Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Senator Hits Constituent

A rare 'man bites dog' story! In April 1917 the respected, 66 year old Senator Henry Cabot Lodge was in the newspapers for a very unusual reason. He hit one of his constituents! (even John Prescott didn't go that far).

The context was the fevered atmosphere before the United States' entry into the first world war. On the day of the fight President Wilson was to attend Congress to ask for a declaration of war. Anti-war campaigners had converged on Washington from around the country. Officials directed protesters to see their own Senators and Representatives. A delegation from Massachusetts went to the office of Senator Cabot Lodge. Graphic accounts of the confrontation are to be found in the Boston Daily Globe of 3rd August [Headline - Lodge on Top in Fist Fight: Stiff Blow to Jaw Floors Alexander Bannwart], which reported "The Senator was called to his door to hear the arguments of the visitors. There were harsh words and then blows were exchanged between the Senator, aged 67 [in fact he was a few weeks short of his birthday] and Alexander W Bannwart, 36 years old, of Dorchester, Mass, born in Switzerland of Swiss-German parents".

The delegation of seven included at least two ministers, and one woman - Mrs A M Peabody.

Both Senator Cabot Lodge and Mr Bannwart claim the other hit first. Mrs Peabody's account was that "the Senator said, 'the pacifists are cowards in talking of anything else'. Mr Bannwart then broke in and said, 'it isn't the pacifists who are cowards: it is the war people who are cowards'. Senator Lodge came out and went up to Mr Bannwart and said, 'If you call me a coward you are a damned liar' and Mr Bannwart replied, 'I might return the compliment'. Senator Lodge then struck him in the face, a frightful blow - the Senator was frightfully angry. Mr Bannwart struck him, and then a messenger rushed out and, seeing Senator Lodge falling back against the door, jumped on Mr Bannwart and pounded him till blood flowed from two cuts in Mr Bannwart's head"

Alexander Bannwart told a reporter, "I had no idea he was going to strike me. He just hauled me off and hit me as hard as he could. Then half a dozen fellows had a fine time trying to finish me off. That messenger boy had an especially good time"

Senator Cabot Lodge's account was that in response to being called a coward, "I went forward, up close to him and said, 'You're a Liar'. He struck me and I struck him". the Authorities believed Cabot Lodge's version which was backed by another Senator.
Bannwart had been born in Basel, Switzerland and had come to Boston whilst a boy. He attended Andover Academy and Princeton. He played baseball for the Lowell Club in the New England League, eventually assuming control of the club. He had joined after the club had been through a long losing struck, and was nicknamed, then known as 'Al Winn'.
Senator Cabot Lodge was the great-grandson of Senator George Cabot who sat in the Senate in the 1790s. Cabot Lodge was elected to the House of Representatives in 1887 where he sat until 1893 when he became a Senator, serving until his death in 1924. As chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee he was the leading opponent of President Wilson's plan for the United States to be a member of the League of Nations. His grandson was also a Republican politician - a Senator; Nixon's running mate in the 1960 election and Ambassador to South Vietnam during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations.