Today, in 2021, our congress is going through difficult times. Some are worried about their safety. Surprisingly, this is not new. There has been violence in the United States Congress, namely the Senate, before.
In 1856, the consuming issue was slavery. In the Senate, many senators wanted it, for economic reasons, and many who did not want it, for humanitarian reasons.
Speeches by proponents on both sides of the issue were given on the Senate's floor and the House of Representatives. The members of Congress cannot be sued for what they say on the floor. Therefore the members felt they had the right to say whatever they pleased about other members.
Charles Sumner, Senator from Massachusetts, opposed slavery and commented about the Senators who were for slavery. He attacked, in his speech, Stephen A. Douglas and Andrew P. Butler.
Douglas is quoted as saying, "That darned fool is going to get himself killed by some other darned fool."
In the House of Representatives sat Mr. Preston Brooks, the nephew of Senator Butler. Two days after the speech, Representative Brooks walked into the Senate and beat Senator Sumner with his cane until the man was on the floor.
It took three years for Mr. Sumner to recuperate. The House of Representatives censured Mr. Brooks. He resigned, went home, and was re-elected for another term.
As far as the issue of slavery, the violence in the Senate did not achieve anything. Private citizens, a few years later, started the Civil War or as some call it the War Between the States.
Andrew Johnson, the Vice President was pro-slavery, but he was more pro-union. He stood with President Abraham Lincoln to save the union. He put his country before his self-interests. We had leaders who stood up for our nation, and our Constitution still stands.