Democratic Party (United States)
The Democratic Party is one of the two major contemporary political parties in the United States, along with the Republican Party. Tracing its heritage back to Thomas Jefferson and James Madison's Democratic-Republican Party, the modern-day Democratic Party was founded around 1828 by supporters of Andrew Jackson, making it the world's oldest active political party; the Democrats' dominant worldview was once social conservatism and economic liberalism, while populism was its leading characteristic in the rural South. In 1912, Theodore Roosevelt ran as a third-party candidate in the Progressive Party, beginning a switch of political platforms between the Democratic and Republican Party over the coming decades, leading to Woodrow Wilson being elected as the first fiscally progressive Democrat. Since Franklin D. Roosevelt and his New Deal coalition in the 1930s, the Democratic Party has promoted a social liberal platform, supporting social justice. Well into the 20th century, the party had conservative pro-business and Southern conservative-populist anti-business wings.
The New Deal Coalition of 1932–1964 attracted strong support from voters of recent European extraction—many of whom were Catholics based in the cities. After Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal of the 1930s, the pro-business wing withered outside the South. After the racial turmoil of the 1960s, most Southern whites and many Northern Catholics moved into the Republican Party at the presidential level; the once-powerful labor union element became less supportive after the 1970s. White Evangelicals and Southerners became Republican at the state and local level since the 1990s. People living in metropolitan areas, women and gender minorities, college graduates, racial and ethnic minorities in the United States, such as Jewish Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans, Arab Americans and African Americans, tend to support the Democratic Party much more than they support the rival Republican Party; the Democratic Party's philosophy of modern liberalism advocates social and economic equality, along with the welfare state.
It seeks to provide government regulation in the economy. These interventions, such as the introduction of social programs, support for labor unions, affordable college tuitions, moves toward universal health care and equal opportunity, consumer protection and environmental protection form the core of the party's economic policy. Fifteen Democrats have served as President of the United States; the first was President Andrew Jackson, the seventh president and served from 1829 to 1837. The most recent was President Barack Obama, the 44th president and held office from 2009 to 2017. Following the 2018 midterm elections, the Democrats held a majority in the House of Representatives, "trifectas" in 14 states, the mayoralty of numerous major American cities, such as Boston, Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, Portland and Washington, D. C. Twenty-three state governors were Democrats, the Party was the minority party in the Senate and in most state legislatures; as of March 2019, four of the nine Justices of the Supreme Court had been appointed by Democratic presidents.
Democratic Party officials trace its origins to the inspiration of the Democratic-Republican Party, founded by Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and other influential opponents of the Federalists in 1792. That party inspired the Whigs and modern Republicans. Organizationally, the modern Democratic Party arose in the 1830s with the election of Andrew Jackson. Since the nomination of William Jennings Bryan in 1896, the party has positioned itself to the left of the Republican Party on economic issues, they have been more liberal on civil rights issues since 1948. On foreign policy, both parties have changed position several times; the Democratic Party evolved from the Jeffersonian Republican or Democratic-Republican Party organized by Jefferson and Madison in opposition to the Federalist Party of Alexander Hamilton and John Adams. The party favored republicanism; the Democratic-Republican Party came to power in the election of 1800. After the War of 1812, the Federalists disappeared and the only national political party left was the Democratic-Republicans.
The era of one-party rule in the United States, known as the Era of Good Feelings, lasted from 1816 until the early 1830s, when the Whig Party became a national political group to rival the Democratic-Republicans. However, the Democratic-Republican Party still had its own internal factions, they split over the choice of a successor to President James Monroe and the party faction that supported many of the old Jeffersonian principles, led by Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren, became the modern Democratic Party. As Norton explains the transformation in 1828: Jacksonians believed the people's will had prevailed. Through a lavishly financed coalition of state parties, political leaders, newspaper editors, a popular movement had elected the president; the Democrats became the nation's first well-organized national party and tight party organization became the hallmark of nineteenth-century American politics. Opposing factions led by Henry Clay helped form the Whig Party; the Democratic Party had a small yet decisive advantage over the Whigs until the 1850s, when the Whigs fell apart over the issue of slavery.
