To Sarah Savage Thatcher

    Philadelphia        17 February 1798

    My dear—

    Untill you reminded me of my inattention in yours of the 5th. instant, I did not think it had been so great—And even now it seems [as] if there must be some mistake. It lays in my mind that I had wrote you once a week, or oftener—But of late such a variety of new scenes have passed in Congress Hall that I can hardly distinguish realities from chimeras—wakefull sensations from sleeping dreems!

    In the middle of the third or fourth line of my letter, wrote on thursday [15 February], to Nancy [Bigelow], I was suddenly, & unsuspectedly interrupted by the sound of a violent blow. I was seting in the back seat of three rows of circular tables, rising one above another—I raised my head, & directly before me stood Mr. [Roger] Griswald laying on blows with all his might with a large hickory cain upon the head & shoulders of Mr. [Matthew] Lyon—who seemed to be in the act of rising out of his seat in the front row of tables—Lyon made an attempt to catch his cane, but failed—After he got from behind His table he pressed towards Griswald & endeavoured to close with him, but Griswald fell back, & continued his blows on the head, shoulders, & arms of Lyon—Lyon then finding he could not close in with Griswald fell back in his turn, protecting his head & face as well as he cold from Griswalds blows, which he continued with all his force—Lyon then turned & made for the fire place behind the speakers chare, & took up the tongs. Griswald having delt a very severe blow on his head as he stooped to catch the tongs, droped 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—before this time, however, the members had gathered round them & intercepted my sight—And here they were taken apart—I was determined to keep my seat—eno’ were nearer to separate them—Tis said after they went without the bar of the house, & while Griswald was drinking Lyon came up to him & gave him a blow—somebody handed Griswald his stick—but the house was called to order, & the affray ended—

    fig. 10. “Cudgeling as by late Act in Congress,” etching attributed to C.P. Eldwood (1798). Courtesy of Swann Auction Galleries. The Lyon-Griswold fight of 15 February 1798 was immediately burlesqued in popular song (“The battle of the wooden sword”), poetry (“The house of wisdom in a bustle”), and two cartoons. Apart from the metaphorical depiction of Rep. Lyon, this is the far more accurate of the two images, which—prior to the in-depth analysis of the Van Cortlandt seating chart in 1992—provided the only contemporary graphic evidence of the interior of Congress Hall following its enlargement in 1793.

    Lyon appeared much brused in the face, & I should suppose his head & shoulders must be very much hurt, unless they are uncommonly hard indeed—for the blows appeared to be struck with force.

    They both took their seats yesterday— Griswald recieved not hurt—Lyons face was very much bruised & swollen. A Resolution was then brought before the House that both of them be expelled1—this was refered to a committee of privileges, & the house adjourned to Monday.

    I would have you send Philips & Sally to Dancing school, if the weather & travling will permit—I believe there is time enough for George hereafter—Two at once, I believe, is as much as we can pay for—

    Kiss the baby [Anner Lewis] for her papa—

    Your affectionate

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    FC, TFP