Samuel J. Randall

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Samuel Jackson Randall
Samuel J. Randall - Brady-Handy.jpg
33rd Speaker of the United States House of Representatives
In office
December 4, 1876 – March 4, 1881
President Ulysses S. Grant
Rutherford B. Hayes
Preceded by Michael C. Kerr
Succeeded by J. Warren Keifer
Member of U.S. House of Representatives
from Pennsylvania's 1st & 3rd districts
In office
March 4, 1863 – March 3, 1875 (1st)
March 4, 1875 – April 13, 1890 (3rd)
Preceded by William E. Lehman
Leonard Myers
Succeeded by Chapman Freeman
Richard Vaux
Personal details
Born October 10, 1828
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Died April 13, 1890 (aged 61)
Washington, D.C., United States
Nationality United States
Political party Whig Party, Democratic
Parents Josiah Randal and Ann Worrell Randall
Occupation Politician, Attorney, Soldier

Samuel Jackson Randall (October 10, 1828 - April 13, 1890) was a Pennsylvania politician, attorney, soldier, and a prominent Democratic member of the United States House of Representatives during the late 19th century. He served as the 33rd Speaker of the House and was a contender for his party's nomination for the President of the United States in two campaigns.

Early life and career[edit]

Randall was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Josiah and Ann Worrell Randall. Randall's paternal grandfather, Matthew Randall, was a judge on the Philadelphia court of common pleas. His father, Josiah Randall, was one of the leading lawyers in Philadelphia and a leading Henry Clay Whig, as well as a supporter of prohibition. Randall and his brother followed their father when he moved into the Democratic party.

Randall graduated from the University Academy in Philadelphia,[1] and was a member of the Philadelphia Common Council from 1852 to 1856. He served on the Pennsylvania State Senate for one term from 1858 to 1860.[2] During the Civil War, he served as a member of the First Troop, Philadelphia City Cavalry in 1861 for three months, and again as a captain in 1863 during the Gettysburg Campaign. He served as Provost Marshal at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, under Major Granville Haller in the days before the battle and had the same role at Columbia, Pennsylvania during the battle of Gettysburg.[3]

Political Career[edit]

House of Representatives[edit]

In 1862 Randall was elected to the United States House of Representatives. He was elected from the first Congressional District in Philadelphia, a district designed by a Republican legislature for a Democratic candidate (with the other four districts in the city designed to guarantee Republican control). The district's most influential figure was William "Squire" McMullen, boss of the fourth ward, who would remain a lifelong Randall ally. Randall defeated former three-time mayor Richard Vaux for the seat. Randall served in the House as a Democrat from Pennsylvania from 1863 until his death.

Randall's early career in the House showed little promise and according to news reports he drank heavily. Sometime in 1869, after getting into a fistfight with a Texas politician, Randall swore off liquor and quickly turned into one of the hardest working and most effective parliamentarians that the Democratic minority had. "Sam used to take his whisky straight and his bed as he could catch it," a journalist wrote in 1877. "Now he takes straight to bed, and is temperate as a horse-block. He is a first-rate instance of the size of a man after his liquor is all drawn off.".”[4] His enemies all admitted him honest, no small thing in a state notorious for corruption. "I don't think it possible for a Pennsylvania politician to be a pure man," a columnist admitted, "but I will say for Sam Randall he has never enriched himself through any speculation off the public Treasury. The worst that can be said of him is that his friends have been terrible thieves; but then they were Pennsylvanians, coming from a Staate that nver produced but one eminent man ... and up to the present investigation, but three honest men....".”[5] Jay Cooke, the leading banker in Philadelphia, found Randall a vexing antagonist and suspected that rival bankers controlled him, for which there was no proof. He fought all the railroads seeking land grants, denounced the national banks, and resisted any measure giving private corporations a subsidy. Friends knew better than to ask his support as a personal favor. "You must not speak to me about that bill," he told one of them sternly. "It is a bad bill, and I shall do everything I can to defeat it."[6] Coming to the House early, leaving it late, he retired to his house to work, his dinner-table piled with files and papers, his day ending past midnight.”[7]

Appropriations Committee[edit]

Randall came into national attention in 1875 when he led a Democratic filibuster of Republican Reconstruction measures.[8] He was named chair of the Appropriations Committee in 1875 when Democrats took control of the House.[9][10] While Chairman, Randall was diligent in cutting extravagance and pork-barrel provisions from spending bills, and led the small protectionist minority in Democratic ranks to make coalitions with Republicans and stymie two different attempts in his own party to make a down-payment on tariff reform.