In 1854, angry with the Kansas–Nebraska Act, anti-slavery Dem
Stephen Grover Cleveland was an American politician and lawyer, the 22nd and 24th president of the United States, the only president in American history to serve two non-consecutive terms in office. He won the popular vote for three presidential elections—in 1884, 1888, 1892—and was one of two Democrats to be elected president during the era of Republican political domination dating from 1861 to 1933. Cleveland was the leader of the pro-business Bourbon Democrats who opposed high tariffs, Free Silver, inflation and subsidies to business, farmers, or veterans, his crusade for political reform and fiscal conservatism made him an icon for American conservatives of the era. Cleveland won praise for his honesty, self-reliance and commitment to the principles of classical liberalism, he fought political corruption and bossism. As a reformer, Cleveland had such prestige that the like-minded wing of the Republican Party, called "Mugwumps" bolted the GOP presidential ticket and swung to his support in the 1884 election.
As his second administration began, disaster hit the nation when the Panic of 1893 produced a severe national depression, which Cleveland was unable to reverse. It ruined his Democratic Party, opening the way for a Republican landslide in 1894 and for the agrarian and silverite seizure of the Democratic Party in 1896; the result was a political realignment that ended the Third Party System and launched the Fourth Party System and the Progressive Era. Cleveland was a formidable policymaker, he drew corresponding criticism, his intervention in the Pullman Strike of 1894 to keep the railroads moving angered labor unions nationwide in addition to the party in Illinois. Critics complained that Cleveland had little imagination and seemed overwhelmed by the nation's economic disasters—depressions and strikes—in his second term. So, his reputation for probity and good character survived the troubles of his second term. Biographer Allan Nevins wrote, "n Grover Cleveland, the greatness lies in typical rather than unusual qualities.
He had no endowments. He possessed honesty, firmness and common sense, but he possessed them to a degree other men do not." By the end of his second term, public perception showed him to be one of the most unpopular U. S. presidents, he was by rejected by most Democrats. Today, Cleveland is considered by most historians to have been a successful leader ranked among the upper-mid tier of American presidents. Stephen Grover Cleveland was born on March 18, 1837, in Caldwell, New Jersey, to Ann and Richard Falley Cleveland. Cleveland's father was a Congregational and Presbyterian minister, from Connecticut, his mother was the daughter of a bookseller. On his father's side, Cleveland was descended from English ancestors, the first of the family having emigrated to Massachusetts from Cleveland, England in 1635, his father's maternal grandfather, Richard Falley Jr. fought at the Battle of Bunker Hill, was the son of an immigrant from Guernsey. On his mother's side, Cleveland was descended from Anglo-Irish Protestants and German Quakers from Philadelphia.
Cleveland was distantly related to General Moses Cleaveland, after whom the city of Cleveland, was named. Cleveland, the fifth of nine children, was named Stephen Grover in honor of the first pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Caldwell, where his father was pastor at the time, he became known as Grover in his adult life. In 1841, the Cleveland family moved to Fayetteville, New York, where Grover spent much of his childhood. Neighbors described him as "full of fun and inclined to play pranks," and fond of outdoor sports. In 1850, Cleveland's father moved to Clinton, New York, to work as district secretary for the American Home Missionary Society. Despite his father's dedication to his missionary work, the income was insufficient for the large family. Financial conditions forced him to remove Grover from school into a two-year mercantile apprenticeship in Fayetteville; the experience was valuable and brief, the living conditions quite austere. Grover returned to his schooling at the completion of the apprentice contract.
