Maine: An Encyclopedia
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Reed, Thomas Brackett

Thomas Brackett Reed, courtesy Maine State Museum

Thomas Brackett Reed, courtesy Maine State Museum

(1839-1902) was a Representative from Maine and a powerful Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. He was born in Portland on October 18, 1839, attended the public schools, was graduated from Bowdoin College in 1860, and then studied law.

Acting assistant paymaster of the United States Navy from April 19, 1864, to November 4, 1865, Reed was admitted to the bar in 1865 and began his practice in Portland. A member of the Maine House of Representatives in 1868 and 1869, he also served in the Maine State Senate in 1870.

Reed was Attorney General of Maine (1870-1872) and city solicitor of Portland from 1874 to 1877. Elected as a Republican to the Forty-fifth and to the eleven succeeding Congresses, he served from March 4, 1877, to September 4, 1899, when he resigned. Reed was chairman of the Committee on the Judiciary (Forty-seventh Congress), and the Committee on Rules (Fifty-first, Fifty-fourth, and Fifty-fifth Congresses). Most notably he was Speaker of the House of Representatives (Fifty-first, Fifty-fourth, and Fifty-fifth Congresses).

According to the Columbia Encyclopedia,

As Speaker of the House (1889-91, 1895-99) he inaugurated the “Reed Rules” (1890)—one of which determined the House quorum by the count of members present rather than by the count of those voting. “Czar” Reed, as he was known, also arbitrarily used the speaker’s power of recognition to prevent minority obstruction and to facilitate orthodox Republican legislation in the face of strong opposition. Reed was an advocate of high tariffs. He strongly opposed the war with Spain, the annexation of Hawaii, and the ensuing expansion program.

He moved to New York City and later Reed died in Washington, D.C., on December 7, 1902, with interment in Evergreen Cemetery in Portland. Reed’s official Maine residence from 1888 to 1902 has been designated a National Historic Landmark.

Additional resources

Thomas Bracket Reed. Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition, 2004. http://www.encyclopedia.com/html/R/Reed-T1ho.asp Accessed January 24, 2004.

Offenberg, Richard Stanley. “The Political Career of Thomas Brackett Reed.” Ph.D. dissertation, New York University, 1963.

Reed, Thomas Brackett. Reed’s Rules: A Manual of General Parliamentary Law. Chicago: Rand McNally and Co., 1894.

Robinson, William A. Thomas B. Reed: Parliamentarian. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1930.

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This entry was last modified: January 09, 2015 05:21 PM

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