The debates were childish and American politics has never been this fucked up!
The Caning of Sumner
In 1856 Senator Charles Sumner made a speech entitled “The Crime Against Kansas” where he criticized the pro-slavery movement and claimed that the South’s goal was to spread slavery throughout the North and into the Western frontier. Throughout the speech he made several personal attacks against Southern politicians. Among the insults, he mocked South Carolina Senator Andrew P. Butler, mocking his slurred speech and calling him a drunkard. It was a pretty low blow, since Sen. Butler was not a drunkard but had suffered a stroke the previous year.
Butler’s nephew, Rep. Preston Brooks decided to take revenge on Sumner. At first he wanted to challenge Sumner to a duel, but a duel is only reserved for gentleman of equal stature, and Rep. Laurence Keitt advised him that Sumner was no better than a drunkard and should be beat down. He always carried a gold headed cane, and he knew what to do.
Two days later Brooks confronted Sumner in the Senate Chamber, exclaiming, ”Mr. Sumner, I have read your speech twice over carefully. It is a libel on South Carolina, and Mr. Butler, who is a relative of mine.” Before Sumner could respond Brooks smashed the head of his cane across Sumners skull. Sumner fell to the ground and was pinned underneath a desk as Brooks repeatedly beat him with his cane. Several Senators tried to intervene, but Rep. Keitt pulled out a pistol and shouted, “let them be!”
The incident would become sensational across the country. Senator Sumner was cast as a martyr by Northerners while Rep. Brooks was hailed as a hero throughout the South. The incident further widened the gulf between North and South signaling the future bloodshed of the American Civil War.
Sumner survived the beating, but just barely. It would take three years for him to recuperate from his injuries. During and after the Civil War he would become a leader of the “Radical Republicans” and fought hard for civil rights and equality for newly freed slaves. Preston Brooks resigned his seat in the House of Representatives. Though he was convicted of assault, he only had to pay a $300 fine. Representative Laurence Keitt also got in trouble when in 1858 he attacked and chocked Pennsylvania Rep. Gulasha A. Grow on the floor of Congress. He would serve as a colonel in the Confederate Army, and was killed at the Battle of Cold Harbor.
The Election of 1800 — John Adams v. Thomas Jefferson
“(John Adams) has a hideous hermaphroditical character, which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.”
“(Thomas Jefferson) is a mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father.”
“The other [party] consists of the ill-tempered & rude men in society who have taken up a passion for politics. From both of these classes of disputants, keep aloof, as you would from the infected subjects of yellow fever or pestilence. Consider yourself, when with them, as among the patients of Bedlam needing medical more than moral counsel.”
“We would see our wives and daughters the victims of legal prostitution.”
—President of Yale University Timothy Dwight IV, on if Thomas Jefferson became president.
“Murder, robbery, rape, adultery, and incest will be openly taught and practiced, the air will be rent with the cries of the distressed, the soil will be soaked with blood, and the nation black with crimes.
Look at your houses, your parents, your wives, and your children. Are you prepared to see your dwellings in flames, hoary hairs bathed in blood, female chastity violated, or children writhing on the pike and the halbert? … Look at every leading Jacobin as at a ravening wolf, preparing to enter your peaceful fold, and glut his deadly appetite on the vitals of your country… . GREAT GOD OF COMPASSION AND JUSTICE, SHIELD MY COUNTRY FROM DESTRUCTION.”
— Connecticut Courant, September 29, 1800, Anti-Jefferson Editorial
“One of the most detestable of mankind”
—Martha Washington on John Adams
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 grappledand 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 from Lyon. Lyon acted coolly and calming, until unexpectedly he took up his tongs and attempted to bash Griswold over the head. Griswold in turn countered 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.
The Jenifer - Bynam Duel of 1836
In June of 1836 congressman Daniel Jenifer made a public insult of Andrew Jackson’s party. Congressman Jesse Bynum felt so offended by the insult that he demanded on the floor of Congress that Jenifer retract his statement. When Jenifer refused Bynum demanded satisfaction by blood.
On that same day both men met at Bladensburg, Maryland, the traditional dueling grounds of American gentlemen. The weapon of choice was pistols, and both men paced off ten feet from each other. In succession both men fired at each other, missing with each shot. After the two opponents had fired six times each without hitting each other the duel was declared a draw.
“That bastard brat of a Scottish peddler! His ambition, his restlessness and all his grandiose schemes come, I’m convinced, from a superabundance of secretions, which he couldn’t find enough whores to absorb.”
—John Adams on Alexander Hamilton
“He is a pot bellied mutton headed cucumber.”
— Zachary Taylor on his opponent Lewis Cass
“the blood thirsty Jackson began again to show his cannibal propensities, by ordering his Bowman to dress a dozen of these Indian bodies for his breakfast, which he devoured without leaving even a fragment.”
—An account of Andrew Jackson’s supposed acts of cannibalism, from the “Coffin Handbills”, election of 1828
“He is laced up in corsets
such as a woman in town would wear
—Rep. Davy Crockett accusing Martin Van Buren of being a cross-dresser
“A horrid-looking wretch, sooty and scoundrelly in aspect, a cross between the nutmeg dealer, the horse-swapper, and the nightman.”
—Stephen Douglas on Abraham Lincoln
“His ideas of popular sovereignty are as thin as the homeopathic soup that was made by boiling the shadow of a pigeon that had starved to death.”
—Abraham Lincoln on Stephen Douglas
“Garfield has shown that he is not possessed of the backbone of an angle-worm.”
Ulysses S. Grant on James A. Garfield
“a Byzantine logothete backed by flubdubs and mollycoddles.”
—Theodore Roosevelt on Woodrow Wilson
“He writes the worst English that I have ever encountered. It reminds me of a string of wet sponges; it reminds me of tattered washing on the line; it reminds me of stale bean soup, of college yells, of dogs barking idiotically through endless nights. It is so bad that a sort of grandeur creeps into it. It drags itself out of the dark abysm of pish and crawls insanely up the topmost pinnacle of posh. It is rumble and bumble. It is flap and doodle. It is balder and dash.
—H. L. Mencken on Warren G. Harding
“He’s thin, boys. He’s thin as piss on a hot rock.”
—Senator William E. Jenner on W. Averell Harriman, governor of New York
“Why this fellow doesn’t know any more about politics than a pig knows about Sunday.”
—Harry Truman on Dwight D. Eisenhower
“He’s a nice guy but he’s played to much football with his helmet off.”
“Ford’s economics are the worst thing that’s happened to this country since pantyhose ruined finger-fucking.”
“Jerry Ford is so dumb he can’t fart and chew gum at the same time.”
Lewis Cass Technical High School: Then & Now. Cass Technical High School was one of Detroit’s largest high schools.The school burned down in 2007 and was later demolished in 2011. The school rebuilt to another location, right across the street. (Source)