Reed, Thomas B. (Thomas Brackett), 1839-1902

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Thomas Brackett Reed (October 18, 1839 – December 7, 1902), was an American politician from the state of Maine, and was a member of the Republican Party. He was elected to the United States House of Representatives 12 times, first in 1876, and served as Speaker of the House, from 1889–1891 and again from 1895–1899.

Occasionally ridiculed as "Czar Reed", he had great influence over the agenda and operations of the House, more so than any previous speaker. He increased the Speaker's power by instituting the "Reed Rules," which limited the ability of the minority party to prevent the establishment of a quorum.

Reed helped pass the Lodge Bill, which sought to protect African American voting rights in the Southern United States, but the bill failed to pass in the Senate and never became law. He opposed the Spanish–American War and resigned from Congress in 1899.

Reed was born in Portland, Maine on October 18, 1839 to Matilda Prince (Mitchell) and Thomas B. Reed. Reed attended public schools, including Portland High School, before attending Bowdoin College, from which he graduated in 1860.

Afterward, he studied law, and was admitted to the bar in 1865. He was an acting assistant paymaster for the United States Navy during the Civil War, from April 1864 to November 1865. He practiced in Portland and was elected to the Maine House of Representatives in 1868 and 1869. He served in the Maine Senate in 1870 but left to serve as the state's Attorney General from 1870 to 1872. Reed became city solicitor of Portland from 1874 to 1877 before being elected as a Republican to the 45th Congress in 1876.

As a House freshman, Reed was appointed to the Potter Commission, which was to investigate voting irregularities in the presidential election of 1876, where his skill at cross examination forced Democrat Samuel J. Tilden to appear in person to defend his reputation. He chaired the Committee on the Judiciary (Forty-seventh Congress) and chaired the Rules Committee (Fifty-first, Fifty-fourth, and Fifty-fifth Congresses).

Reed was first elected Speaker after an intense fight with William McKinley of Ohio. Reed gained the support of young Theodore Roosevelt; his influence as the newly appointed Civil Service Commissioner was the decisive factor. Reed served as the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives from 1889 to 1891 and then from 1895 to 1899, as well as being Chairman of the powerful Rules Committee.

During his time as Speaker, Reed assiduously and dramatically increased the power of the Speaker over the House; although the power of the Speaker had always waxed (most notably during Henry Clay's tenure) and waned, the position had previously commanded influence rather than outright power. Reed set out to put into practical effect his dictum, "The best system is to have one party govern and the other party watch." That was accomplished by carefully studying the existing procedures of the US House, most dating to the original designs, written by Thomas Jefferson. In particular, Reed sought to circumscribe the ability of the minority party to block business by way of its members refusing to answer a quorum call, which, under the rules, prevented a member from being counted as present even if he were physically in the chamber, thus forcing the House to suspend business. That is popularly called the disappearing quorum.

Reed sought the Republican nomination for President in 1896, but Mark Hanna secured the nomination for Ohio Governor William McKinley.

In 1898, Reed joined McKinley in efforts to head off war with Spain. When McKinley switched to supporting the war, Reed, refusing to change his position, opposed him and then resigned from both the speakership and his seat in Congress in 1899, returning to private law practice.

In early December 1902, Reed was in Washington on legal business with the United States Supreme Court. On December 2, Reed visited his former colleagues in the Ways and Means Committee room. Later that day, he became ill while in another room of the Capitol and was rushed to the nearby Arlington Hotel. In the Arlington, Reed was diagnosed with Bright's disease complicated by appendicitis; he died five days later at 12:10am on December 7 with his wife and daughter at his bedside. A Gridiron Club dinner was occurring at the same time in the same hotel as Reed's death. When news broke of Reed's passing, "the diners rose to drink a silent toast to a man who had so often been among them".

He was buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Portland, Maine. His will was executed by his good friend, the financier Augustus G. Paine, Sr. He left his family an estate of $200,000.

