South Carolina Senators Grab a Slice of History

Jason Dick
Posted February 27, 2013 at 1:05pm

Think things are tense on Capitol Hill today, what with the back and forth over the sequester and the sniping over Cabinet nominations?

It could be worse, as HOH was reminded by this Thursday’s anniversary of the Senate’s censure of South Carolina Sens. Benjamin Tillman and John McLaurin for getting into a fistfight on the floor of the Senate.

On Feb. 22, 1902, Tillman, who carried around the nickname “Pitchfork Ben,” accused McLaurin of changing his position on a pending treaty in return for “special favors,” according to the Senate Historical Office. McLaurin wasn’t on the floor to hear Tillman’s accusation, but when he did hear about it, he headed to the chamber and said Tillman was propogating a “willful, malicious and deliberate lie.” Tillman responded by punching McLaurin (Remember, these guys, both Democrats, were home-state colleagues), which led to a “melee” on the floor.

A few days later, on Feb. 28, the Senate censured both men and adopted a rule that stated no member of the body shall  “by any form of words impute to another Senator … any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a Senator,” according to the historical office’s “This Week in Senate History” feature.

So a member of Congress from South Carolina on the floor of his chamber accused another public official of lying. Good to know such things are in the distant past.