‘Norms Are Being Challenged All the Time’: Joanne Freeman on Civility and the History of Congressional Brawls

A famous act of political violence is often used to illustrate the utter collapse of civic norms in the run-up to the Civil War: the caning of Charles Sumner by his fellow congressman, Preston Brooks of South Carolina, on the floor of the Senate.

It turns out, though, that this was just one of dozens of incidents of violence in Congress in the period between 1930 and the first shots fired at Fort Sumter, ranging from physical menacing to threats to brawls to duels—including one that killed an elected representative. This phenomenon, which has been little-understood thanks in no small part to the euphemism-laden legislative records of the era, has been rediscovered in The Field of Blood, a fascinating and upsettingly timely new book by Joanne B. Freeman. A professor of history at Yale, one of the world’s leading experts on Alexander Hamilton, and co-host of the podcast Backstory, she’s studied political violence for decades.

via ‘Norms Are Being Challenged All the Time’: Joanne Freeman on Civility and the History of Congressional Brawls

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