"It may have been inexcusable, but it was a sign of the times. The incident occurred weeks before a more notorious confrontation in which South Carolina Rep. Preston Brooks beat Sen. Charles Sumner of Massachusetts senseless on the Senate floor after Sumner called Southerners flocking to support slaveholders in Kansas the “drunken spew and vomit of an uneasy civilization.” Anti-immigrant sentiment, manifested in a secret society whose members pledged to say they “know nothing” about its activities, was rampant.
In the wake of the shooting, the Northern press reported that Herbert was an “Alabama-born bluebood and an avid secessionist” who had been expelled from the University of Alabama after he stabbed a fellow student, according to Guy Gugliotta, a former Washington Post reporter and author of a book on pre-Civil War Washington and construction of the U.S. Capitol. That a hotheaded, highborn Southerner killed a working man confirmed Northern fears about the intemperate behavior of Southern defenders of slavery, according to Gugliotta." Washpost
That is a picture of the Old Willard Hotel, the one that stood on 14th Street in 1856.
BTW the Dan Sickles mentioned as having killed Barton Key is the same Sickles who as a major general of volunteers lost a leg at Gettysburg to an artillery round shot. while the surgeon sawed the remnants of his leg off in a barn, he calmy asked someone to light him a cigar. If I recall, Sickles defense in the Key murder trial was the first successful use of a temporary insanity defense in the US.
We just don't have many people of this "quality" today in the US. There is Maxine Waters but now she is backing away from her earlier incitement of violence. More typical are the mostly Anglo women (500 or so) who occupied the cavernous atrium of the senate Hart office building yesterday with an immense Calder sculpture and mobile hanging over them.
They marched in led by Susan Sarandon and friends and stood around trying to chant things in Spanish like "Donde estan los hijos?" A .lot of them seemed to have had some difficulty with that, evidently never having chatted with the help in Spanish. After a while the capitol police grew weary of them and herded them away to buses whilst they (the women) sang hymns (in English).
Things will have to get worse if we are to reach 1856 levels of performance. pl