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Reed, Thomas B. (Thomas Brackett), 1839-1902. Thomas B. Reed typed letter signed and invitation, 1901. Maine Historical Society Library
creatorOf Reed, Thomas B. (Thomas Brackett), 1839-1902. Autograph note signed T.B. Reed to: "Dear Madame" May 12, 1893. Wellesley College
referencedIn Blaine, James Gillespie, 1830-1893. Papers, 1777-1945, (bulk: 1870-1892) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Unidentified scrapbook, ca. 1902-ca. 1909. Maine Historical Society Library
creatorOf Reed, Thomas B. (Thomas Brackett), 1839-1902. Letter to E.F. Waters. Portland, ME. 1890 Oct. 4. University of Iowa Libraries
referencedIn United States War Department correspondence and records regarding Indian affairs and activities with Indian nations, 1798-1874. Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library.
referencedIn Monuments, fountains, and historic markers of Portland, Me. : scrapbook, 20th century. Maine Historical Society Library
referencedIn Parsons, Frank, 1854-1908. Frank Parsons papers, 1888-1908 (inclusive). Yale University Library
referencedIn Foulke, William Dudley, 1848-1935. Papers, circa 1470-1952 (bulk: 1868-1935) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
creatorOf Reed, Thomas B. (Thomas Brackett), 1839-1902. Correspondence with William D. Murphy, 1891 Mar. University of Chicago Library
referencedIn Hamlin, Hannibal, 1809-1891. Papers of Hannibal Hamlin, 1828-1891. Library of Congress
referencedIn Ingersoll, Robert Green, 1833-1899. Robert Green Ingersoll papers, 1826-1940 (bulk 1866-1899). Library of Congress
referencedIn William J. Arkell Collection, 1881-1894 Syracuse University. Library. Special Collections Research Center
referencedIn Lamson Studio (Portland, Me.). Lamson Studio collection of glass plate negatives, 1800s-ca. 1900. Maine Historical Society Library
referencedIn Wilson, William Lyne, 1843-1900. Papers, 1852-1901. Washington & Lee University, James G. Leyburn Library
creatorOf Reed, Thomas B. (Thomas Brackett), 1839-1902. Thomas B. Reed bill of sale, 1900. Maine Historical Society Library
referencedIn Samuel Wells Williams family papers, 1809-1983, 1809-1941 Yale University. Department of Manuscripts and Archives
referencedIn Washburn, Robert Charles, d. 1938. Robert Washburn papers [manuscript], 1884-1944. Oregon Historical Society Research Library
creatorOf Reed, Thomas B. (Thomas Brackett), 1839-1902. ALS, 1884 February 2 : House of Representatives, Washington, D.C., to Susan B. Anthony. Copley Press, J S Copley Library
referencedIn Levi P. Morton Correspondence, 1860-1912 Syracuse University. Library. Special Collections Research Center
creatorOf Reed, Thomas B. (Thomas Brackett), 1839-1902. Letter, 1883 January 28 : Washington, D.C., to J.W. Clark, Boston, Massachusetts. Washington State University, Holland and Terrell Libraries
creatorOf Thomas Brackett Reed collection Bowdoin College
creatorOf Thomas B. Reed Correspondence, 1881-1901 Syracuse University. Library. Special Collections Research Center
creatorOf Rigby, William Titus, 1841-1929. Papers of William Titus Rigby, 1839-1988. University of Iowa Libraries
creatorOf Reed, Thomas B. (Thomas Brackett), 1839-1902. Letter to Samuel [Gibson] Dixon. New York, NY. 1900 Feb. 6. University of Iowa Libraries
referencedIn Ralph Morris collection of autographs and portraits Houghton Library
referencedIn Schaefler, Sam, 1920-,. Sam and Katalin Schaefler Posters, ca.1900-1918. Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
creatorOf Reed, Thomas B. (Thomas Brackett), 1839-1902. Letter of Thomas B. Reed, 1894. Library of Congress
referencedIn Robert Green Ingersoll Papers, 1826-1940, (bulk 1866-1899) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
creatorOf Beecher, Henry Ward, 1813-1887,. Autographs collection, 1682-1972. Pennsylvania State University Libraries
referencedIn Hale, Edward Everett, 1822-1909. Autograph collection, [undated]. Maine Historical Society Library
referencedIn Howells family papers, 1850-1954 (inclusive). Houghton Library
