CongressJoanne B. Freeman

From the 1830s-1850s, members of Congress wore weapons on the House and Senate floor and often used them, Freeman says. She looks at the history of violence in Washington, including an incident when Senator Henry Foote of Mississippi pulled a pistol on Senator Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri during a debate. Things began to change after the invention of the telegraph, which promised instant publicity of these deeds. Now politicians are considering carrying weapons again to protect themselves against the public. Freeman says we are reminded that words matter and communication should be fruitful and civil.

Freeman, a professor of history at Yale, is at work on a book about violence in Congress.

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