The year is 1890, the place the House of Representatives in Washington where progressive Republican Speaker Thomas B. Reed presides over a Congress in which the dying embers of the Civil War flare up again as he confronts Southern White Supremacists in his determination to end their power. Told as a novel, it is a story of murder, romance, passions personal and political, wartime grudges and religious dilemma, told against the background of Washington’s marbled halls, desperate alley slums, elegant whorehouses, ...
The year is 1890, the place the House of Representatives in Washington where progressive Republican Speaker Thomas B. Reed presides over a Congress in which the dying embers of the Civil War flare up again as he confronts Southern White Supremacists in his determination to end their power. Told as a novel, it is a story of murder, romance, passions personal and political, wartime grudges and religious dilemma, told against the background of Washington’s marbled halls, desperate alley slums, elegant whorehouses, and spittoon-filled poolrooms along Pennsylvania Avenue, and in the small towns and remote farms of the deep South where lynching, murders and Winchester-carrying night-riders maintain white supremacy by relentless violence
It is also a story of a Congress whose pay was stolen by a House cashier who ran off with the money and his mistress; where the Speaker ordered the House doors locked to keep the members inside, only to have enraged ex-Confederate cavalry officers kick them open; where the Speaker has to order a lobbyist-organized whorehouse near the Ladies Gallery closed, and where a reporter from the Press Gallery shoots and kills ex-Congressman Preston Taulbee on the main staircase of the House wing, and is acquitted of the charge of murder by the jury. A skillful blend of historical research and dramatic writing, "The Speaker Who Locked up the House" is a riveting tale of the raucous 51st Congress of the United States.
One of the year's best historical novels! Major and minor characters come alive...conjures the world of politics and racial strife in the 1880's and 1890's on an epic scale. Brings to mind Patrick O'Brian's sea tales
Fascinating story, vivid characters. History told as fiction but based on solid research. Long after the Civil War a fight over white supremacy flares in a Congress filled with veterans of Gettysburg and Chickamauga. This one's a must-read!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joseph T. Wilkins is a semi-retired lawyer who has practiced law in the Atlantic City, New Jersey area for over 30 years. He is a graduate of LaSalle College in Philadelpia and Catholic University Law School in Washington, D.C. He is the father of 5, and has 11 grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren.
ABOUT THE BOOK: The Speaker Who Locked Up the House has its genesis in the author’s reading, in 1968, of Barbara Tuchman’s account in The Proud Tower of Thomas B. Reed’s powerful reforms of the 51st Congress, and of his decision a few years later to leave Congress in protest at the fever of American Imperialism that swept the country into the Spanish-American War and the conquest of the Philippines. In 1968, that tumultuous year of Vietnam protests, civil rights riots, the burning of American cities, the assassinations of Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., the departure of Lyndon B. Johnson from the Presidential election campaign, and the election of Richard M. Nixon with all the mutant genes he introduced to our national politics, it struck this author as remarkable that Speaker Reed, who had acquired and exercised the kind of power today’s politicians lust for, would eventually scorn it as contrary to the principles in which he believed.
Curious as to what kind of man Tom Reed was, the author began a years-long voyage of research into Reed’s life; research frequently interrupted by the demands of a growing family and busy law practice. Forty-some years later, the kids grown and the law practice edging into retirement, the telling of the story of Tom Reed and the 51st Congress is complete. It is a novel rather than a traditional history largely because the circumstances of our racial history prevented, destroyed, or obscured those parts of the story which, in a more just world, could have been far more comprehensively recorded and documented by black writers and historians.