A Combative Congress…American Tradition

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Today in History, February 15: 1798 – Combat on the House Floor. Matthew Lyon was a Democratic-Republican from Vermont. Roger Griswold was a Federalist Representative from Connecticut. Two weeks earlier, the two had argued on the house floor, Griswold commented about allegations of cowardice about Lyon during the Revolution; Lyon responded by spitting tobacco juice on Griswold. When the House failed to censure Lyon for the “gross indecency”, it infuriated Griswold. On this date he ambushed Lyon at his desk on the House floor, beating him about the head and shoulders with his wooden cane. Lyon retreated to a fireplace, where he took up a pair of tongs to combat the assault. Other Representatives had to separate the two. A vote was held to expel both of them, but it failed, 73-21. This would certainly not be the last physical fight in Congress.

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