In 1853, when missionary work began to take a toll on his health, Cleveland's father took an assignment in Holland Patent, New York and the family moved again. Shortly after, he died from a gastric ulcer, with Grover reputedly hearing of his father's death from a boy selling newspapers. Cleveland received his elementary education at the Fayetteville Academy and the Clinton Liberal Academy. After his father died in 1853, he again left school to help support his family; that year, Cleveland's brother William was hired as a teacher at the New York Institute for the Blind in New York City, William obtained a place for Cleveland as an assistant teacher. He returned home to Holland Patent at the end of 1854, where an elder in his church offered to pay for his college education if he would promise to become a minister. Cleveland declined, in 1855 he decided to move west, he stopped first in New York, where his uncle, Lewis F. Allen, gave him a clerical job. Allen was an important man in Buffalo, he introduced his nephew to influential men there, including the partners in the law firm of Rogers and Rogers.
Millard Fillmore, the 13th president of the United States, had worked for the partnership. Cleveland took a clerkship with the firm, began to read the law, was admitted to the New York bar in 1859. Cleveland
American Protective Association
The American Protective Association was an American anti-Catholic secret society established in 1887 by Protestants. The organization was the largest anti-Catholic movement in the United States during the latter part of the 19th century, showing particular regional strength in the Midwest; the group grew during the early 1890s before collapsing just as abruptly in the aftermath of the election of 1896. Unlike the more powerful Know Nothing movement of the 1850s, the APA did not establish its own independent political party, but rather sought to exert influence by boosting its supporters in campaigns and at political conventions those of the Republican Party; the organization was concerned about Roman Catholic influence in the public school system as well as unfettered Catholic immigration and what was seen as growing Catholic control of the political establishments of major American cities. Attaining a six figure membership at its peak in early 1896, the organization's collapse was rapid, with only a hollow shell remaining by 1898.
The rump organization was terminated in 1911 with the death of its founder. On the afternoon of Sunday, March 13, 1887, a meeting was called in the Clinton, Iowa law office of Henry F. Bowers to discuss the recent electoral defeat of incumbent mayor Arnold Walliker, which Bowers and others blamed on the organized efforts of Roman Catholics in the local organized labor movement. Seven men were including the defeated former mayor and his brother; the decision was made by the seven men to establish a new political society to combat Catholic political influence, to be called the American Protective Association, a constitution and Masonic-influenced ritual was drawn up for this new organization. Bowers was elected the group's first "Supreme President." Aside from Bowers himself, there were six other founding members. Bowers would relate that this "First Council" was composed of three Republicans, two Democrats, one Populist, one Prohibitionist; the religious make-up of the First Council was said by Bowers to include members of the Methodist, Presbyterian, Congregationalist, Lutheran religious denominations, as well as "one of no religion."During the APA's first two years the organization was small and regionally compact, with local councils limited to the Midwestern states of Iowa and Nebraska.
No internal documents indicating the membership size of the early secret society exist, the organization's records having been destroyed in a fire. The organization was unquestionably tiny in this period, with membership topping the 11,000 mark only in the first weeks of 1892 — this after having "increased enormously" over the preceding six months; the years 1892 and 1893 initiated a period a dramatic growth in the size of the APA, the secret society began capturing headlines in newspapers around the country. By September 1893 the head of the Buffalo, New York local council of the APA — a Loyal Orange Institution member from Toronto — boasted of more than 800 members in that city alone, promised that "we are going to run this city just as the APA runs Kansas City, Detroit and other cities of the West." Other cities in which the APA grew to exert powerful political influence during the middle years of the 1890s included Omaha, Toledo and Louisville, with a lesser impact in Rochester, St. Louis and Denver.
