On This Date in History: I have another in the long line of fisticuffs that have taken place in Congress that makes anything that happens today look pedestrian. Many of the physical encounters came during the mid 19th century over the slavery issue. But, perhaps the first outbreak of violence in Congress took place on this date in 1798, just a year after George Washington became president. So, the tradition goes a long way back. Turns out, this little fracas was a few weeks in the making.
On January 30, 1798 Representative Roger Griswold of Connecticut got upset when Vermont’s Matthew Lyon slighted Griswold’s home state. He also personally insulted the Connecticut Federalist. Griswold retaliated by publically calling Lyon a coward. So, to show that he was no cowardly lion, Lyon thought it best to show his manhood by spitting at Griswold’s face. For the next several days, a discussion was raised to get Lyon expelled from Congress for indecorum. When, the vote to have Lyon tossed out failed, Griswold took matters into his own hands. Vengence must come with a caning of Lyon. So, on the morning of Feb. 15, 1798 while Lyon was writing some sort of correspondence, Griswold walked up to the unsuspecting Vermont Congressman’s desk and began wailing away with his cane. Nearby was Massachusetts Representative and Griswold Federalist ally George Thather who recalled the attack:
“I was suddenly, and unsuspectedly interrupted by the sound of a violent blow I raised my head, & directly before me stood Mr. Griswald [sic] laying on blows with all his mightupon Mr. Lyon, who seemed to be in the act of rising out of his seat Lyon made an attempt to catch his cane, but failed–he pressed towards Griswald & endeavoured to close with him, but Griswald fell back and continued his blows on the head, shoulder, & arms of Lyon[who] protecting his head & face as well as he could then turned & made for the fire place& took up the [fire] tongs. Griswalddrop[p]ed his stick & seized the tongs with one hand, & the collar of Lyon by the other, in which pos[i]tion they struggled for an instant when Griswald trip[p]ed Lyon & threw him on the floor & gave him one or two blows in the face.”
“Moments after the two grappling combatants were separated, Lyon retreated to the House water table; when Griswold re-approached him, Lyon lunged forward with the fire tongs and initiated a second brawl. ” Jonathan Mason commented, the central legislative body of the United States of America had been reduced to “an assembly of Gladiators.”
Gladiators! That’s what we need. Maybe we could get more things done right if we dressed up members of the Senate and House in gladiator outfits and have their differences settled in the ring! Let’s pit a tag team of Barney Frank and Harry Reid against Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Boehner!
There are more interesting details of what led to the fight but I think a significant aspect of this event was that it sorta dispelled the notion that the government could function at a high level of 18th century gentlemanly decorum. That is what was expected and the public at the time grew fearful that such activities meant that the fledgling nation would not last such partisanship. George Washington himself was against political parties for this very reason. But, just like kids, it seems impossible for people not to choose up sides and debates can become heated. There has been a continued attempt to maintain some sense of decorum and control in Congress, but partisanship remains alive and well these days. But, its not as bad as it got in the mid 19th century. It grew so problematic at one point that Vice-President Martin Van Buren presided over the Senate in the 1830’s while wearing a side-arm in order maintain control over the supposed deliberative body. While we hear all of this talk of bi-partisanship, the truth is that ideal has never really been a part of the American political context. So fear not…whatever is happening today, is nothing compared with the past.
Weather Bottom Line: Forecast still generally online. Upper 30’s and low 40’s on Sunday with a number of clouds. Then we warm up a bit ahead of the next system. Low to mid 40’s on Monday. Pushing toward 50 on Tuesday. Late Tuesday through Wednesday we have rain as the system comes through. At this point, it appears that we will see a shift in the long wave pattern with a ridge out west and a trof in the east. That will take us into highs in the 30’s and possibly 20’s for the end of the week through the weekend. There appears to be a little system coming down through the flow that the GFS wants to toss out about an inch of snow late Friday into Saturday. When you go way out, the GFS doesn’t seem too interested in making this change long lasting as the jet lifts back north and the cold air goes with it. So, if we believe the GFS more than a week out, then we can believe that the cold snap will only last about 4 or 5 days. However, betting on the GFS that far out is a dangerous game that I do not wish to play…in fact, I’m not sure why I even mentioned it.