A smiling professorial Newt Gingrich let Fox & Friends’ confused co-host and history buff Clayton Morris slide on his facts today. In a segment on the informality of President Obama’s address to Congress, Clayton began accurately indicating that proper decorum is not always observed on the Senate floor but he then speciously used the example of “Andrew Jackson on the floor of the Senate hitting somebody with a cane back in the 1800’s.” As the former Speaker of the House undoubtedly knew, Clayton had conflated two distinct historical canings, one by President Andrew Jackson in the halls of Congress in 1835 and the other by Representative Preston Brooks of South Carolina on the Senate floor in 1856.
As to President Andrew Jackson, Old Hickory did his caning in the halls of Congress on January 30, 1835 after he was rudely interrupted as he paid his respects in the Capitol to the fallen Congressman Warren Davis of South Carolina. After Jackson had filed past Davis’ casket and was heading for the Rotunda, a deranged assassin, Richard Lawrence, fired two guns at him: both misfired. Old Hickory did not take kindly to Lawrence’s treachery and proceeded to whack Lawrence about the head until he posed no further danger.* [Cf. link, infra, for a print portrayal of the assassination attempt.]**
Today Clayton must have been thinking of the only Senate floor caning of record. In that incidence, the South Carolina Congressman Preston Brooks took offense for some Senate floor comments by Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner that Brooks interpreted to question the mental faculties of his stroke-stricken relative, Senator Butler, also of South Carolina. Deeming Sumner “no gentleman,” Butler did not deign to give Sumner the dignity of a duel: rather, he entered the Senate chamber, went forthright to Sumner’s desk, and broke his cane over the then much bloodied head of Sumner.***
Clayton made the very same error repeatedly on the December 13, 2008 edition of Fox & Friends Weekend (December 13, 2008): His F&F Weekend producers and co-hosts, Alisyn Camerota and Dave Briggs failed to correct him. (Cf. “Cane Careless Clayton, infra.)**** Once again Carpe Diem did not.