Due to a special event, on Wednesday, July 8, there will be no tours of the U.S. Capitol after 11 a.m. Emancipation Hall and Exhibition Hall in the Capitol Visitor Center will be unavailable all day. While reservations prior to 11 a.m. will be honored, same-day passes will not be available. The Capitol Visitor Center will close at noon except for individuals on official business and those going to the House and Senate Galleries.

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