Cookie Consent

Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Quidnunckis

 How vain are mortal man's endeavours?
 (Said, at dame Elleot's, master Travers)
 Good Orleans dead!  in truth 'tis hard:
 Oh! may all statesmen die prepar'd
 I do foresee (and for foreseeing
 He equals any man in being)
 The army ne'er can be disbanded.
  --I with the king was safely landed.
  Ah friends!  great changes threat the land!
  All France and England at a stand!
There's Meroweis-- mark! strange work!
 And there's the Czar, and there's the Turk--
The Pope-- An India-merchant by
Cut short the speech with this reply:
All at a stand?  you see great changes?
Ah, sir!  you never saw the Ganges:
There dwells the nation of Quidnunckis
(So Monomotapa calls monkeys
On either bank from bough to bough,
They meet and chat (as we may now):
Whispers go round, they grin, they shrug,
They bow, they snarl, they scratch, they hug;
And, just as chance or whim provoke them,
They either bite their friends, or stroke them.
There have I seen some active prig,
To show his parts, bestride a twig:
Lord!  how the chatt'ring tribe admire!
Not that he's wiser, but he's higher:
All long to try the vent'rous thing,
(For power is but to have one's swing).
From side to side he springs, he spurns,
And bangs hisfoes and friends by turns.
Thus as in giddy freaks he bounces,
Crack goes the twig, and in he flounces!
Down the swift stream the wretch is borne;
Never, ah never, to return!
Zounds! whata fall had our dear brother!
Morbleu! cries one; and damme, t'other.
The nation gives a general screech;
None cocks his tail, none claws his breech;
Each trembles for the public weal,
And for a while forgets to steal.
Awhile all eyes intent and steady
Pursu him whirling down the eddy:
But, out of mind when out of view,
Some other mounts the twig anew;
And business on each monkey shore
Runs the same track it ran before.
          -John Gay

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Ticket to Ride

       Why should a person rule over others?  Four basic reasons are usually given:
       1).  Nobility.  That is, a person should rule because of their heredity.  Examples were the Adams family, the Habsburgs, the Kennedys and so forth.

        2).Virtue.  A person rules due to moral behavior or personal courage.  The election of so many corrupt and dishonest people demonstrate the obsolescence of this concept.  Where it does exist, it often results in theocracies.

         3).Representation.  This line of thinking says that because everyone must live under the government, every group should be periodically in control of the reigns of power.  Coincidentally, Tom Holland opines that ordinary citizens be randomly added to the House of Lords in today's Independent.  A very current tendency, rule on the basis of race, gender or sexual orientation typically plays a large role, especially in urban politics.

          4).Qualification.  Because of personal talents or education, some are judged to merit office.  The main difficulty with this justification is in agreeing what experience or education are a proper preparation.  Rightists consider business and military service qualification.  Leftists often believe lawyers are supremely prepared for office.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Legislative Nostalgia, Part Five