referencedIn Barrows family papers, 1861-1931. Houghton Library
referencedIn Letters from various correspondents, 1854-1897. Houghton Library
referencedIn Lunt family. Lunt family correspondence, between 1844 and 1913. Maine Historical Society Library
referencedIn John Sherman Papers, 1836-1900, (bulk 1857-1894) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
creatorOf Reed, Thomas B. (Thomas Brackett), 1839-1902. Letter and photograph, 1898. Camden County Historical Society
referencedIn Williams, S. Wells (Samuel Wells), 1812-1884. Samuel Wells Williams family papers, 1809-1983 (inclusive), 1809-1941 (bulk). Yale University Library
referencedIn Platt, Thomas Collier, 1833-1910. Thomas Collier Platt papers, 1851-1915 (inclusive). Yale University Library
creatorOf Reed, Thomas B. (Thomas Brackett), 1839-1902. Thomas B. Reed autograph letters signed, 1885 and 1895. Maine Historical Society Library
referencedIn Robert Washburn papers, 1884-1944 Oregon Historical Society Research Library
referencedIn Williams, S. Wells (Samuel Wells), 1812-1884. Samuel Wells Williams family papers, 1824-1936 (inclusive). Yale University Library
referencedIn United States War Department correspondence and records regarding Indian affairs and activities with Indian nations, 1798-1874. Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library.
creatorOf Reed, Thomas B. (Thomas Brackett), 1839-1902. Letter : New York, to A. A. Lipscomb, Washington, D.C., 1902 Nov. 21. Texas Christian University
referencedIn Blaine, James Gillespie, 1830-1893. James Gillespie Blaine family papers, 1777-1945 (bulk 1870-1892). Library of Congress
creatorOf Reed, Thomas B. (Thomas Brackett), 1839-1902. Correspondence with William D. Murphy, 1891 Mar. 10 and 11. Texas Christian University
referencedIn Robinson, Corinne Roosevelt, 1861-1933. Papers, 1847-1933 Theodore Roosevelt Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard College Library, Harvard University
referencedIn Frank Parsons papers, 1888-1908 Yale University. Department of Manuscripts and Archives
creatorOf Reed, Thomas B. (Thomas Brackett), 1839-1902. Papers of Thomas B. Reed, 1880-1902. University of Virginia. Library
creatorOf Dunbar, Joseph, d. 1846. Dunbar, Joseph, letter, 1824. University of Texas Libraries
referencedIn Aldrich, James Franklin, 1853-1933. James Franklin Aldrich papers, 1841-1932 (bulk 1876-1932). Chicago History Museum
referencedIn Davis, Jefferson, 1808-1889. Autograph letter signed : Washington, D.C., to John Young Mason, n.p., 1848 Dec. 27. Texas Christian University
referencedIn President's Secretary's Files (Truman Administration), 1945 - 1960. Longhand Notes Files, 1945 - 1953 Harry S. Truman Library
referencedIn F. Marion (Francis Marion) Crawford papers, 1864-1967 (inclusive), 1883-1908 (bulk). Houghton Library
referencedIn Miller, Reynolds Churchill. Burr Churchill Miller collection, 1902-1988. Maine Historical Society Library
creatorOf Cannon, Joseph Gurney, 1836-1936. Papers, 1879-1940 [1906-1910]. Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library
referencedIn Dole, Richard F. (Richard Fairfax), 1906-1987. Richard F. Dole glass plate negatives, ca. 1900. Maine Historical Society Library
referencedIn Sarah Orne Jewett correspondence, 1861-1930. Houghton Library
contributorOf Letters Received from Commissioned Officers Below the Rank of Commander and from Warrant Officers, 1802 - 1886. Volume 626, June 11-20, 1864 National Archives Library, National Archives Records Administration
referencedIn Newspaper clippings related to the dedication of the Thomas Brackett Reed Statue, August 31, 1910, 1885-1910. Maine Historical Society Library
referencedIn Pullen, Stanley T. (Stanley Thomas), 1843-1910. Stanley T. Pullen papers, 1879-1895. Maine Historical Society Library
referencedIn Foulke, William Dudley, 1848-1935. Papers of William Dudley Foulke, circa 1470-1952 (bulk 1868-1935). Library of Congress
referencedIn Thomas Collier Platt papers, 1851-1915 Yale University. Department of Manuscripts and Archives
