The Fightenest Politicians in American History

    September 20, 2011 at 6:00 am

    The 2012 presidential election is over a year away, but it is already shaping up to be a nasty one.  Even the casual observer can tell that the level of acrimony in our modern political dialogue is sickening.  But what many people tend to forget is that America has a long history of bellicose political sparring.  In some cases verbal disagreements have exploded into full-blown fisticuffs, and occasionally death.  After all, since the USA was founded by fighting men, it stands to reason that she be governed by fighting men.  Today we celebrate our nation’s greatest pugilistic politicos!

    Aaron Burr

    aaron burrThis is the best known instance of American politicians deciding to lethally brutalize each other.  After all, it involved a sitting Vice President as well as the Secretary of the Treasury.  The hatred between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton became official during the presidential election of 1800.  Burr received the same amount of electoral votes as Jefferson, thus sending the decision to congress.  Since Hamilton didn’t like Burr, he actively convinced his colleagues in the House of Representatives to vote against him.  Jefferson soon became president, and Burr was relegated to VP.  Hamilton essentially pulled the same chicanery when Burr ran for Governor of New York four years later.  Then, in a very high school-esque fashion, word got back to Burr that Hamilton was making fun of him at fancy dinner parties.  OH SNAP!  After numerous failed attempts to get Hamilton to apologize, Burr decided it was time to bust out the flintlocks and have a good ol’ fashioned gentlemanly duel.  The men met in New Jersey, inadvertently establishing it as a Mecca for murder.  According to eye witness accounts, Hamilton’s first shot went in the air over Burr’s head.  Burr quickly answered with a lethal shot to Hamilton’s gut.  Historians debate whether or not Hamilton intentionally aimed high to miss Burr, or if it was simply a poor shot.  Burr subsequently faded away from national politics, and his distinction as our country’s only man-hunting vice president was finally shattered in 2006 by Dick Cheney.

    Andrew Jackson

    Andrew JacksonTo say that Andrew Jackson is one of our more controversial presidents is an understatement.  To say that he was a stubborn old salty dog that liked punching things would be pretty accurate.  Jackson’s fighten’ streak began early when he was a child during the American revolution.  He was captured by the British, and when he indignantly refused to shine an officer’s boots, said officer responded by slashing young Jackson in the face with his sword.  This incident left Jackson with a permanent scar, and equally permanent hatred of the British. Jackson went on to an impressive military career, and eventually the presidency.  Old Hickory has a long record of getting angry and punching people, but his most notorious confrontation came during an 1806 duel.  Charles Dickenson, a well known attorney, committed the ultimate bone-head move by making unflattering remarks about Jackson’s wife.  AW HELL NAW!  After Dickenson accused Jackson himself of being a coward, the two took to dueling.  Dickenson’s first shot hit Jackson in the chest, but he didn’t budge.  Even though a led ball had cracked three of his ribs, Jackson took aim, and delivered a lethal blow to Dickenson.  Despite his injury, Jackson left the field of combat under his own power, like a BOSS.  Years later, Jackson’s luck would continue when a would-be assassin drew two pistols to kill the newly elected president, only two have both of them simultaneously jam.  In reaction to this, Jackson turned to his Chief of Staff and said “What, me worry?”*

    *NOTE: This quote is actually attributed to Alfred E. Neuman, not Andrew Jackson.  Our mistake.

    Preston Brooks

    preston brooksYou’ve never heard of Preston Brooks, but think back to your 8th grade U.S. history course.  Does the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1856 ring a bell?  Since you are such a good student, you remember that it basically allowed voters to decide whether or not Kansas and Nebraska would be admitted to the union as slave states.  Northern abolitionists sure as Hell didn’t like this.  One in particular, Senator Charles Sumner, gave an epic speech decrying the law in congress.  In his speech, Sumner openly insulted pro-slave lawmakers with gusto.  This is where Preston Brooks comes in.  Brooks, a Representative from South Carolina, was pro-slavery and therefore enraged at Sumner.  Taking matters into his own hands, Brooks marched right into Sumner’s office, and informed the Senator that he intended to have revenge.  Before Sumner could even utter a polite “what?”, Brooks whipped out his walking cane, and beat Sumner over the head with it until he was blinded by his own blood.  Other members of congress tried to stop the attack, but were blocked by a colleague of Brooks’ who pulled out a pistol to keep them at bay.  Sumner was shaken from the bludgeoning, but news of the attack bolstered his popularity in the north and helped spread his anti-slavery message.  Preston Brooks, on the other hand, proved that in the entire course of human history everyone who has ever been named ‘Preston’ has been an asshole.  Think about it…right?  It’s an historical fact.