       "Opposed to expansion in any form, {President Grover} Cleveland was a man of integrity, as well as shape, similar to Reed's.  Once, when mistaken for Cleveland in an ill-lit room, Reed said, 'Mercy!  Don't tell Grover.  He is too proud of his good looks already.'  Before he had been in office a week, Cleveland recalled the treaty of {Hawaii} annexation from the Senate, much to the distress of Reed's young friend, Roosevelt, who felt 'very strongly' about 'hauling down the flag,' as he called it.
       Reed was now at the zenith of his power.  The dangerous battle of his first term was long past and the guerilla warfare of two terms as minority leader over, leaving him with unlimited control.  'He commands everything by the brutality of his intellect,' said a member.  His well-drilled ranks, though occasionally, and as time went on, increasingly, restive, could not break the habit of obedience.  When the Speaker waved his hands upward members would stand as one man, and if by chance they rose to claim the floor when he wished them silent, a downward wave made them subside into their seats.  'He had more perfect control over the House than any other Speaker,' wrote Senator Cullom of Illinois.
       Stern on dignity and decorum, he permitted no smoking or shortsleeves and even challenged the cherished priviledge of feet on desk.  A member with particularly visible white socks who so far forgot himself as to resume that comfortable posture, received a message from the Chair, 'The Czar commands you to haul down those flags of truce.'
       With no favorites and no near rivals, he ruled alone.  Careful not to excite jealousy, he avoided even walking in public with a member.  Solitary, the stupendous figure ambled each morning from the old Shoreham Hotel (then on Fifteenth and H Streets), where he lived, to the Hill, barely nodding to greetings and unconscious of strangers who turned to stare at him in the street.
       He had a kind of 'tranquil greatness,' said a colleague, which evolved from a philosophy of his own and left him 'undisturbed by the ordinary worries and anxieties of life.'  Reed gave a clue to it one night when a friend came to discuss politics and found him reading Sir Richard Burton's Kasidah , from which he read aloud the lines:
                                                 Do what thy manhood bids thee do,
                                                 from none but self expect applause,
                                                 He noblest lives and noblest dies
                                                  who makes and keeps his self-made laws.
       Secure in his self-made laws, Reed could not be flustered.  Once a Democratic member, overruled y Reed on a point of order, remembered that the Speaker had taken a different position in his manual, Reed's Rules.  Hurriedly, he sent for the book, leafed through its pages, pounced on the relevant passage and marched to the rostrum in anticipatory triumph to lay it before the Speaker.  Reed read it attentively, cast a glance down at the man from his glowing hazel eyes and said with finality, 'Oh, the book is wrong.'
       During the Venezuela crisis he said little publicly, kept the Republicans in the House under firm control and trusted to Cleveland's basic antipathy for foreign adventure, which he shared, to withstand the Jingoes' eagerness to annex this and that.  Reed was unalterably opposed to expansion and all it implied.  He believed that American greatness lay at home and was to be achieved by improving living conditions and raising political intelligence among Americans rather than by extending American rule over half-civilized peoples difficult to assimilate.  To him the Republican party was the guardian of this principle and expansion was 'a policy no Republican ought to excuse much less adopt.'

       Reed could see the trend but he could not have changed himself.  'Some men like to stand erect,' he once said, 'and some men even after they are rich and high placed like to crawl.'
       When in a masterly speech he tore, trampled, and demolished free silver, which was less a question of currency than of class struggle, Roosevelt, filled with enthusiasm, wrote him, 'Oh Lord!  What would I not give if you were our standard-bearer.'  At times, however, Roosevelt confessed to being 'pretty impatient' with Reed, who would not satisfy his insistence on support of a big navy.  'Upon my word,' he complained to {Henry Cabot} Lodge, 'I do think that Reed ought to pay some heed to the wishes of you and myself.'  It was a vain hope to express of a man who was not given to 'heeding' anyone's wishes.  To Lodge's annoyance, Reed also refused 'to promise offices from the Cabinet down or spend money to secure Southern delegates.'  Hanna, well supplied with funds, was busy in the South collecting white and Negro Republican delegates who were for sale.  'They were for me until the buying started,' Reed said.

