Champ Clark

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James Beauchamp Clark
ChampClark.jpg
41st Speaker of the United States House of Representatives
In office
April 4, 1911 – March 4, 1919[1]
President William Howard Taft
Woodrow Wilson
Preceded by Joseph G. Cannon
Succeeded by Frederick H. Gillett
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Missouri's 9th district
In office
March 4, 1893 – March 3, 1895
March 4, 1897 – March 2, 1921[1]
Preceded by Seth W. Cobb
William M. Treloar
Succeeded by William M. Treloar
Theodore W. Hukriede
Personal details
Born March 7, 1850
Lawrenceburg, Kentucky
Died March 2, 1921(1921-03-02) (aged 70)
Washington, D.C.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Genevieve Davis Bennett Clark[2]
Alma mater Bethany College
University of Cincinnati College of Law
Profession Law
Religion Disciples of Christ[3]

James Beauchamp Clark, best known as Champ Clark (March 7, 1850 – March 2, 1921), was a prominent American politician in the Democratic Party from the 1890s until his death. A Representative of Missouri from 1893 to 1895 and from 1897 to 1921, he served as the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives from 1911 to 1919. He was an unsuccessful candidate for the Democratic nomination for President in 1912.[1]

Early life[edit]

Clark was born in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, to John Hampton Clark and Aletha Beauchamp. Through his mother, he was the first cousin twice removed of the famous lawyer-turned-murderer Jereboam O. Beauchamp. He is also directly descended from the famous John Beauchamp (Plymouth Company) through his mother. He graduated from Bethany College (West Virginia) where he was initiated into Delta Tau Delta Fraternity, and Cincinnati Law School and moved to Missouri in 1875, and opened a law practice the following year. He eventually settled in Bowling Green, Missouri, the county seat of Pike County.

Career[edit]

Clark was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1892. After a surprise loss in 1894 to William M. Treloar, he regained the seat in 1896, and remained in the House until his death, the day before he was to leave office.

Clark ran for House Minority Leader in 1903, but was defeated by John Sharp Williams of Mississippi. After Williams ran for the Senate in 1908, Clark ran again for the position and won. When the Democrats won control of the House in 1911, Clark became Speaker. In 1911, Clark give a speech that helped to decide the election in Canada. On the floor of the House, Clark argued for the recent reciprocity treaty with Canada and declared: "I look forward to the time when the American flag will fly over every square foot of British North America up to the North Pole".[4] Clark went on to suggest in his speech that reciprocity treaty was the first step towards the end of Canada, a speech that was greeted with "prolonged applause" according to the Congressional Record.[5] The Washington Post reported that: "Evidently, then, the Democrats generally approved of Mr. Clark's annexation sentiments and voted for the reciprocity bill because, among other things, it improves the prospect of annexation".[5] The Chicago Tribunal condemned Clark in an editorial, warning that Clark's speech might had fatally damaged the treaty in Canada, stating "He lets his imagination run wild like a Missouri mule on a rampage. Remarks about the absorption of one country by another grate harshly on the ears of the smaller".[5] The Conservative Party of Canada, who opposed the treaty, won the Canadian election in large part because of Clark's speech.

In 1912, Clark was the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination, coming into the convention with a majority of delegates pledged to him. But he failed to receive the necessary two-thirds of the vote on the first several ballots. After lengthy negotiation, clever management by supporters of New Jersey Governor Woodrow Wilson, together with widespread allegations of influence by special interests, delivered the nomination instead to Wilson.

Clark's Speakership was notable for two things: First, Clark's skill from 1910 to 1914 in maintaining party unity to block William Howard Taft's legislation and then pass Wilson's; and second, Clark's splitting of the party in 1917 and 1918 when he opposed Wilson's decision to bring the United States into World War I.

In addition, Clark opposed the Federal Reserve Act, which concentrated financial power in the hands of eastern banks (mostly centered in New York City). Clark's opposition to the Federal Reserve Act is said to be the reason why Missouri is the only state granted two Federal Reserve Banks (one in St. Louis and one in Kansas City).

Clark was defeated in the Republican landslide of 1920, and died shortly thereafter in his home in Washington, DC.

Clark's son Joel Bennett Clark served as a United States Senator from Missouri from 1933 to 1945.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
  2. ^ "Champ Clark". Notable Names Database. Retrieved 2010-09-30. 
  3. ^ "The Religious Affiliation of U.S. Congressman Rep. Champ Clark". Adherents.com. Retrieved 2011-04-13. 
  4. ^ Allan, Chantal Bomb Canada: And Other Unkind Remarks in the American Media Athabasca: Athabasca University Press, 2009 page 17.
  5. ^ a b c Allan, Bomb Canada: And Other Unkind Remarks in the American Media page 18.

References[edit]

  • Garraty, John A. and Mark C. Carnes. American National Biography, vol. 4, "Clark, Champ". New York : Oxford University Press, 1999.

External links[edit]

Images[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by
John Sharp Williams
Minority Leader of the United States House of Representatives
1908–1911
Succeeded by
James Robert Mann
Preceded by
James Robert Mann
Minority Leader of the United States House of Representatives
1919–1921
Succeeded by
Claude Kitchin
Political offices
Preceded by
Joseph G. Cannon
Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives
April 4, 1911 – March 4, 1913;
April 7, 1913 – March 4, 1915;
December 6, 1915 – March 4, 1917;
April 2, 1917 – March 4, 1919
Succeeded by
Frederick H. Gillett