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Ask Me Anything is back with another round of criminal activity by our representatives.
Hello Friends! It’s Friday! A week ago, I experienced the most intense pain of my life. Let’s hope this Friday remains pain-free!
We have another edition of Ask Me Anything, and the theme continues to be the criminal activity our elected representatives engage in.
Great question, Mandatory Lyft Driver to Emergency Room Partner! Five Stars!
Lyon was born in Ireland in 1749, which makes sense that he would end up in jail at some point. His father was supposedly executed for treason by the British government, so a young Matthew worked at an early age to support his mother.
He emigrated to Connecticut in 1764 and worked as an indentured servant for one guy, then another dude bought his debt, and Lyon worked for him. Having finally saved enough money by 1768, Lyon purchased his freedom.
Welcome to 18th-century living!
Matthew then moved to Vermont, joined the Green Mountain Boys, and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant when the Revolutionary War broke out. He served under Horatio Gates, who decided it would be best for Lyon to protect wheat fields or something, and Lyon wasn’t too keen on the idea and asked to be transferred so he could see some action. Around this time, rumors spread that Lyon was disciplined for cowardice and given a wooden sword to demonstrate such a poor vice.
After the War, Lyons would be elected to the Vermont House of Representatives in 1779 and served a couple of years before heading off and founding the town of Fair Haven, which sits in the southwest next to New York.
Lyon would return to the Vermont House in 1783, and it was then that he ramped up his political ambitions.
He would begin by establishing a newspaper called the Fair Haven Gazette, supplying much of the content while he ran for the Second and Third Congress, where he would lose both contests.
Not to be deterred, Lyon would try a third time, only to lose again. Finally, in 1797, he convinced the voters to send him to Philadelphia. Lyon’s quest to become a Congressman sounds like my dating life in my thirties.
A year later, Congress was dealing with a conspiracy by a Tennessee Senator. William Blount and another conspirator secretly worked with British financiers to purchase lands that the United States didn’t officially own. This was a big no-no for someone in Blount’s position, especially for a guy who had signed the Declaration of Independence. Come on, Will.
It was then that Irish Lyon would begin his journey to political martyrdom.
During the debate about removing Blount from the Senate, Connecticut Congressman Roger Griswold tried to engage Lyon in a conversation about the issue. Lyon turned on his inner Irish and ignored Griswold because both men were members of different color political parties – Lyon was a Democratic-Republican like Thomas Jefferson, while Griswold was a member of the Federalist Party, like John Adams and our boy Alexander Hamilton.
Griswold did not take Lyon’s silence kindly and called him a scoundrel, which back then was like calling someone a B, and Lyon’s response was to challenge Griswold to a fight, to which Griswold questioned if Matthew would be bringing his wooden sword.
Instead of inserting a Your Mama-like retort, Lyon spit tobacco juice in Griswold’s face. Other members stepped in to prevent any further escalation.
Lyon would formally apologize to the House for his actions, and his defense was that he didn’t realize they were in session because I guess you can spit in people’s faces as long as you are not in the middle of official government work. To further his defense, Congressman Lyon wrote a letter detailing his remorse.
Unfortunately for Lyon, Griswold did not accept the apology. One day, presumably during an official House session, Griswold walked up to Lyon and started beating him with his wooden cane because he didn’t have a wooden sword. Lyon needed his House colleagues once again to intervene.
During the middle of all this insulting, spitting, and beating, Congress managed to pass the Alien and Sedition Acts, which were four laws that applied restrictions to immigration and speech. Passed by the Federalists in support of Federalist President John Adams, who was combatting a nonofficial war with France and didn’t have time for anyone to insult, spit, or beat his reputation.
Lyon would turn up his inner Irish once again and published an essay in another publication he founded where he claimed Adams was a selfish fool who twisted Christianity to justify his war ambitions. This wasn’t the first time Lyon’s put the smackdown on Adams in print.
A few months earlier, he sent a letter to the publisher of the Vermont Journal stating that Adams was a bully and that the Senate was stupid.
The Federalists jumped at the chance to punish Lyon for his public statements and therefore violated the Sedition portion of the laws. They succeeded.
In October 1798, Congressman Matthew Lyon was tried, convicted, and sentenced to four months in jail for his actions. He was also fined $1,000. The judge in the case stated he wished he could have punished Lyon more.
Outraged by the conviction, Democratic-Republicans rallied behind Lyon, making him a political martyr who defended the First and not yet ranked Amendment to the Constitution, which protects free speech.
While in prison, Lyon’s popularity grew, and he was reelected from his jail cell to the Sixth Congress, earning nearly double the votes of his opponent.
Lyon would be crucial in electing Jefferson president in 1800 against Aaron Burr. To win the Electoral College, a candidate needed to carry nine states. Each representative from each state would vote, and the majority of votes would then go to a specific candidate.
Two states were tied, Vermont being one of them, because they were represented by a Federalist and a Democratic-Republican. On the 36th ballot, Vermont Representative Federalist Lewis Morris, under the guidance of Broadway Star Alex, presented himself as absent, which meant that Lyon’s vote for Jefferson gave Vermont’s ten electoral votes to him and thus the White House.
As I said, welcome to 18th-century living!
Hope this is helpful, Anonymous. Maybe we could discuss this more over dinner or while you watch TV.
Please hit the like button as you would if you had a wooden sword or cane. Forget your inner Irish, and let me know what you think in the comments section.
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If you wonder if Donald Trump can still run and be reelected president while in federal prison, the answer is yes. As you can see from the Lyon affair, political retribution, real or perceived, is a thing. Trump’s popularity grew after he was indicted in New York a few months ago. So it could still legally happen.
I’m still not confident that Trump will win the nomination. I’m unsure how he can still gain the necessary votes to take back the White House, especially since another indictment is presumably coming. But I also said he wouldn’t be elected back in 2016—my B.
Okay, so I have written A LOT on the legal ramifications of our elected. I’m here to serve up history lessons that are okay, but if there are other topics you’d like me to discuss, shoot me a question here or at email@example.com because I have nothing in the hopper right now.
Anything you want. Anything is in the title of the segment.
I’m back on Monday with another list of events. Anonymous will be driving herself to the Taylor Swift concert this weekend, which means I’m free from the jail that is daily married life.
I’m totally kidding here. But seriously, take your time getting back, babe.
Also, happy Father’s Day to all the dads, especially the ones who subscribe. My father passed away eight years ago next month, and Father's Day still brings a bit of sadness, but I will be okay. Just love your dads, people!
Finally, thanks to everyone for your support. Okay History continues to move up the charts like a mediocre country song.
Until Monday, have a great weekend!