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06-25-04, 06:32 PM
Friday, June 25, 2004
Story last updated at 5:06 p.m. on Friday, June 25, 2004

Incivility History

The Associated Press

Some notable uncivil incidents among elected officials from years past:

1793: A congressman challenged a former House colleague to a duel outside the Capitol and killed him.

1798: A day after Vermont Rep. Matthew Lyon spat in Connecticut Rep. Roger Griswold's face, the latter approached Lyon at his desk and began beating him with a walking stick. Lyon retrieved tongs from the fireplace behind the speaker's chair and the two fought on the House floor until fellow lawmakers ended it.

1832: Tennessee Rep. Sam Houston attacked Ohio Rep. William Stanbery with his cane. Stanbery tried to shoot Houston but his pistol misfired.

1838: Rep. William J. Graves of Kentucky killed freshman Rep. Jonathan Cilley of Maine in a duel in nearby Maryland, prompting Congress to ban duels in Washington.

1838: Tussling behind the speaker's chair, Rep. William B. Campbell held fellow Tennessee Rep. Abram P. Maury by the hair and struck him repeatedly in the face.

1840: Rep. Jesse Bynum of North Carolina attacked Rep. Rice Garland of Louisiana with a cane.

1840: North Carolina Reps. Kenneth Rayner and William Montgomery broke canes over each other's heads.

1850s: A pistol in a House member's desk accidentally went off, and instantly "there were fully 30 or 40 pistols in the air," recalled a member who was present.

1856: A speech by abolitionist Massachusetts Sen. Charles Sumner criticizing South Carolina Sen. Andrew P. Butler drew an angry response from Butler's relative in the House, Rep. Preston Brooks, who days later entered the Senate chamber and bludgeoned Sumner with a cane. Brooks eventually resigned, while Sumner needed three years to recover.

1890: Former Kentucky Rep. William P. Taulbee was fatally shot by a reporter on a stairway on the House side of the Capitol.

1902: Two senators were censured for engaging in a fist fight on the Senate floor.

1985: Thomas Downey, D-N.Y., accused Rep. Robert K. Dornan, R-Calif., of yanking his tie and threatening "bodily harm." Dornan said he only "straightened" the tie although he conceded he had called Downey a "wimp."

1985: As House members argued over vote counts in a late-night session, Majority Leader James Wright, a Texas Democrat, threatened to punch two Republicans in the mouth.

1995: Following a testy exchange in a Friday night debate, Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., and Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, R-Calif., grappled with each other outside the House chamber before police and other lawmakers separated them.

1995: In what was dubbed "the brawl in the hall," Rep. Sam Gibbons, D-Fla., compared Republicans to the Nazis he fought in World War II then engaged in a hallway shouting match with Rep. Bill Thomas, R-Calif., who said Gibbons pulled his tie.

SOURCES: Congressional Research Service; The Annenberg Public Policy Center; Associated Press.

Copyright Associated Press.