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. Nowadays, if someone calls a fellow member a name, like “liar” (even if its true) then that member faces censure. It is more civil to say that the other person was ”mistaken” even though whatever the offender said was not a mistake. No, in the past, our elected representatives were much more combative with many physical encounters caming 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. That act gained Lyon the moniker of “the spitting beast” or “the wild Irishman.” 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 Thatcher 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: Well, the big event is here, though this one doesn’t seem to have gotten people as worked up as the one last week even though it will be similar in the snow totals. For Valentine’s Day, Snow White and I went to the Bristol in Jeffersonville for brunch. It’s one of our favorite places and the staff there is just wonderful. We often get Brett but he had the section by the door and we like to look out the window. And the timing was perfect as I was hoping to have some snow and about 15 minutes after we got there, the snow started to fall. At one point it was difficult to see the buildings in downtown Louisville but there was no accumulation on the cars. I kept saying that I didn’t see how we would get above freezing but I had thought perhaps prior to the arrival of this little Alberta Clipper that we may nose above. Well, it just so happens that about that time the airport claimed 34 degrees but none of the hourly observations were that high. I think a jet plane must have taxied by and drove the mercury up a degree or two because both at Standiford and at Bowman there was just one hourlyobservation of 33 degrees and the rest were 32 or below. Anyway, I didn’t think that the snow on Sunday would amount to any accumulation. But Monday is a different story.
This low developed in the Alberta province in Canada a few days ago. See, that’s part of the problem of forecasting as this event was showing up even before the low formed. So, we based a long term forecast on a feature that didn’t even exist. But, this guy did form and is really continuing to do so. A weak surface reflection of the upper storm will dive down over, say Paducah before turning in the flow to the northeast very close to Louisville. It’s the upper part of the storm that that brings the good snow and it should track north of surface reflection. The high point of the snowfall should be about 7 or 8 in the morning and carry to about 10 or 11 AM. It’s a real close call because the band of the heaviest snow will be a narrow band and really it’s impossible to be pinpoint. But, it would appear that the heaviest band will be between say Seymour and Charlestown IN. Then the next best snow from Charlestown to E’town with lesser amounts south of E’town. I think with a fast moving clipper and no real inflow from the Gulf for there to be 9 or 10 inches of snow, but the some data has consistently advertised it for the heaviest areas. I would think that 5 inches in Louisville will be pretty close (though for some reason I still like my general 3-5 inch standard) and 6-8 inches in places north of the river. South of E’town lets go with 2-4 inches. The difference in moisture between 4 inches and 8 inches is less than a half inch of water so its really tough to be more specific than that. The poor TV folks really get into a tough spot because what people ask for is often beyond human capabilities.
Anyway, should be fun. We will probably get flurried to death on Tuesday and maybe a few flakes on Wednesday as colder air pours in. Another system comes along for the end of the week and its still a tough call whether or not it will be all snow or rain then snow. I would prefer the former so I have to be careful to avoid wishcasting…thats where your forecast gets biased for what you wish will happen instead of what the data says. Right now, it’s all over the place and it would be foolish to say more except that we ain’t warming up much anytime soon and I still don’t see how we get above freezing until perhaps Thursday if the rain to snow scenario unfolds.