Growth of the APA during the early 1890s was spurred by the circulation of forged documents, including in particular a set of purported “instructions to Catholics” advising the faithful against "keeping faith with heretics," and another alleged Papal encyclical over the signature of Pope Leo XIII calling for Catholics to "exterminate all heretics" on or about St. Ignatius Day, 1893; the Canadian-born W. J. H. Traynor, past Supreme Grand Master of the Loyal Orange Institution of the United States and editor of a weekly anti-Catholic newspaper from Detroit, The Patriotic American, succeeded Bowers as Supreme President in 1893, it would be he who would lead the group during its period of greatest influence during the mid 1890s. Traynor, the son of a building contractor, had joined the Orange Order at the age of 17 and maintained membership and connections with a host of religious and nationalist secret societies, including the Illustrious Order of the Knights of Malta, the American Patriot League, the American Protestant Association, other similar organizations.
During the middle 1890s, the APA expanded from its Midwestern nexus to become a national organization, with Supreme President Traynor traveling extensively to help with establishment of new local councils. The organization seems to have legitimately crossed the 100,000 member threshold sometime in the middle of 1894, according to the sanguine estimate of Humphrey J. Desmond, published in 1912. Rather than citing its substantial and growing paid membership figures, the organization made use of rhetorical diversion by trumpeting the number of votes it "controlled," with Traynor on a West coast organizing trip in February 1894 claiming to the press that the group had "control" of 2,000 votes in Tacoma, Washington as part of 2 million votes "controlled" nationwide; the APA's systematic membership exaggeration was noted expressly by a disgruntled former APA lecturer and founder of a rival organization, Walter Sims, who declared in 1895 that for the APA there was "not a membership in the United States of 120,000, but they call it a million."Membership claims by the APA far exceeded a mere exaggerated "million," with Supreme President Traynor claiming in June 1896 a membership for the organization of 2.5 million.
Nor was this all, with the APA proudly announcing at a closed convention of t
Galusha A. Grow
Galusha Aaron Grow was a prominent American politician, lawyer and businessman, who served as 24th Speaker of the U. S. House of Representatives from 1861 to 1863. Elected as a Democrat in the 1850 congressional elections, he switched to the newly-organized Republican Party in the mid-1850s when the Democratic Party refused to prohibit the extension of slavery into western territories. Elected speaker for the 37th Congress, Grow presided over the House during the initial years of the American Civil War. During his tenure Congress passed the landmark Homestead Act of 1862. Grow was defeated for reelection in 1862. For over a century he remained the last incumbent House speaker to be defeated, until Speaker Tom Foley lost his seat in 1994. After leaving office he continued to speak out on political issues, but did not serve in elective office. 31 years after leaving office, Grow won an 1894 special election to succeed William Lilly. It remains one of the longest known interregnums between terms of service for a House member.
Over the course of his career, Grow represented the people of three Pennsylvania congressional districts: the 12th district, 14th district, Pennsylvania's at-large congressional district. Grow was born Aaron Galusha Grow in Connecticut, his given names were the suggestions of an aunt living in Vermont, visiting Grow's mother when he was christened: "Aaron" was the aunt's husband's name, "Galusha" was the surname of a governor of Vermont she admired. His family called him Galusha when he was growing up, before Grow was a teenager, he had started writing his name with his given names reversed, he was educated at Franklin Academy in Susquehanna County, at Amherst College. He studied law and was admitted to the bar in November 1847 and began his law practice. Grow ran as a Democrat in the 1850 elections and served as a member of that party during the 32nd and 33rd Congresses and part of the 34th Congress, he switched parties in the wake of President Pierce's signing of the Kansas-Nebraska Act. He ran as a Republican for the 1856 elections and remained a member of that party for the rest of his political career.
During the 35th United States Congress, on February 5, 1858, he was physically attacked by Democrat Laurence M. Keitt in the House chambers, leading to a brawl between northerners and southerners. Keitt, offended by Grow's having stepped over to his side of the House chamber, dismissively demanded that Grow sit down, calling him a "black Republican puppy". Grow responded by telling Keitt that "No negro-driver shall crack his whip over me." Keitt became enraged and went for Grow's throat, shouting that he would "choke for that". A large brawl involving fifty representatives erupted on the House floor, ending only when a missed punch from Rep. Cadwallader Washburn of Wisconsin upended the hairpiece of Rep. William Barksdale of Mississippi; the embarrassed Barksdale accidentally replaced the wig backwards, causing both sides to erupt in spontaneous laughter. He was re-elected during the 1858 elections, before the end of the 36th Congress, South Carolina had voted to secede from the Union. After Grow was again re-elected, the elected President Abraham Lincoln called the 37th Congress into session on July 4.
