When Sam Houston Whipped Up on Congressman William Stanberry
After Sam Houston resigned as Tennessee's governor he returned to live with the Cherokees, with whom he had lived as a youth. In 1832, while Houston was a member of an Indian delegation to Washington, Ohio Congressman William Stanberry, on the floor of the House, said some slanderous things about him. Houston sent a note challenging Stanberry to a duel. Stanerry refused to answer but started carrying pistols when he went out.
Almost two weeks after the original insult Houston was going to his hotel one evening when he encountered Stanberry on Pennsylvania Avenue. Houston attacked Stanberry with his hickory cane. Stanberry drew one pistol, aimed, and pulled the trigger but the pistol did not fire.
Stanberry filed a complaint with the Speaker. The House voted to arrest Houston, since the offensive statement had een made in that chamber, and Congressmen were supposed to be immune for statements made there. Houston's only punisment could be reprimand and withdrawal of his privilege, as a former Congressman, of coming onto the floor of the House.
Houston appeared the next day and was given 48 hours to prepare his defense. The Arcane Texas Fact of the Day is that his attorney was none other than Francis Scott Key. That's right, THE Francis Scott Key, the man who, 18 years earlier, had written the Star Spangled Banner.
The trial began on April 19. Stanberry showed the bumps on his head and Houston's cane was put into evidence. Key's defense was that the words which so inflamed Houston were not spoken in the House ---- he did not hear those ---- but those printed in the newspaper. it was a rather unsatisfactory position, since the newspaper account was a direct quote of Stansberry's speech in the House.
The trial lasted for a month and attracted a great deal of attention. President Jackson was displeased by the actions of his young friend, Houston, but said a few such chastisements would teach congressmen to maintain civil tongues.
The House found Houston guilty, but the attempt to deprive him of the privileges of the House was defeated by James K. Polk and other Jacksonians.
In the District of Columbia courts Houston was charged with the crime of assault and a fine of 500 dollars was imposed. A year later Houston was advised, "Get that remitted by the Old Chief (Andrew Jackson)." After another year Houston wrote Jackson about the fine. By virtue of his pardoning power, the President granted a remission and Houston never had to pay it.
Beauty is only skin deep but Texas is to the bone.