Historical Highlights

Speaker of the House Samuel Randall of Pennsylvania

October 15, 1877
Speaker of the House Samuel Randall of Pennsylvania Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
Speaker Samuel Randall of Pennsylvania presided over the House after the tumultuous 1876 presidential election created an electoral crisis during the 44th Congress (1875–1877).
On this date, Representative Samuel Randall of Pennsylvania was re-elected Speaker of the House by a 17-vote margin for the 45th Congress (1877–1879) over Representative James Garfield of Ohio. The son of a Whig Party politician, Randall spent his early life steeped in Philadelphia politics and won his first elective office in 1852. Randall briefly served in the Union Army. First elected to the House in 1862, Randall served six terms before serving as Speaker. When Speaker Michael Kerr of Indiana died in August 1876, the House elected Randall as Speaker in December of that year amid an electoral crisis: presidential election returns for three southern states remained in dispute in a close election between Democrat Samuel Tilden and Republican Rutherford B. Hayes. Randall was active in Tilden’s campaign and considered filibustering the Electoral Commission’s ruling in favor of Hayes. Yet, during the House vote on the commission’s recommendations, Randall refused to accept dilatory motions, effectively quelling the filibuster. Randall’s move prevented the chaos of an unresolved presidential election, allowing Democrats the political leverage to broker an end to Reconstruction in the South. Re-elected as Speaker of the House in this sharp, partisan environment, Randall’s dedication to the preservation of the institution was firm. “[I demand] that all considerations of class, section, and party shall be subordinated to the loftier and more patriotic object which all of us recognize as best for the whole country and its people,” he told his colleagues on the House Floor. Randall served as Speaker until the Republicans recaptured the majority in the 47th Congress (1881–1883). He died in office on April 13, 1890.

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