Historical Highlights

Granting House Floor Privileges to a 108-year-old Revolutionary War Veteran

February 10, 1870
Granting House Floor Privileges to a 108-year-old Revolutionary War Veteran Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
Nathaniel Banks of Massachusetts served for nearly two decades in the House in a series of nonconsecutive blocks of service stretching from the early 1850s to the 1890s.
On this date, the House of Representatives accorded a rare honor to Revolutionary War veteran John Kitts, granting him House Floor privileges for the day. Born in 1762, Kitts was then the oldest known living person in the United States and the last surviving veteran of the Revolutionary War. He had witnessed General Lord Cornwallis surrender at Yorktown and later fought in the War of 1812. A resident of Baltimore, Maryland, Mr. Kitts traveled to Washington, D.C., to meet President Ulysses S. Grant. He claimed to have met every President since George Washington. After his White House visit, Kitts came to the Capitol, where Representative Nathaniel Banks of Massachusetts (a Union general during the Civil War) guided him onto the House Floor. General Banks then interrupted business in the chamber to “ask the general consent of the House that the privileges of the floor for this day may be accorded to Mr. John Kitts, the gentleman who stands by my side.” With no objection, Kitts took a seat on the floor. He instantly drew a crowd of Members around him. One Member who met the 108-year-old veteran told the Chicago Tribune, “Well when I look at the old man and see how long it is possible to live, the fear of h__l becomes an indefinite postponement.” In the modern era, floor privileges are restricted to a select group of officials, staff, and family of the Members. House Rules restrict access, in part, to prevent outside interests from lobbying Members during votes.

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