A Fight Breaks Out Among Early Congressmen

The early Congress was an occasionally volatile experiment in Democracy, as this somewhat crude 1798 cartoon demonstrates. On February 15 of that year, an insult uttered by Rep. Roger Griswold of Connecticut directed to Rep. Matthew Lyon of Vermont provoked a violent row on the floor of Congress Hall in Philadelphia. The Representatives' resort to weaponry—a cane in the case of Griswold and a pair of fire tongs for Lyon—prompted the satirical verses which appear below the illustration: "He in a trice struck Lyon thrice/Upon his head, enrag'd sir/Who seiz'd the tongs to ease his wrongs/And Griswold thus engag'd, sir."

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Congress Hall, in Philada. Feb. 15. 1798 

S.E.Cor. 6th & Chesnut St.

Source | "Congressional Pugilists," etching, Philadelphia, 1798; from Library of Congresss, American Memory, http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/amlaw/lwpugilr.html.

Creator | Unknown
Item Type | Cartoon
Cite This document | Unknown, “A Fight Breaks Out Among Early Congressmen,” HERB: Resources for Teachers, accessed August 23, 2014, http://herb.ashp.cuny.edu/items/show/631.