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The Field of Blood: Congressional Violence in Antebellum America, with Prof. Joanne FreemanAdd to Queue

  • Posted by : YaleUniversity

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  • Date posted : Jan 01, 1970


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In the 1830s, 1840s, and 1850s, the United States Congress erupted into violence; there were well over 100 physical fights on the floor of the House and Senate, including fistfights and duel challenges, Bowie knives and pistols, and a few all-out brawls with dozens of congressmen throwing punches. Most of these fights don't appear in the period's equivalent of the Congressional Record, yet they had a powerful influence on the flow of debate on the floor. "Bullying and pistoleering" was an effective way of silencing one's "opposition" tool of debate that Southerners deployed with gusto. Exploring this violence sheds new light on the delicate balance between congressional politics, the press, and the American public, and offers new insights into the coming of the Civil War.

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