       Still firm in command of the Republican members, Reed could subdue any unhealthy lust among them for annexation, but as Speaker he was bound to pilot {McKinley} Administration policy through the House.  The question was, what was Administration policy:  the soft reluctance of McKinley or the 'outward' drive of Lodge and Roosevelt powered by the ideas of Mahan and the persuasions of the sugar trust?  The answer came in June, when a new treaty of annexation was concluded with the Hawaiian government, signed by McKinley and sent to the Senate for ratification.  Although there was little likelihood of assembling two-thirds of the Senate in favor of it, the anti-expansionists were worried.  Carl Schurz, whom McKinley, always anxious to please, had earlier assured of his disinterest in Hawaii, faced him with the issue after dinner in the White House, over cigars.  Very uncomfortable, McKinley pleaded that he had sent the treaty to the Senate only to get an expression of opinion.  Nevertheless, Schurz said somewhat nervously that the treaty marked 'an end to the historic policy of the Republic since its foundation. . . and will mean its gradual evolution into a less peaceful and possibly militant power.'
       With regard to Cuba, the country was becoming increasingly excited.  Reed regarded the Hearst-fabricated furor over Spain's oppression with contempt and Republican espousal of Cuba's cause as hypocrisy.  He saw his party losing its moral integrity and becoming a party of political expediency in response to the ignorant clamor of the mob.  Without compunction he suppressed the resolution recognizing the belligerence of the 'Republic' of Cuba.  He too took to the magazines to argue against expansion--in an article whose title, 'Empire Can Wait,' became a rallying cry for the opponents of Hawaii's annexation.  It spoke the awful name;  as yet the outright words 'empire' and 'imperialism,' which connoted the scramble for Africa then at its peak among the European powers, had not been used in the United States.  James Bryce, perhaps the only Englishman who could have been allowed to give advice, urged Americans to have nothing to do with a policy of annexation.  America's remote position and immense power, he wrote in the Forum, freed her from the burden of armaments crushing the European powers.  Her mission in the world was 'to show the older peoples and states an example of abstention from the quarrels and wars and conquests that make up so large and lamentable a part of the annals of Europe.'  To yield to the 'earth-hunger' now raging among the European states would be 'a complete departure from the maxims of the illustrious founders of the republic.'  Behind his sober words could be sensed the love a man feels for the object of his life's work and a pleading to America not to contradict the promise that hung about her birth."  The Proud Tower by Barbara W. Tuchman, pgs. 130-31,141-42, 144,148-49.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Legislative Nostalgia, Part Four

       "The secret of his self-possession, as he told a friend long afterward, was that he had his mind absolutely made up as to what he would do if the House did not sustain him.  'I would simply have left the Chair and resigned the Speakership and my seat in Congress.'  He had a place waiting for him for the private practice of law in Elihu Root's New York firm, and 'I had made up my mind that if political life consisted in sitting helpless to pass legislation, I had enough of it and was ready to step down and out.'  Coming to such a decision, he said, 'you have made yourself equal to the worst' and are ready for it.  This has a very 'soothing' effect on the spirit.
       It did more than soothe:  it gave him an embedded strength which men who fear the worst , or will yield principles to avoid the worst, can never possess.  It endowed him with a moral superiority over the House which members without knowing why could sense in the atmosphere.
       Now the Democrats, changing their strategy, decided to absent themselves in actuality, counting on the inability of the Republicans to round up a quorum of themselves alone.  As one by one the Democrats slipped out, Reed, divining their intention, ordered the doors locked.  At once there followed a mad scramble to get out before the next vote.  Losing 'all sense of personal or official dignity,'  Democrats hid under desks and behind screens.  Representative Kilgore of Texas, kicking open a locked door to make his escape, made 'Kilgore's Kick' the delight of cartoonists.