    The Entire Rhode Island State Legislature

    state flag rhode islandNote to self: never try and filibuster in Rhode Island.  In 1924, the Rhode Island State Legislature decided to stop behaving like well educated lawmakers, and decided to retroactively emulate the food fight scene from Animal House. In hopes of prompting a new constitutional convention, the Democratic minority began a filibuster against any legislation.  The majority Republicans didn’t like this.  Democratic Lieutenant Governor Felix Toupin further aided his colleagues on the left by not recognizing any house Republicans seeking to make a motion.  Frustrated, Republican members of the house walked out.  When the session convened three days later, a giant orgy of fisticuffs erupted among the lawmakers.  Dozens of dapper gents set to pummeling each other, probably using insults like “can it, chowder head” or “I’ll give you a shiner you won’t soon forget, buster!”  This awesome scene was topped off when a group of Republicans soaked a rag in stinky chemicals, and tossed it at Felix Toupin’s seat.  Yes, you read that correctly; full-grown men threw an improvised stink bomb at a Lieutenant Governor.  Thankfully there were no serious injuries, but all of the participants were probably put on double-secret probation.

    Teddy Roosevelt

    theodore-roosevelt-elephantWithout a doubt, Teddy Roosevelt was this great nation’s coolest president.  He was also the fightenest!  Teddy did all sorts of rough and tumble things: big game hunting, fire fighting, deep sea fishing, mountain climbing, crime fighting, sailing, rough riding, and of course charming the ladies.  He was indeed larger than life.  But tragedy struck when both his wife and mother passed away in 1884.  Seeking to flee from his sorrow, Teddy moved from New York to the Dakota territory.  This is where he got in a real-life wild west fist fight.  He built himself a freaking ranch in modern-day North Dakota, and filled his time with writing and working as a sheriff’s deputy.  One night he stopped by the bar in a local hotel for a drink and bite to eat.  His peace was shattered when some drunk shit-kicking cowboy decided to poke fun at Teddy’s glasses.  BIG MISTAKE!  At first he tried to shrug it off, but the cowboy kept calling the future president “four eyes.”  Teddy decided to act.  He punched the drunkard once on the right side of his jaw.  Then the left.  Then on the right side again just before the cowboy hit the ground.  With the nuisance sufficiently dispatched, Teddy finished his meal.  Then he built the Panama Canal.

    Sam Houston

    sam houstonSam Houston is a unique figure in the history of two nations.  A childhood runaway, he was raised primarily by Cherokee Indians.  He would go on to serve under Andrew Jackson during the War of 1812, as well as become a representative and governor of Tennessee.  But he is best known for his role as commander and chief of the rebel army during the Texas Revolution, and as the first president of the Republic of Texas.  Houston’s life was defined by strife and warfare, and he was no stranger to a fight.  It was his allegiance to Andrew Jackson that got him embroiled in an 1826 duel that has become somewhat legendary.  John Erwin of Nashville felt he had been insulted by Jackson, and therefore said some unsavory things about Old Hickory.  In defense of his mentor, Houston said some not-so-nice things about Erwin.  Erwin got pissed, and demanded satisfaction from Houston.  The only catch was that Erwin got his pal General William White to fight in his place.  So what began as a spat between Andrew Jackson and John Erwin ended up as a duel between Sam Houston and some other dude.  The fight was quick, though.  Houston shot White in the groin, which ended things pretty quick.  White was only injured, but knew when he was beat.  A lead bullet to the nuts would ruin anyone’s weekend.

    Harry Reid

    harry_reid_flips_the_birdYes, that’s right.  Harry Reid.  The unassuming Senator from Nevada.  He may not look like it, but he is certainly a fighten’ man.  When he was growing up in rural Nevada, there wasn’t a lot to do, so he took up boxing.  In high school, Harry was an amateur middle-weight boxer. In addition to this he would routinely get in fist fights with other kids who were also bored out of their minds.  But his best fighten’ moment came when he was an adult working as the chairman for the Nevada Gaming Commission in 1978.  And his opponent was none other than Jack Gordon (a.k.a. La Toya Jackson’s ex-husband!)  The story goes like this: Gordon approached Reid with a substantial bribe to approve a certain type of casino slot machine that Gordon thought would make him a ton of cash.  Reid played it cool and secretly contacted the FBI to set up a sting operation.  When the two men met again in Reid’s office, government agents were listening in.  Once Gordon was on tape offering the bribe the agents busted in, but not before Harry Reid angrily pounced on Gordon.  The outraged ex-boxer was in the midst of strangling and cussing out Gordon when the G-men broke the two apart.  This is why you should never cross paths with a fighten’ man.  Especially an honest one.  Jack Gordon was soon convicted and served time in prison.  He would go on to commit more crimes, become La Toya Jackson’s manager, marry La Toya Jackson, physically abuse La Toya Jackson, and ultimately die of cancer in 2005.  To my knowledge, no one seemed to mind.



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