutionary War.  In what can be considered one of the first major divisive political issues in the young republic's history, most of the Federalists stood behind the President while the Democratic-Republicans were more lenient towards the pro-agrarian, isolationist views of Jefferson and the quickly forming Democratic-Republicans.

It is worth noting that later in 1803, with Jefferson as President, the Federalists in New England put forth the nations first motion to secede from the union because of the Louisiana Purchase which they saw as a move to weaken the influence of the northern states.

Bruce has worked in educational technology for over 18 years and has implemented several 1:1/BYOD programs.  He also has served as a classroom teacher in Computer Science, History and English classes.  Bruce is the author of five books: Sands of TimeTowering Pines Volume One:Room 509The Star of ChristmasPhiladelphia Story: A Lance Carter Detective Novel and The Insider's Story: A Lance Carter Detective Novel.  Follow Bruce's Novel releases by subscribing to his FREE newsletter!

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