       On the fifth day, the Democrats absented themselves altogether and when a vote was called the Republicans were still short of a quorum.  Two of their number were brought in on cots from their sickbeds.  There was still one too few.  One member was known to be on his way to Washington.  Suddenly a door opened, and, as a reporter told it, 'there was a flash of red whiskers and a voice saying, 'One more, Mr. Speaker.' ' Sweney of Iowa was counted in, the quorum was filled, and the vote recorded at 166-0.  The battle was over.  Democrats sullenly filed back to their seats.  The Rules Committee reported out a new set of rules, composed, needless to say, and imposed by the Chairman.  Known thereafter as 'Reed's Rules and adopted on February 14, they provided among other things that (1)all members must vote;  (2)one hundred shall constitute a quorum;  (3)all present shall be counted;  and (4)no dilatory motion shall be entertained and the definition of what is dilatory to be left to the judgment of the Speaker.
       Five years later Theodore Roosevelt wrote that in destroying the silent filibuster, Reed's reform was of 'far greater permanent importance' than any piece of legislation it brought to enactment at the time.  Reed knew this as soon as he had won.  In his speech closing the Fifty-first Congress he said that 'the verdict of history' was the only one worth recording and he was confident of its outcome 'because we have taken here so long a stride in the direction of responsible government.'
      More immediate than a verdict by history, and, indeed, then widely considered its equivalent, was a portrait by Sargent.  Commissioned as a tribute to the Speaker by his Republican colleagues, it was a memorable failure.  'He is supposed to be in the act of counting a quorum,' a critic observed, 'but in fact has just been inveigled into biting a green persimmon.'
       The death of the silent quorum was discussed in parliamentary bodies all over the world.  At home it made Reed a leading political figure and obvious candidate for the Presidential nomination in 1892.  But his time had not yet come, as he correctly judged, for when asked if he thought his party would nominate him, he replied, 'They might do worse and I think they will.'
       They did.  Reed's 'czardom' was still resented and his sarcasm had not made friends.  Nor did his disgust for deals, his refusal to woo the public with smiles and handshakes, or politicians with promises, enlarge his circle of supporters.  The party regulars preferred to nominate the incumbent Harrison, incorruptible but sour, known as the 'White House Iceberg,'  whom Reed disliked with no concealment whatever.  When Harrison appointed as Collector of Portland, Reed's home town, a man Reed despised, he thereafter refused to enter the White House or meet Harrison until the day he died.
       When, in 1892, the Democrats won control of the House by so large a majority that they could always assemble a quorum among themselves, they triumphantly threw out Reed's reform.  He waited for history, not without some faith, as he use to say, that 'the House has more sense than anyone in it.'  History did not keep him waiting long.  In the next Congress, with the Democratic majority reduced by half and split over the currency and other heated issues, Reed enjoyed a delicious revenge.  Over and over he demanded roll calls and when Bland of Missouri stormed against this 'downright filibuster,' he countered instantly, 'Downright?  You mean upright.'  His control over his party, as minority leader no less than as Speaker, remained total.  'Gentlemen on that side blindly follow him,' Speaker Crisp said wistfully.  'You will hear them privately saying, 'Reed ought not to do that,' or 'This is wrong,' but when Reed says 'Do it,' they all step up and do it.'  When at last the Democrats had to give way, and for the sake of their own program, re-adopt his quorum-counting rule, Reed refrained from crowing.  'This scene here today is a more effective address than any I could make,' he said.  'I congratulate the Fifty-third Congress.'" The Proud Tower by Barbara W. Tuchman, pgs. 128-130.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Tory Element in Modern America

       The fact that today's American Liberal is the lineal descendant of the British Tory is hard to contest.  The public employee is the modern equivalent of landed aristocracy.  Government by experts is the modern equivalent of Divine Right of Kings.  Most telling is the political theory expressed by Hollywood in With Honors, where the Presidency, it is concluded, is an elected monarchy.  Doesn't get much more Tory than that.  Add to that the fact that modern liberals consider Congress a cipher.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Legislative Nostalgia, Part Three

       "In 1889, however, Theodore Roosevelt proved politically useful to {Speaker Thomas B.} Reed in his intra-party contest against McKinley, Joe Cannon and two others for the Speakership.  While ranching and hunting in the Northwest, Roosevelt campaigned vigorously, and with success, to ensure that the four new states which had just entered the Union--Washington, Montana and the two Dakotas--would send Republicans to the next Congress.  On his return to Washington he opened personal headquarters in a back room of the old Wormley Hotel where he 'rounded up' the new Congressmen's votes for Reed.  Although, to the despair of his supporters, Reed refused to fish for votes with the bait of promised committee appointments, he won nevertheless.
       He now occupied the highest electoral office in the gift of his party next to the Presidency.  'Ambitious as Lucifer,' in the opinion of Representative Champ Clark, who knew him well, he did not intend to stop there.  He was determined, on taking up the gavel as Speaker, to put into effect a plan on which he had long deliberated, consulting no one, and on which he risked his political future.  He knew that the fight would focus upon him the nation's attention and also that if he failed his Congressional career would be over.  The stakes were high:  he would either break 'the tyranny of the minority' by which the House was paralyzed into a state of 'helpless inanity,' or he would resign.
       The system Speaker Reed had decided to challenge was known as the silent--or disappearing--quorum.  It was a practice whereby the minority party could prevent any legislation obnoxious to it by refusing a quorum, that is, by demanding a roll call and then remaining silent when their names were called.  Since the rules prescribed that a member's presence was established only by a viva voce reply to the roll, and since it required a majority of the whole to constitute a quorum, the silent filibuster could effectively stop the House from doing business.
      The recent election of 1888 had been a Republican victory in which for the first time in sixteen years one party controlled both Executive and Congress.  But by barely a hair.  The dour Benjamin Harrison was a minority President who had lost to Cleveland in popular vote and sat on that unstable throne so oddly carpentered by the electoral college system.  The Republican majority of 168-160 was wafer-thin, only three more than a quorum, which was set at 165.  With this the Republicans faced the task of enacting two major pieces of party legislation, the Mills Bill for revising the tariff and the Force Bill directed against the poll tax and other Southern devices to keep the Negroes from voting.  The Democrats were prepared to obstruct this legislation and also to prevent a vote on the seating of four Republicans, two of them Negroes, in contested elections from Southern districts.
       To Reed the issue was survival of representative government.  If the Democrats could prevent that legislation which the Republicans by virtue of their electoral victory could rightfully expect to enact, they would in effect be setting aside the verdict of the election.  The rights of the minority, he believed, were preserved by freedom to debate and to vote but when the minority was able to frustrate action by the majority, 'it becomes a tyranny.'  He believed that legislation, not merely deliberation, was the business of Congress.  The duty of the Speaker to his party and country was to see that that business was accomplished, not merely to umpire debate.
       The Speakership was a post of tremendous influence, still possessed of all the powers which in 1910, in the revolt against Joe Cannon, were to be transferred to the committees.  Since the Speaker was ex officio Chairman of the Committee on Rules, whose two Republican and two Democrat members cancelled each other out, and since he had the right to appoint all committees, the careers of members and the course of legislation depended upon his will.  In Reed's hands was now the 'power with responsibility,' and notwithstanding a famous dictum, power has other effects than only to corrupt:  it can also enlarge the understanding.  It sometimes begets greatness.  The Speaker's office, which the Washington Post called 'no less consequential than the Presidency,' could be the stepping stone to that ultimate peak.  Reed was not the man either to miss his opportunity or to meet it feebly.
       He reached his decision to attack the silent quorum, and planned his campaign, alone, partly because no one else would have thought there was a chance of success and partly because he was not sure that even his own party would support him.  There were indications that they might not.  Because of Reed's known views on the silent filibuster it was clear that quorum-counting would be an issue in the new Congress.  REED WILL COUNT THEM, predicted a headline in the Washington Post, and the story beneath it said that even Mr. Cannon, Reed's closest lieutenant, was opposed to the attempt.  The Democrats were manning their defences.  Ex-Speaker Carlisle let it be known that any legislation enacted by a quorum which had not been established by a 'recorded vote' would be taken to court as unconstitutional.
       Reed, however, had satisfied himself that he would be upheld if it came to law, and on the attitude of his own party he was prepared to gamble.  He shrewdly judged that the Democrats in their rage would provoke the Republicans to rally to his support.  When the first of the contested elections appeared on the schedule for January 29 he was ready.  As expected, the Democrats raised a call of no quorum and demanded a roll call.  It produced 163 yeas, all Republican, two less than a quorum.  Reed's moment had come.  Without a flicker of expression on the great white moon face, 'the largest human face I ever saw,' as a colleague described it, without any quickening of the drawling voice, he announced, 'The chair directs the Clerk to record the names of the following members present and refusing to vote,' and began reading off the names himself.  Instantly, according to a reporter, 'pandemonium broke loose.  The storm was furious. . . and it is to be doubted if ever there was such wild excitement, burning indignation, scathing denunciation and really dangerous conditions as existed in the House ' during the next five days.  Republicans were wildly applauding, all the Democrats were 'yelling and shrieking and pounding their desks' while the voice of their future Speaker, Crisp of Georgia, boomed, 'I appeal!  I appeal from the decision of the Chair!'  The explosion was 'as violent as was ever witnessed in any parliament,' a member recalled later.  Unruffled, expressionless, the Speaker continued his counting.  'Mr. Blanchard, Mr. Bland, Mr. Blount, Mr. Breckenridge of Kentucky. . .'
       Up jumped the Kentuckian, 'famous for his silver hair and silver tongue.'  'I deny the power of the Speaker and denounce it as revolutionary!' he called.
       The resonant twang from the Chair continued unregarding, "Mr. Bullock, Mr. Bynum, Mr. Carlisle, Mr. Chipman, Mr. Clement, Mr. Covert, Mr. Crisp, Mr. Cummings'--through hisses and catcalls and cries of 'Appeal!' irresistably rolling down the alphabet--'Mr. Lawler, Mr. Lee, Mr. McAdoo, Mr. McCreary. . .'
       'I deny your right, Mr. Speaker, to count me as present!' bellowed McCreary.
        For the first time the Speaker stopped, held the hall in silence for a pause as an actor holds an audience, then blandly spoke:  'The Chair is making a statement of fact that the gentleman is present.  Does he deny it?'  
       He went on with his count, unmoved by the protests, denials, cries of 'Order!' that rose to bedlam, through the S's and T's to the end.  Then, suddenly, seeming to gather all the power of his huge body, projecting all the force of his commanding personality and raising the voice which could fill any hall when he wanted, he announced, 'The Chair thereupon rules that there is a quorum present within the meaning of the Constitution.'
       Tumult even worse than before followed.  Breckenridge of Kentucky demanded a point of order on the ground that the Chair had no right to make such a ruling.  'The Chair overrules the point of order,' declared Reed coolly.
       'I appeal the decision of the Chair!' shouted Breckenridge.
       'I move to lay the appeal on the table,' quickly interposed an alert Republican, Payson of Illinois.  As this motion, if carried, would have shut off debate, the Democrats foamed with rage.  A hundred of them 'were on their feet howling for recognition,' wrote a reporter.  'Fighting Joe' Wheeler, the diminutive former Confederate cavalry general, unable to reach the front because of the crowded aisles, came down from the rear 'leaping from desk to desk as an ibex leaps from crag to crag.'  As the excitement grew wilder, the only Democrat not on his feet was a huge Representative from Texas who sat in his seat significantly whetting a bowie knife on his boot.  When a Republican member said he believed 'we should have debate' on such an important matter, Reed allowed it.  The debate was to last four days with the Democrats fighting every inch of the way, insisting on readings of every word of the Journal, on appeals and points of order and roll calls, each of which were met by Reed impeturbably counting off the silent members as present and evoking each time further infuriated defiance.  Once Representative McKinley, striving to please as usual, inadvertently yielded the floor, and had to be prompted by Reed, 'The gentleman from Ohio declines to be interrupted.'
       'I decline to be interrupted,' echoed McKinley valiantly closing the breach.
       As implacably at each juncture Reed counted heads and repeated his formula, 'A Constitutional quorum is present to do business,' the fury and frustration of the Democrats mounted.  A group breathing maledictions advanced down the aisle threatening to pull him from the Chair and for a moment it looked to a spectator 'as if they intended to mob the Speaker.'  Reed remained unmoved.  Infected by the passion on the floor, visitors and correspondents in the galleries leaned over the railings to shake their fists at the Speaker and join in the abuse and profanity.  'Decorum,' lamented a reporter, 'was altogether forgotten.  Members rushed madly about the floor, the scowl of battle upon their brows. . . .shouting in a mad torrent of eloquent invective.'  They called Reed tyrant, despot and dictator, hurling epithets like stones.  Among all the variants on the word 'tyrant,' 'czar' emerged as the favorite, embodying for its time the image of unrestrained autocracy, and as 'Czar' Reed, the Speaker was known thereafter.  The angrier the Democrats became, the cooler Reed remained, bulking hugely in the chair, 'serene as a summer morning.'  Although his secretary saw him in his private room, during an interval, gripping the desk and shaking with suppressed rage, he never gave a sign in the hall to show that the vicious abuse touched him.  He maintained an iron control, 'cool and determined as a highwayman,' said the New York Times.  The Proud Tower by Barbara W. Tuchman, pgs. 124-28.

