Historical Highlights

The Longest and Most Contentious Speaker Election in House History

February 02, 1856
The Longest and Most Contentious Speaker Election in House History Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
During his 11 terms in the House, Nathaniel Banks of Massachusetts was elected under the banner of a number of parties: Democrat, American, Republican, and as an Independent.
At the conclusion of the longest and most contentious Speaker election in House history, the House elected Representative Nathaniel Banks of Massachusetts as its presiding officer for the 34th Congress (1855–1857). Sectional conflict over slavery and a rising anti-immigrant mood in the nation contributed to a poisoned and deteriorating political climate. As a sign of the factionalism then existing in the House, more than 21 individuals initially vied for the Speaker’s post when the Members first gathered in December, 1855. After two months and 133 ballots, the House finally chose Representative Banks by a vote of 103 to 100 over Representative William Aiken of South Carolina. Banks, a member of both the nativist American (or “Know-Nothing”) Party and the Free Soil Party, served a term as Speaker before Democrats won control of the chamber in the 35th Congress (1857–1859). Banks retired from the House to serve as governor of Massachusetts.

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