Historical Highlights

President Woodrow Wilson's 1913 Joint Session

April 08, 1913
President Woodrow Wilson's 1913 Joint Session Image courtesy of the Library of Congress Featured in this 1913 image, President Woodrow Wilson resumed the tradition of delivering the Annual Message to a Joint Session of Congress.
On this date, President Woodrow Wilson appeared before a Joint Session of Congress to read his message on tariff reform, breaking a 112-year-old custom of presidential messages being exclusively presented in writing. Originally, the president’s remarks were intended for the House of Representatives in support of a Ways and Means committee bill on tariff reform, introduced on April 7 by its Chairman, Oscar W. Underwood of Alabama. The Committee had spent the early months of 1913 holding hearings and drafting a bill to reduce the tariff. On March 17 Underwood forwarded the bill draft for Wilson’s review, and later that day the proclamation was issued for a special session on the tariff to commence on April 7. Before the special session Wilson and Underwood met to review the bill’s provisions. Shortly afterward Wilson indicated his intention to address the House on the tariff on April 8. By the appointed day, despite grumblings by Senators over a “speech from the throne,” the occasion had been turned into a Joint Session through the passage of H.Con.Res. 1. One House Member, however, was not happy about the President’s appearance. Maine Representative Asher C. Hinds, the former House Parliamentarian, grumbled, “If our Republican institutions are to continue we must keep this Government as much as possible away from personalities and near to principles.”

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