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“The House of Representatives, in some respects, I think, is the most peculiar assemblage in the world,” Speaker Joe Cannon of Illinois once observed. Behind the legislation and procedure, House Members and staff have produced their own institutional history and heritage. Our blog, Whereas: Stories from the People’s House, tells their stories.

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Displaying 13–24 of 28 results

Jeannette Rankin: “I Cannot Vote for War”

Jeannette Rankin, the first woman to serve in Congress, voted against United States entry into World War I in 1917 and did not run for reelection to the House of Representatives in 1918. Ever since, historians have assumed that Rankin’s no vote cost the Congresswoman her seat in Congress.
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Leave No Forwarding Address: When Congress Almost Abandoned D.C.

Admiral George Cockburn
It was a low moment. When the 13th Congress (1813–1815) trickled into Washington, D.C., in September 1814 for a third session, they found a terrorized community, most public buildings destroyed, and a humiliated army on retreat. Once the grandest building in North America, the unfinished Capitol resembled a charcoal briquette. And though the invading British forces had departed more than three weeks previously, the damage they inflicted—both physical and emotional—very nearly convinced the shocked legislators to abandon Washington for good.
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Luaus to Lusitania

On the near-cloudless Monday morning of May 3, 1915, the steamer Sierra floated on an untroubled sea off the coast of Honolulu, the lush capital of the Territory of Hawaii. On deck, 125 people outfitted in white linen suits and dresses—among them 48 Members of Congress—polished off breakfast and prepared to disembark for what most hoped would be a tropical vacation. From the harbor, five launches sailed out to meet them, carrying a welcoming committee comprised of the Royal Hawaiian band, lei greeters, the mayor of Honolulu, the leadership of the territorial legislature, and Hawaiian Delegate Jonah “Prince Kuhio” Kalanianaole.
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Rising up in the House—Part I:
Rep. Dyer and the Irish Rebellion of 1916

On April 24, 1916, Irish republicans took up arms against the British government in what became known as the Easter Rising. They seized the General Post Office in Dublin and distributed the Proclamation of the Irish Republic, which affirmed the right of the Irish people to form an independent government and claimed the support of Ireland’s “exiled children in America.” The Irish insurgency, and the British response to it, both captivated and appalled the U.S. public—including Congress.
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Categories: Legislation, War

Rising up in the House—Part II:
The House Debates the “Irish Question”

On April 2, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson addressed a joint session of Congress to denounce German aggression. Dramatically abandoning his commitment to neutrality, he urged Congress to declare war on Imperial Germany to “make the world safe for democracy.” Wilson emphasized that the United States must undertake a principled intervention in the war in order to protect the right of self-determination for small nations. When Congress passed a war declaration on April 6, Members seized the moment to revive the issue of Irish independence, which had failed to gain traction in the House a year earlier when Missouri Representative Leonidas C. Dyer insisted that Congress support the Easter Rising.
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Categories: Legislation, War

“Some of Our Boys Died Last Night”

On June 6, 1944, Allied forces commenced the invasion of Western Europe known today as D-Day. Chaplain Reverend James Shera Montgomery opened the June 7 meeting of the House with a prayer that reflected both the nation’s concerns and hopes.
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Categories: Practice & Customs, War

The British Are Coming!

More than 150 years after the American Revolution, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth of England made history when they set foot on American soil. As the first reigning English monarchs to visit the United States, they received a much warmer reception than the British forces of Paul Revere’s time. Amid much fanfare and eager anticipation on both sides of the Atlantic on the eve of World War II, the royal couple embarked on a brief but meaningful tour of the U.S. and Canada, which included a formal reception at the U.S. Capitol on June 9, 1939.
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The House’s Pillsbury Boy

“Little Bertie” was just 11 years old when he scored a ringside seat to history.
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The Second Battle of New Orleans

General Jackson
Two hundred years ago this week, the Battle of New Orleans—the final military campaign of the War of 1812—culminated on January 8, 1815, when forces under the command of General Andrew Jackson routed British troops at Chalmette Plantation, along the Mississippi River just downstream from the great port city.
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Categories: War

The “So Very Peculiar” Case of Sarah Seelye

Sarah Seelye's Application for Back Pay
Sarah Seelye lived a seemingly ordinary life in Fort Scott, Kansas, in 1882. But as her health started to falter at age 43, she realized past adventures were catching up to her. Getting help meant revealing a decades-old secret to Congress: she illegally served in the Union army disguised as a man.
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The Unlucky Seventh

Abraham Lincoln
If you studied Latin in school you may recall the phrase, “Omne trium perfectum” (every set of three is complete). From history to pop culture, trios make for interesting stories. Ancient Rome had Julius Caesar, Cleopatra, and Mark Antony. The antebellum Senate boasted its Great Triumvirate—Webster, Calhoun, and Clay. The Bee Gees laid down the beat for 1970s disco goers. Harry Potter and his friends, Ron and Hermione, spellbound a later generation. The Illinois Seventh Congressional District of the 1840s spawned its own memorable political trio: John J. Hardin, Edward D. Baker, and Abraham Lincoln.
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“This Greater than Roman Forum”—The Wartime 38th Congress

It had been three weeks since President Abraham Lincoln visited the rolling hills of the Gettysburg battlefield and delivered his now famous address, intoning "that government of the people by the people for the people shall not perish from the earth." At the time, no one could have predicted that the war would rage for another year and a half. But that December, few Americans not named Lincoln likely felt the weight of their responsibilities more than the men who had assembled in the U.S. House of Representatives for the opening of the 38th Congress (1863–1865). And few Members of the House seemed to feel the day's pressure more than Schuyler Colfax of Indiana who had just been elected Speaker.
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