Although events of the Civil War dominated and the First Battle of Bull Run occurred only two weeks after the 37th Congress was called into session, under Grow's speakership, several other major acts of Congress were passed and signed into law the Morrill Land-Grant College Act, the Pacific Railway Act authorizing land grants to encourage the construction of the transcontinental railroad, the Homestead Act, which in over a century resulted in the establishment of 1.6 million homesteads. Grow, a supporter of the Radical Republicans, was defeated in his re-election bid in 1862, becoming the second sitting House Speaker in a row to lose his seat. Grow was a delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1864 and 1868, he moved to Houston, Texas in 1871, that year became president of what became known as the International - Great Northern Railroad, a position he held until 1875. He returned to Pennsylvania and the practice of law from 1875 to 1894. Grow returned to the United States Congress as a member at-large from Pennsylvania from 1894 to 1903.
Grow resided in Glenwood, Pennsylvania from 1903 until his death at age 84. A biography of Galusha Grow, Galusha A. Grow: Father of the Homestead Law, was written by James T. Du Bois and Gertrude S. Mathews and published by Houghton Mifflin in 1917. A monument to Grow was erected in 1915 at the Susquehanna County Courthouse Complex in Montrose, Pennsylvania. Galusha Grow from Mr. Lincoln's White House, a website of the Lehrman Institute Grow, Galusha Aaron from The Political Graveyard "Grow, Galusha Aaron". Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography. 1892
Governor of Virginia
The Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia serves as the chief executive of the Commonwealth of Virginia for a four-year term. The current holder of the office is Democrat Ralph Northam, sworn in on January 13, 2018. Candidates for governor must be United States citizens who have resided in Virginia and been a registered voter for five years prior to the election in which they are running; the candidates must be at least 30 years of age. Unlike other state governors, Virginia governors are not allowed to serve consecutive terms, they have been barred from immediate re-election since the adoption of Virginia's second constitution, in 1830. However, a former governor is permitted to run for a second term in a future election. Only two governors since 1830, William Smith and Mills Godwin, were elected to additional terms. Smith's second term came after Virginia seceded from the Union, while Godwin became the first governor in American history to be elected by both major parties when the former Democrat was elected in 1973 as a Republican.
To get on the ballot for Governor of Virginia, each candidate must file 10,000 signatures, including the signatures of at least 400 qualified voters from each 11 congressional districts in the Commonwealth. The governor is the head of government in Virginia. At the beginning of every regular session, they must report the state of the Commonwealth to the Virginia General Assembly, they must convene the legislature. The governor must ensure that the laws of the Commonwealth are faithfully executed by either signing, or allowing it to come into law, or vetoing, not allowing it to become law, they are responsible for the safety of the state, as they serve as commander-in-chief of the Virginia Militia. The governor has the legislative power to submit recommendations and to call special sessions when he finds them necessary; the governor has veto powers. All bills must be sent to the governor before becoming law; the governor may sign the bill, let it sit unsigned for seven days, after which it becomes law, or veto the legislation.
After a veto, the bill returns to its house of origin and may be overridden by two-thirds of the vote in each house. The governor has the power to use a line-item veto, he may send legislation back to the legislature with amendments. The legislature must either approve the changes by a majority in each house or override the veto with a two-thirds majority in each house; the governor is commander-in-chief of Virginia's militia forces. The governor may communicate with other states and foreign powers; the governor has the power to fill vacancies in positions unless the position is appointed by the legislature. The governor may commute issue pardons; the governor may restore voting rights and overturn other political penalties on individuals. The position of Governor of Virginia dates back to the 1607 first permanent English settlement in America, at Jamestown on the north shore of the James River upstream from Hampton Roads harbor at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay; the Virginia Company of London set up a government run by a council.
