House floor, February 1798
Cane-wielding Roger Griswold a Federalist from Connecticut and future chairman of Ways and Means, attacks Matthew Lyons of Vermont on the House floor. In January 1798, tempers grew raw in debate over the best way to deal with French naval belligerency. An insulting remark from Griswold drew retaliation from Lyon: He spit a stream of tobacco juice in Griswold's face. In February, denied legal redress, a frustrated Griswold walked up behind Lyon and began beating him with a cane. Lyon grabbed fire tons and flailed back. The brawl threw the House into an uproar, vividly exposing the emotional pitch of partisan feeling in Congress in the 1790's.