Congress is good. Congress is old. Congress is full of boys.
May 22, 1856: Representative Preston Brooks of South Carolina leaves his House office, carrying a metal-topped cane. He enters the Senate chamber and approaches Charles Sumner of Massachusetts, who is bundling up his daily papers, including copies of an antislavery speech which he had delivered three days earlier, and in which he had criticized a kinsman of Brooks. Brooks swings his cane at the back of Sumner’s head, and then beats him mercilessly for over a minute while one of his colleagues holds bystanders at gunpoint.
Sumner is left lying unconscious and bleeding profusely on the Senate floor. It is one of the most gruesome moments in the history of Congress, and a harbinger of a war to come just five years later.
July 26, 2017: Representative Earl “Buddy” Carter of Georgia apparently loses patience with fellow Republicans in the Senate for not supporting a repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Speaking on MSNBC in direct reference to Donald Trump’s tweeted criticism of Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, Carter squeaks, “Let me tell you, somebody needs to go over there to that Senate and snatch a knot in their a**”. Meanwhile, Representative Blake Farenthold of Texas, speaking on a radio program in reference to Senators Murkowski, Susan Collins of Maine, and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, blathers, “…there are some female senators from the Northeast – if it was a guy from South Texas, I might ask him to step outside and settle this Aaron-Burr style.”
Hoo-dog! Now, just to be clear, “snatching a knot” is aw-shucks-speak for hitting somebody. And Aaron Burr was a villain who killed Alexander Hamilton and was later tried for treason. Furthermore, just to be clear, threatening violence against a federal official is a felony. And, finally, just to be clear, the Senators being threatened are three of the most impressive women to ever sit in Congress.
But if that’s not enough, here’s a reassuring historical postscript: Senator Sumner survived his caning, and went on to become one of the most formidable members of Congress of that era; he helped lead the government through the Civil War and Reconstruction, until his death in 1874. On the other hand, Representative Brooks was convicted of assault and resigned his House seat. He was immediately reelected, but before he could serve he died from a sudden bout of croup. Bystanders reported, “He died a horrid death, and suffered intensely. He endeavored to tear his own throat open to get breath.” Boy howdy.
All of which should serve as a reminder to the two gentlemen from Georgia and Texas of the proper decorum for serving in the world’s greatest deliberative body.
Hey Buddy. And you too Blake. You listenin? Now boys, remember what your mamas told you.
All y’all best hush up.