The president of the council served as a governor. The council was controlled the colony from afar. Nominally, Thomas Smith was the first president of the council. Edward Maria Wingfield was the first president of the council in residence in the new province, making him the first to exercise the actual authority of governing Virginia; the Virginia Company soon abandoned governance by council two years after the landing on May 23, 1609, replacing it with a governor, the famous and dynamic leader, John Smith. In 1624, the English Monarchy of King James I, in the last year of his reign, of the royal House of Stuart took control from the Virginia Company and its stockholders and made Virginia a crown colony. Governors continued to be appointed by the monarch for many years. Most the appointed governor would reside in England while a deputy or lieutenant governor exercised authority. Royal rule was interrupted during the English Civil War, after which governors were appointed by the Protectorate under Richard Cromwell in the interim Commonwealth of England until the English Restoration of the monarchy with King Charles II in 1660.
Virginia became an independent sovereign state and Commonwealth during the American Revolutionary War, with Patrick Henry as its first governor. From the Revolution until 1851, the governor was elected by the General Assembly of Virginia. After 1851, in a democratic trend spreading across the Union, the state turned to popular elections for office holders. During the American Civil War, Francis Harrison Pierpont was the governor of the Union-controlled parts of the state of which emerged the new state in the northwest of West Virginia. Pierpont served as one of the provisional governors during the post-war Reconstruction era; these governors were appointed by the Federal government of the President and U. S. Congress, both controlled by Radical Republicans for a decade. In 1874, Virginia regained its right to self-governance and elected James L. Kemper, a Democrat and temporary Conservative Party member and former Confederate general as governor. After the Radical Republican appointees of the post-war Reconstruction era, Virginia would not elect another regular Republican as governor until A. Linwood Holton Jr. in 1969.
However, in 1881 William E. Cameron was elected governor under the banner of t
1884 United States House of Representatives elections
Elections to the United States House of Representatives were held in 1884 for Representatives in the 49th Congress. These election coincided with the election of President Grover Cleveland. In spite of Cleveland's victory, the opposition Republican Party gained back some of the seats lost in 1882, but the Democratic Party retained a majority in the House. Republicans were able to make these slight gains by connecting their pro-business and industry message with progress; the Democrats were hindered by the Panic of 1884, but were not affected by it since the depression ended quickly. In 1884, four states, with 28 seats among them, held elections early: June 2 Oregon September 2 Vermont September 13 Maine October 14 Ohio Party abbreviations D: Democratic I: Independent IR: Independent Republican Pop: Populist Pr: Prohibition R: United States Two new districts were created for the seats gained in the 1882 reapportionment, eliminating the at-large district, created for them. United States elections, 1884 United States presidential election, 1884 United States Senate elections, 1884 48th United States Congress 49th United States Congress Dubin, Michael J..
United States Congressional Elections, 1788-1997: The Official Results of the Elections of the 1st Through 105th Congresses. McFarland and Company. ISBN 978-0786402830. Martis, Kenneth C.. The Historical Atlas of Political Parties in the United States Congress, 1789-1989. Macmillan Publishing Company. ISBN 978-0029201701. Moore, John L. ed.. Congressional Quarterly's Guide to U. S. Elections. Congressional Quarterly Inc. ISBN 978-0871879967. "Party Divisions of the House of Representatives* 1789–Present". Office of the Historian, House of United States House of Representatives. Retrieved January 21, 2015. Office of the Historian
Thomas Brackett Reed
Thomas Brackett Reed ridiculed as Czar Reed, was a U. S. Representative from Maine, Speaker of the U. S. House of Representatives from 1889–1891 and from 1895–1899, he was a powerful leader of the Republican Party, during his tenure as Speaker of the House, he served with greater influence than any Speaker who came before, he forever increased its power and influence for those who succeeded him in the position. Born in Portland, Reed established a legal practice in Portland after graduating from Bowdoin College, he served as the state's attorney general. After a stint as Portland's city solicitor, Reed won election to the United States House of Representatives and served in that chamber from 1877 to 1899. Reed won election as Speaker of the House in 1889, narrowly defeating fellow Republican Representative William McKinley in the election, he served as Speaker until 1891. He regained the position of Speaker in 1895, he increased the Speaker's power by instituting the "Reed Rules," which limited the ability of the minority party to prevent the establishment of a quorum.
