But the battle of 1855-56 was different from the present contest in one important respect. Although it was promoted by fractured parties, it was based on an important policy difference: the fate of slavery, which was at the core of the politics of the time, was inevitable, growing hotter by the moment, and American politics such as economy, classism, and citizenship Confused with the fundamentals. ,
It was for good reason that in view of the coming conflict, Congressmen wanted to know with whom they were dealing. Once established, there will be Speaker Staffing Committees, essentially shaping Congress in the process.
The 1849 speaker election – the second longest – ended after 63 ballots, the 1859–60 election (the third longest) after 44; Both also focused on slavery. In the latter case, the conflict over the fate of slavery reached its climax. Instead of two parties, there were sectional blocs facing off with Southern extremists—the so-called fire eaters—willing to resort to violence rather than submit themselves to an anti-slavery speaker.
And indeed, there was violence. In the 1859–60 election, during the first eight weeks of the first session, there were nine physical fights and several non-violent confrontations. A fight broke out on the street. During the debate, Republican John Hickman scoffed that John Brown, an ardent abolitionist of Harpers Ferry raid fame, had terrorized the entire state of Virginia with a handful of men. When Virginia Democrat Henry Edmondson happened to pass Hickman on the street, he slapped her, but was pulled over by Representative Lawrence Keats of South Carolina.
This was out of character for a fire-eating insect. When South Carolina Governor William Geist told his state’s congressional delegation that if a Republican speaker was elected he should be removed by force if necessary, Kate took his cue. Not long after, he and a group of Southerners planned an attack. At the opening of the Congress in December 1859, his wife Susanna wrote to her brother in a panic. Her husband and three armed Southerners had left her parlor vowing to “knife fight on the floor of Congress” and “either capture the Capitol or fall” if a Republican was elected.
In the end, there was no bloody attack, although the passion of the moment was felt on the floor. When a Republican denounced Southern threats of violence in the middle of a speaking contest, a Southerner rushed at him waving a fist, sending a wave of Republicans and Southern Democrats in his wake, many of them reaching for guns.
It was far from the first such blunder on the House floor, but in the midst of the fierce sectional storm of 1859–60, it seemed worse was to come. Finally, a freshman, Republican William Pennington of New Jersey, won the speakership as a sort of compromise candidate, although the compromise was minor. Every Northerner in the House voted for him, and every Southerner but one voted against him.
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