Politicians Behaving Badly —- The Lyon - Griswold Brawl of 1798.
The rivalry between Vermont Representative Matthew Lyon and Connecticut Representative Roger Griswold ran deep. At first the rivalry was mere political, as Lyon was a Democrat-Republican and Griswold was a Federalist. However the rivalry became personal when Griswold spread false rumors that Lyon had been convicted of cowardice during the Revolutionary War, and was forced to carry a wooden sword as punishment. Later Griswold called Lyon a scoundrel, a very offensive term at the time, which provoked Lyon to spit in Griswold’s face.
On February 15th, 1798 Griswold confronted Lyon in the Chambers of the US House of Representatives, and proceeded to beat Lyons across the head with a wooden cane. Lyon retreated to a nearby fireplace and armed himself with a pair of metal tongs, counterattacking with ferocity. Griswold, however, sidestepped Lyon’s attack and tripped him, causing Lyon to topple to the ground. Griswold then tried to beat Lyon while he was down, but in turn was pulled to the ground by Lyon. The two grappled in wrestled with cane and tongs in hand until eventually other representatives separated the two men.
Griswold had to be pulled by his legs to be separated by Lyon. Lyon acted coolly and calming, until unexpectedly he took up his tongs and attempted to bash Griswold over the head. Griswold in turn counted with his cane, thus reigniting the brawl. Once against the two had to be separated, this time placed in opposite sides of the room with guards posted to watch over both men.