Reed helped pass the Lodge Bill, which sought to protect African American voting rights in the Southern United States, but the bill failed to pass in the Senate and never became law. He opposed the Spanish–American War and resigned from Congress in 1899. Reed was born in Portland, the son of Matilda Prince and Thomas B. Reed. Reed attended public school, including Portland High School, before graduating from Bowdoin College in 1860, he studied law. After college, he went on to become an acting assistant paymaster for the United States Navy from April 1864 to November 1865 and was admitted to the bar in 1865, he practiced in Portland and was elected to the Maine House of Representatives in 1868 and 1869. He served in the Maine Senate in 1870 but left to serve as the state's Attorney General from 1870 to 1872. Reed became city solicitor of Portland from 1874 to 1877 before being elected as a Republican to the Forty-fifth and the eleven succeeding Congresses, serving from 1877, to September 4, 1899, when he resigned.
He married Susan P. Merrill, born at Center Harbor, on New Hampshire, her father, the Rev. Samuel H. Merrill, a well-known Congregational clergyman, was pastor of a church in Center Harbor at the time of her birth. Six years afterwards he returned with his family to Maine. During the Civil War, Merrill served as chaplain of the First Maine Cavalry, Susan had a brother in this famous regiment. Merrill's pastorates, aside from his war experiences, were principally in Maine. Susan Merrill's mother was a native of New Hampshire. Merrill had one brother, Edward P. Merrill, one sister, who resided in Lowell, Massachusetts. Merrill and Reed were friends in childhood, attending school together in Portland, they married in 1871. Reed was a member of the Maine Legislature, the young couple went to Augusta, the state capital, they had Katherine. He was known for his acerbic wit, his size, standing at over 6 feet in height and weighing over 300 lbs, was a distinguishing factor for him. Reed was a member of the social circle that included intellectuals and politicians Henry Cabot Lodge, Theodore Roosevelt, Henry Adams, John Hay and Mark Twain.
As a House freshman, Reed was appointed to the Potter Commission, to investigate voting irregularities in the presidential election of 1876, where his skill at cross examination forced Democrat Samuel J. Tilden to appear in person to defend his reputation, he chaired the Rules Committee. Reed was first elected Speaker after an intense fight with William McKinley of Ohio. Reed gained the support of young Theodore Roosevelt. Reed served as the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives from 1889 to 1891 and from 1895 to 1899, as well as being Chairman of the powerful Rules Committee. During his time as Speaker, Reed assiduously and increased the power of the Speaker over the House. Reed set out to put into practical effect his dictum, "The best system is to have one party govern and the other party watch." That was accomplished by studying the existing procedures of the US House, most dating to the original designs, written by Thomas Jefferson. In particular, Reed sought to circumscribe the ability of the minority party to block business by way of its members refusing to answer a quorum call, under the rules, prevented a member from being counted as present if they were physically in the chamber, thus forcing the House to suspend business.
That is popularly called the disappearing quorum. Reed's solution was enacted on January 28, 1890 in what has popularly been called the "Battle of the Reed Rules"; that came about when Democrats attempted to block the inclusion of a newly elected Republican from West Virginia, Charles Brooks Smith. The motion to seat him passed by a tally of 162–1. Reed began.