creatorOf Reed, Thomas B. (Thomas Brackett), 1839-1902. Tariff and business : autograph manuscript signed. Pierpont Morgan Library.
creatorOf Reed, Thomas B. (Thomas Brackett), 1839-1902. Thomas B. Reed autograph letter signed, 1879. Maine Historical Society Library
referencedIn Hamlin, Hannibal, 1809-1891. Hannibal Hamlin papers, 1828-1891. Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
referencedIn Barrows, Alice, 1878-1954. Papers, 1820-1974. Raymond H. Fogler Library
referencedIn Clapp, William Warland, Jr., 1826-1891. Correspondence, 1790-1891 (bulk 1840-1891) Houghton Library
referencedIn Hinds, Asher C. (Asher Crosby), 1863-1919,. Aher Crosby Hinds Collection on Thomas B. Reed, [19--] Houghton Library
Relation Name
associatedWith Aldrich, James Franklin, 1853-1933. person
associatedWith Anthony, Susan B. (Susan Brownell), 1820-1906. person
associatedWith Arkell, W. J. (William J.), 1856-1930 person
associatedWith Barrows, Alice, 1878-1954. person
correspondedWith Barrows family. family
associatedWith Blaine, James Gillespie, 1830-1893. person
correspondedWith Blaine, James G., Mrs., 1828-1903 person
associatedWith Cannon, Joseph Gurney, 1836-1936. person
correspondedWith Chandler, S. H. person
associatedWith Clapp, William Warland, 1826-1891 person
correspondedWith Clarke, James W. person
correspondedWith Crawford, F. Marion (Francis Marion), 1854-1909 person
associatedWith Davis, Jefferson, 1808-1889 person
correspondedWith DeRousse, Louis T. (Louis Theodore), 1844-1921 person
associatedWith Dixon, Samuel Gibson, 1851-1918, person
associatedWith Dunbar, Joseph, d. 1846. person
associatedWith Elliott, Sarah Barnwell, 1848-1928. person
associatedWith Fairchild, Charles S. (Charles Stebbins), 1842-1924, person
associatedWith Fairchild, Sally, person
correspondedWith Foulke, William Dudley, 1848-1935. person
correspondedWith Goodale, Benjamin N. person
associatedWith Hamlin, Hannibal, 1809-1891. person
associatedWith Hazelton, F. H. (Franklin Herbert), b. 1859. person
associatedWith Hinds, Asher C. (Asher Crosby), 1863-1919, person
associatedWith Ingersoll, Robert Green, 1833-1899. person
correspondedWith Jewett, Sarah Orne, 1849-1909 person
associatedWith King, Clarence, 1842-1901. person
associatedWith Lamson Studio (Portland, Me.) corporateBody
associatedWith Lipscomb, A. A. person
correspondedWith Lunt family. family
associatedWith McClure, S. S. (Samuel Sidney), 1857-1949, person
associatedWith Morton, Levi P. (Levi Parsons), 1824-1920 person
associatedWith Murphy, William D., 1859-ca. 1935. person
associatedWith Parsons, Frank, 1854-1908. person
associatedWith Pierce, Edward Lillie, 1829-1897 person
associatedWith Platt, Thomas Collier, 1833-1910. person
associatedWith Pullen, Stanley T. (Stanley Thomas), 1843-1910. person
associatedWith Rigby, William Titus, 1841-1929. person
correspondedWith Robinson, Corinne Roosevelt, 1861-1933 person
correspondedWith Sherman, John, 1796-1841 person
correspondedWith Small, John C., Hon. person
associatedWith United States. Congress. House. corporateBody
associatedWith United States. War Dept. corporateBody
correspondedWith Washburn, Robert Charles, d. 1938 person
correspondedWith Washburn, Robert Charles, d. 1938. person
associatedWith Williams, S. Wells (Samuel Wells), 1812-1884. person
associatedWith Wilson, William Lyne, 1843-1900. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
District of Columbia DC US
Portland ME US
Subject
Legislators--United States
Legislators--Correspondence
Men--Diseases
Agriculture
Suffrage
Meeting
Women--Suffrage
Lynching in literature
French spoliation claims
Politics, government and public administration
desks
Statesmen--19th century--Autographs
Silver question
Legislators--Maine
Occupation
Legislators--United States
Representatives, U.S. Congress--Maine
Public officials--Maine
State Representative
Lawyers
Speakers of the House, U.S. Congress
Legislators
Function

Person

Birth 1839-10-18

Death 1902-12-07

Male

Americans

English

Information

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