On This Day, Jan 30, 1798 – First Brawl Breaks Out on House Floor

griswold1798 – The first brawl in the U.S. House of Representatives took place. Congressmen Matthew Lyon and Roger Griswold fought on the House floor.

On the morning of February 15, 1798, pandemonium broke out on the floor of the United States House of Representatives. Without warning, Federalist Representative Roger Griswold of Connecticut strode across the chambers to where his colleague Matthew Lyon was sitting preoccupied with some correspondence. Cursing him as a “scoundrel,” Griswold pounded the Vermont Republican’s head and shoulders with a thick, hickory walking stick. Federalist Representative George Thacher of Massachusetts witnessed and later recalled the attack:

“I was suddenly, and unsuspectedly interrupted by the sound of a violent blow I raised my head, & directly before me stood Mr. Griswald [sic] laying on blows with all his mightupon Mr. Lyon, who seemed to be in the act of rising out of his seat Lyon made an attempt to catch his cane, but failed–he pressed towards Griswald & endeavoured to close with him, but Griswald fell back and continued his blows on the head, shoulder, & arms of Lyon[who] protecting his head & face as well as he could then turned & made for the fire place & took up the [fire] tongs. Griswalddrop[p]ed his stick & seized the tongs with one hand, & the collar of Lyon by the other, in which pos[i]tion they struggled for an instant when Griswald trip[p]ed Lyon & threw him on the floor & gave him one or two blows in the face.”

Moments after the two grappling combatants were separated, Lyon retreated to the House water table; when Griswold re-approached him, Lyon lunged forward with the fire tongs and initiated a second brawl. As Jonathan Mason commented, the central legislative body of the United States of America had been reduced to “an assembly of Gladiators.”

1649 – England’s King Charles I was beheaded.

1790 – The first purpose-built lifeboat was launched on the River Tyne.

1844 – Richard Theodore Greener became the first African American to graduate from Harvard University.

1862 – The U.S. Navy’s first ironclad warship, the “Monitor“, was launched.

1894 – C.B. King received a patent for the pneumatic hammer.

1911 – The first airplane rescue at sea was made by the destroyer “Terry.” Pilot James McCurdy was forced to land in the ocean about 10 miles from Havana, Cuba.

1933 – “The Lone Ranger” was heard on radio for the first time. The program ran for 2,956 episodes and ended in 1955.

1933 – Adolf Hitler was named the German Chancellor.

1948 – Indian political and spiritual leader Mahatma Gandhi was murdered by a Hindu extremist.


1968 – The Tet Offensive began as Communist forces launched surprise attacks against South Vietnamese provincial capitals.

The Tet Offensive was a series of surprise attacks by the Vietcong (rebel forces sponsored by North Vietnam) and North Vietnamese forces, on scores of cities, towns, and hamlets throughout South Vietnam. It was considered to be a turning point in the Vietnam War.

North Vietnamese leaders believed they could not sustain the heavy losses inflicted by the Americans indefinitely and had to win the war with an all-out military effort. In addition, Ho Chi Minh was nearing death, and they needed a victory before that time came.

The combined forces of the Vietcong and the North Vietnamese Regular Army (NVA), about 85,000 strong, launched a major offensive throughout South Vietnam.

The attacks began on January 31, 1968, the first day of the Lunar New Year, Vietnam’s most important holiday. It took weeks for U.S. and South Vietnamese troops to retake all of the captured cities, including the former imperial capital of Hue.

Even though the offensive was a military failure for the North Vietnamese Communists and Vietcong (VC), it was a political and psychological victory for them because it dramatically contradicted optimistic claims by the U.S. government that the war.


1972 – In Northern Ireland, British soldiers shot and killed thirteen Roman Catholic civil rights marchers. The day is known as “Bloody Sunday.”

1979 – The civilian government of Iran announced it had decided to allow Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to return. He had been living in exile in France.


Source: u-s-history.com, On-This-Day.com; essaysinhistory.com