This section is from the book "The National Capitol. Its Architecture Art And History", by George C. Hazelton, Jr. Also available from Amazon: The National Capitol Its Architecture Art and History.
On the afternoon of January 30, 1835, tne funeral services of a Representative from South Carolina in this hall barely escaped forming the prelude to a great tragedy. President Jackson, accompanied by Mr. Woodbury and Mr. Dickerson, was near the head of the procession which was to escort the departed to the grave. The President had crossed the rotunda and was about to step upon the eastern portico when a man rushed forth from the crowd, and, leveling a pistol at the breast of the Executive, but eight feet away, pulled the trigger. The spectators were breathless. The cap exploded with a loud report, but the pistol was not discharged. Dropping it quickly to the floor, the would-be assassin attempted to fire a second weapon, with the same fortunate result. The President, wild with rage and thoughtless of danger, rushed at his adversary with uplifted cane. Lieutenant Gedney of the navy, however, knocked the madman down before the President reached him.
Harriet Martineau was a witness of this scene. " We went to the Capitol," she writes, " at about half an hour before noon, and found many ladies already seated in the gallery of the Hall of Representatives. I chanced to be at the precise point of the gallery where the sounds from every part of the House are concentrated; so that I heard the whole service, while I was at such a distance as to command a view of the entire scene. In the chair were the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the Representatives. Below them sat the officiating clergyman; immediately opposite to whom were the president and heads of departments on one side the coffin, and the judges of the Supreme Court and members of the Senate on the other. The representatives sat in rows behind, each with crape around the left arm ; some in black; many in blue coats with bright buttons. Some of the fiercest political foes in the country; some who never meet on any other occasion—the president and the South Carolina senators, for instance—now sat knee to knee, necessarily looking into each others' faces. With a coffin beside them, and such an event awaiting their exit, how out of place was hatred here !
" After prayers there was a sermon, in which warning of death was brought home to all, and particularly to the aged; and the vanity of all disturbances of human passion when in view of the grave was dwelt upon. There sat the gray-headed old president, at that time feeble, and looking scarcely able to go through this ceremonial. I saw him apparently listening to the discourse; I saw him rise when it was over, and follow the coffin in his turn, somewhat feebly; I saw him disappear in the doorway, and immediately descended with my party to the Rotundo, in order to behold the departure of the procession for the grave. At the bottom of the stairs a member of Congress met us, pale and trembling, with the news that the president had been twice fired at with a pistol by an assassin who had waylaid him in the portico, but that both pistols had missed fire. At this moment the assassin rushed into the •Rotundo where we were standing, pursued and instantly surrounded by a crowd. I saw his hands and half-bare arms struggling above the heads of the crowd in resistance to being handcuffed. He was presently overpowered, conveyed to a carriage, and taken before a magistrate. The attack threw the old soldier into a tremendous passion. He fears nothing, but his temper is not equal to his courage. Instead of his putting the event calmly aside, and proceeding with the business of the hour, it was found necessary to put him in his carriage and take him home.
" We feared what the consequences would be. We had little doubt that the assassin Lawrence was mad; and as little that, before the day was out, we should hear the crime imputed to more than one political party or individual. And so it was. Before two hours were over, the name of almost every eminent politician was mixed up with that of the poor maniac who caused the uproar. The president's misconduct on the occasion was the most virulent and protracted".