In order to allow for the installation of scaffolding and floor, statuary, and artwork protection in conjunction with the Dome Restoration Project, the Rotunda of the Capitol will be closed from Monday, July 27 through Monday, September 7. While the Rotunda is unavailable for tours, an alternate tour route will be provided. The Capitol Visitor Center is open during the closure of the Rotunda and will offer special activities which do not require advance reservations. You can also download our new U.S. Capitol Rotunda app.

1798 The Rough and Tumble of Debate

In a democracy, disagreement doesn’t mean disloyalty. But political parties were new in the United States, and it took time to accept the idea that opposition can strengthen a democratic society. As Congress divided into opposing political parties (Federalists, often viewed as aristocratic, versus the sometimes rambunctious Jeffersonian Republicans), debates frequently led to strong words—and, on rare occasions, more.

During a 1798 debate, Representative Matthew Lyon of Vermont, a Jeffersonian Republican, responded to taunts about his military record by spitting tobacco juice in the face of Roger Griswold, a Connecticut Federalist. Outraged that the House didn’t punish “the spitting Lyon,” Griswold took matters into his own hands. He attacked Lyon with a cane. Lyon then grabbed a pair of fire tongs. The two ended up wrestling on the floor of the House.

History of Congress and the Capitol

The House 1789-1815

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Congressional Pugilists, anonymous...
Image Caption

Congressional Pugilists, anonymous cartoon, 1798

The creation of the House of Representatives opened a new national arena for intense partisan conflicts and feelings.

Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Congressional Pugilists, anonymous cartoon, 1798

The creation of the House of Representatives opened a new national arena for intense partisan conflicts and feelings.

Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress