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Fighting for the Speakership: The House and the Rise of Party Government

by Jeffery A Jenkins and Charles Stewart III Princeton University Press
Pub Date:
Pbk 496 pages
AU$72.00 NZ$74.78
Product Status: Not Our Publication - we no longer distribute
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The Speaker of the House of Representatives is the most powerful partisan figure in the contemporary U.S. Congress. How this came to be, and how the majority party in the House has made control of the speakership a routine matter, is far from straightforward. Fighting for the Speakership provides a comprehensive history of how Speakers have been elected in the U.S. House since 1789, arguing that the organizational politics of these elections were critical to the construction of mass political parties in America and laid the groundwork for the role they play in setting the agenda of Congress today. Jeffery Jenkins and Charles Stewart show how the speakership began as a relatively weak office, and how votes for Speaker prior to the Civil War often favored regional interests over party loyalty. While struggle, contention, and deadlock over House organization were common in the antebellum era, such instability vanished with the outbreak of war, as the majority party became an 'organizational cartel' capable of controlling with certainty the selection of the Speaker and other key House officers. This organizational cartel has survived Gilded Age partisan strife, Progressive Era challenge, and conservative coalition politics to guide speakership elections through the present day. Fighting for the Speakership reveals how struggles over House organization prior to the Civil War were among the most consequential turning points in American political history.

List of Illustrations vii

List of Tables ix

List of Abbreviations xi

Preface xiii

Chapter 1

Introduction 1

Chapter 2

The Evolving Roles and Responsibilities of House Officers in the Antebellum Era 25

Chapter 3

Organizational Politics under the Secret Ballot 56

Chapter 4

Bringing the Selection of House Officers into the Open 76

Chapter 5

Shoring Up Partisan Control: The Speakership Elections of
1839 and 1847 109

Chapter 6

Partisan Tumult on the Floor: The Speakership Elections of
1849 and 1855-1856 151

Chapter 7

The Speakership and the Rise of the Republican Party 193

Chapter 8

Caucus Governance and the Emergence of the Organizational
Cartel, 1861-1891 241

Chapter 9

The Organizational Cartel Persists, 1891-2011

Chapter 10

Conclusion 303


House Officer Elections and Caucus Nominations 323

Appendix 1

Summary of House Organization, First-112th Congresses (1789-2011)

Appendix 2

Election of House Speaker, First-112th Congresses

Appendix 3

Election of House Clerk, First-112th

Appendix 4

Election of House Printer, 15th-36th

Appendix 5

Summary of Democratic and Republican Caucus Nominations for Speaker, 38th-112th Congresses

Appendix 6

Democratic and Republican Caucus Nominations for Speaker, 38th-112th

References 421

Index 439

One of Choice's Editors' Picks for 2013 ''An excellent look at the history of majority party leadership in the House.''-- Choice
Jeffery A. Jenkins is associate professor of politics at the University of Virginia. Charles Stewart III is the Kenan Sahin Distinguished Professor of Political Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.