A fanatic and 'Negro-stealer’: One of the ugliest House speaker fights in historyBreaking News
tags: Congress, House of Representatives, John Sherman
On a December Friday in 1859, after 10 days of bitter weather and bitter balloting, the House of Representatives was so divided against itself that the members representing the nation’s 33 states could not complete the new Congress’s first order of business: electing a speaker.
The leading candidate, Republican John Sherman of Ohio, had been denounced in language beyond nasty, a vivid reminder that today’s political polarization is neither unique nor new. A fanatic, said Southern Democrats. A menace. A “Negro-stealer.” An “insurrectionist” who endorsed the reprint of a Southerner’s “treasonous” antislavery broadside for distribution throughout the North. When the speakership contest finally ended in exhaustion after seven weeks of shouting and invective, the animosity did not.
The Sherman showdown played out 159 years before Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) reached a deal Wednesday with Democratic rebels in her quest for the House’s most coveted leadership position.
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