Friday, April 03, 2015

Legislative Nostalgia, Part Two

       "His lucidity and logic were particularly effective under the 'five-minute' rule.  'Russell,' he said to a Representative from Massachussetts, 'you do not understand the theory of five-minute debate.  The object is to convey to the House either information or misinformation.  You have consumed several periods of five minutes this afternoon without doing either.'
       Reed made his point by narrating, not orating.  Once when engaged in his favorite sport of baiting the adjoining chamber for which he felt a profound disrespect, he described a Presidential election fifty years in the future when by Constitutional amendment the President would be selected from among and by the Senators.  'When the ballots had been collected and spread out, the Chief Justice who presided was observed to hesitate and those nearest could see by his pallor that something unexpected had happened.  But with a strong effort he rose to his feet and through a megaphone, then recently invented by Edison, shouted to the vast multitude the astonishing result:  seventy-six Senators had each received one vote.'
       Discussing economic privilege during a tariff debate he told how, when walking through the streets of New York and contrasting 'the brownstone fronts of the rich merchants with the unrewarded virtue of the people on the sidewalk, my gorge rises,. . .I do not feel kindly to the people inside.  But when I feel that way I know what the feeling is.  It is good honest high-minded envy.  When the gentlemen across the aisle have the same feeling they think it is political economy.'
       When word ran down the corridors that Reed was on his feet, about to speak, gossiping groups dissolved, members hurried to their seats, boredom and inattention vanished as the House listened expectantly for the sculptured prose, the prick of sarcasm and the flash of wit.  Every member coveted the notoriety of debating with Reed, but he refused to be drawn in by the 'little fellows,' reserving himself only for those he considered worthy opponents.
       Reporters, in the hope of eliciting a witticism, were always asking him for comments on the news of the day.  They were not always successful.  Asked to comment on a Papal message, he replied, 'The overpowering unimportance of this makes me speechless.'  Asked what was the greatest problem confronting the American people, he replied, 'How to dodge a bicycle.'
       After his first term, his nomination as Representative of Maine's First District was never afterward contested.  Elections were another matter and he almost lost the one of 1880 when he refused to compromise or equivocate on free silver despite strong 'greenback' sentiment in Maine.  He kept his seat on that occasion by only 109 votes.  But as his fame grew he generally ran ahead of his ticket in the biennial elections.  Even Democrats confessed to 'voting for him on the sly.'  'He suited the taste of New England,' said Senator Hoar of Massachusetts.  'The people liked to hear him on public questions better than any other man not excepting {James G.} Blaine or McKinley.'  The reason was perhaps the same as that given by an Englishman to explain the secret of Palmerston's popularity:  'What the nation likes in Palmerston is his you-be-damnedness!'
       Though Reed scorned fence-building and never encouraged familiarity with the public, among intellectual equals 'no more agreeable companion ever lived.'  In the small world that was then Washington's elite he was a jovial and radiant personality, a poker-player, storyteller and sought-after dinner guest.  At one dinner party when the conversation turned on gambling, another famous raconteur, Senator Choate of New York, remarked somewhat unctuously that he had never made a bet on a horse or card or anything else in his life.  'I wish I could say that,' a fellow guest said earnestly.  'Why caan't you?' asked Reed with his peculiar twang.  'Choate did.'
       His table talk was enriched by the resources of a cultivated mind.  His favorite poets were Burns, Byron and Tennyson, his favorite novel Thackeray's Vanity Fair.  He habitually read Punch, and Balzac in the original, of whom he said, 'There is hardly a book of his which is not sad beyond words.'  He had learned French after he was forty and kept a diary in that language 'for practise.'  The existence of a national library is owed to Reed, whose persistent and eloquent insistence finally wore out the natural parsimony of the House to secure adequate funds for the Library of Congress.
       'No one was ever better to listen to or a better listener,' said Lodge, 'for his sympathies were wide, his interests unlimited and nothing human was alien to him.'  'We asked the Tom Reeds to dinner,'  wrote a young friend of Lodge from New York, 'and he was delightful.'  Shortly afterward Reed, an advocate of civil service reform, obtained for the young man a post in Washington on the Civil Service Commission and thereafter, whenever the new Commissioner needed help on the Hill, Reed was ready to give it.  Later when the young man from New York bestrode the national scene, Reed composed probably the most memorable tribute ever made to him:  'Theodore, if there is one thing more than another for which I admire you, it is your original discovery of the Ten Commandments.'  With a little less prescience he had also said, 'Theodore will never be President; he has no political background.'  The Proud Tower by Barbara W. Tuchman, pgs. 122-24.