Giving the South Africans a run for their money, the Taiwanese parliament erupted into a full-scale brawl on Friday, with chairs being thrown along with punches.

This fight seems to be expected by some as members started throwing water balloons they’d brought with them that morning.

The traditional Taiwanese “opposition party” has control of both the presidency and the legislature for the first time. Apparently, this melee broke out over a major infrastructure spending bill the president wants to pass.

Some suggested this is where the United States is headed. I suggest anyone who thinks a fight over a spending bill with water balloons is bad in the context of American history should read up on the issue of slavery and the caning of Sen. Charles Sumner in the well of the Senate in 1856.

From the Senate’s archives:

On May 22, 1856, the “world’s greatest deliberative body” became a combat zone.  In one of the most dramatic and deeply ominous moments in the Senate’s entire history, a member of the House of Representatives entered the Senate chamber and savagely beat a senator into unconsciousness.

The inspiration for this clash came three days earlier when Senator Charles Sumner, a Massachusetts antislavery Republican, addressed the Senate on the explosive issue of whether Kansas should be admitted to the Union as a slave state or a free state.  In his “Crime Against Kansas” speech, Sumner identified two Democratic senators as the principal culprits in this crime—Stephen Douglas of Illinois and Andrew Butler of South Carolina.  He characterized Douglas to his face as a “noise-some, squat, and nameless animal . . . not a proper model for an American senator.”  Andrew Butler, who was not present, received more elaborate treatment.  Mocking the South Carolina senator’s stance as a man of chivalry, the Massachusetts senator charged him with taking “a mistress . . . who, though ugly to others, is always lovely to him; though polluted in the sight of the world, is chaste in his sight—I mean,” added Sumner, “the harlot, Slavery.”

Representative Preston Brooks was Butler’s South Carolina kinsman.  If he had believed Sumner to be a gentleman, he might have challenged him to a duel.  Instead, he chose a light cane of the type used to discipline unruly dogs.  Shortly after the Senate had adjourned for the day, Brooks entered the old chamber, where he found Sumner busily attaching his postal frank to copies of his “Crime Against Kansas” speech.

Moving quickly, Brooks slammed his metal-topped cane onto the unsuspecting Sumner’s head.  As Brooks struck again and again, Sumner rose and lurched blindly about the chamber, futilely attempting to protect himself.  After a very long minute, it ended.

Bleeding profusely, Sumner was carried away…

While these types of fights in places like Taiwan and South Africa are stunning (and at times amusing) to watch, we should keep perspective of where we come from before we start pontificating about where we’re headed, and comparing the two.