Microkhan by Brendan I. Koerner

The Congressional Culture of Violence

February 2nd, 2010 · 4 Comments


While today’s Congressional politics may seem somewhat distasteful to fans of decorum, Capitol Hill’s past is full of far more vicious conflict between ideological opposites. As noted in this New York Times report from 1856, the people’s representatives were once none-too-shy about resorting to the gun or sword when positions seemed irreconcilable—though, to the American politicians’ credit, they were not quite as violent as their British counterparts:

Duels have been fought by members of Congress from the very commencement of our existence as a nation, but these affairs have been much less frequent than is generally supposed to be the case. In fact all of the Congressional challenges that have been sent from the meeting of the first Congress in Philadelphia down to the affair between Brooks and Burlingame, do not exceed twenty-five in number, not half so many as have been fought by members of British Parliament….The records will prove that there has been less of personal violence, and fewer encounters in our Congress than there have been in Parliament, during the same number of years, since the Declaration of Independence.

If we had to pick our favorite Congressional duel, Mason versus McCarty would top the list. The Bladensburg Dueling Grounds was the Thunderdome of its day.

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