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Gun nuts in Congress

November 10, 2013 - Harry Eagar
How it used to be:

"Congress in those days (the decades before the Civil War) could have easily been mistaken for a Western saloon. 'Every man on the floor of both Houses is armed with a revolver,' reported Senator James Hammond of South Carolina, 'and some with two revolvers and a Bowie knife.' Senator Benjamin Wade of Ohio even carried a sawed-off shotgun. When a pistol concealed in one House member's desk accidentally discharged, there were instantly 'fully thirty or forty pistols in the air, recalled Representative William Holman of Indiana, who was present." (from Michael Farquhar, "A Treasury of Great American Scandals")

This gives a different coloration to Webster's "Reply to Hayne," which schoolboys of 7 or 8 generations ago (in the North) used to memorize.

Despite all the artillery, nobody got shot on the floor of Congress until 1954 when Puerto Rican nationalists shot 5.


Article Comments



Nov-11-13 2:16 PM

I wondered how closely this post would be read. Not too closely, evidently, since one reading of that quotation would be an endorsement of the theory that if everybody is carrying, then people will hesitate to start shooting.

That theory is bogus, as the shootout at the Texas party this weekend (and many other shootings) demonstrates, but there was nothing in the original post to show that.

It's true that the congresscritters never shot each other on the floor of Congress, but that doesn't mean they didn't shoot each other. They used to go to the Bladensburg duelling grounds to do that.

The quotation is also interesting in showing that despite the rancor in Congress today, it used to be very much worse; also that, on the whole, Americans have gotten less violent over time.


Nov-10-13 11:06 PM

Naw, Dude. We give unlimited access to alcohol to about everyone, and then their cars. Why don't you drone on about the numbers of those maimed or killed by drunks. How about the stats on what out of control drinkers do every day. Your odds are better with a packing right winger than a slobbering drunk on Honoapiilani.

Party on dude, but stay sober and stay healthy because the rationing is coming.


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Webster delivering the Reply to Hayne


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