Speaker of the House[edit]

Randall had sought the Speakership in 1875, but lost out to another contender because of rumors that the Texas and Pacific Railroad lobby favored his election. Just the reverse was true: the Texas and Pacific feared his election more than that of any other. "His mind is of the heavier type -- there is nothing humble or elastic about it," one journalist concluded. "He is not a fluent talker, but, nevertheless, a good debater, quick to see a point, and ready to turn it to his party's interests. He is one of the warchdogs of the House, always on the alert, and ready for attack and defense at any time."[11]

With the death of Speaker Michael C. Kerr in the summer of 1876, the Democrats elected Randall to the chair. From 1876 to 1881, he served as Speaker of the House and played a prominent role in establishing Democratic Party policy.[12] During the presidential dispute in 1876-1877, Randall stood with the militant Democrats who wanted to resist what they saw as a Republican theft of the presidency, but when the party caucus went against him, he used his power as Speaker to put down a filibuster and permit Rutherford B. Hayes to be counted in peacefully.

Nearly six feet tall with black, curly hair and polished manners, Randall proved a master of tactics on the floor and of parliamentary law from the chair,[13] but tariff reformers knew that he would not allow their bills through and that the Ways and Means Committee would be stacked against them. In 1883 when the Democratic party came back to power it chose not to return Randall to the Speakership, selecting a supporter of low tariffs, John G. Carlisle, instead.[14]

Presidential candidacy[edit]

Randall was considered for the Democratic presidential candidacy in 1880 and 1884.[15] In neither case did he stand much chance. Considered as former New York Governor Samuel J. Tilden's choice in 1880, he found his candidacy floundering because Tilden waited too long to withdraw from the race.[16]

When Randall sought the nomination in 1884, his protectionist views had marginalized him too far in the Democratic party to give him much chance of winning.[17] Those same views made Pennsylvania Republicans appreciate him, and in their redistricting of Pennsylvania they made sure that he would have a district in which he suffered no risk of defeat. "You are one of the few Democrats I like," the chairman of the Republican state committee Thomas Cooper wrote him in 1884. "An effort will be made to deprive you of your district in the coming Congressional apportionment....I will resist it, and think you can aid me without political or other impropriety by reasserting to me and to others, in your way, that tariff interests will be safe in your hands."[citation needed] They were. His district by then took in seven Philadelphia wards fronting the Delaware River. They included banks and factories, including twenty-five of the thirty-nine national banks in the city, but most of his constituents were unskilled working class, with a heavy Irish and German immigrant population.

Increasingly out of touch with his party, Randall found his power in state politics declining during Grover Cleveland's administration. He was deprived of much of his power to control patronage and with it the ability to dominate the state party conventions. By 1888 he had been marginalized in the House as well, and is failing health was part of the reason. By 1889, Randall was confined to his bed and in 1890 had to be sworn into office from there.


Outlasting all his colleagues in continuous service, Randall died in Washington, D.C. in 1890 while still in office.[18] His remains were conveyed to Philadelphia and interred in the Laurel Hill Cemetery.[19] To his credit, he died poor, leaving behind no real estate and very few personal effects. Funeral expenses and a $300 allotment to his wife exhausted his entire estate.”[20]

Painting by William A. Greaves after C. A. Fassett, 1891.


  1. ^ "The Great Democratic Moral Show". The New York Times. Retrieved November 13, 2013. 
  2. ^ "RANDALL, Samuel Jackson". History, Art & Archives. Retrieved November 13, 2013. 
  3. ^ The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography. J.T. White. 1893. p. 57. 
  4. ^ "Cincinnati Enquirer," October 24, 1877
  5. ^ "Cincinnati Enquirer," May 27, 1877
  6. ^ "Memorial Addresses on the Life and Character of Samuel J. Randall" (51st Congress 1st session, p. 102
  7. ^ "New York Tribune," April 11, 1886
  8. ^ House Committee Print. A Concise History of the House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations. Government Printing Office. p. 38. 
  9. ^ "Samuel J. Randall". Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. Retrieved November 13, 2013. 
  10. ^ "Committees Chairman". House Appropriations Committee, Democrats. Retrieved November 13, 2013. 
  11. ^ "Brooklyn Daily Eagle," February 5, 1883
  12. ^ The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography. J.T. White. 1893. p. 57. 
  13. ^ "Charleston News and Courier," November 24, 1883
  14. ^ "The Great Democratic Moral Show". The New York Times. Retrieved November 13, 2013. 
  15. ^ "The Great Democratic Moral Show". The New York Times. Retrieved November 13, 2013. 
  16. ^ Richard, Donal (2010). Presidential Elections, 1789-2008: County, State, and National Mapping of Election Data. University of Michigan Press. p. 219. 
  17. ^ "Republican Candidates and Convention". Harp Week. Retrieved November 13, 2013. 
  18. ^ Proctor,, John Clagett (1932). Washington, past and present: a history - Volume 5. p. 1035. 
  19. ^ United States. Congress (1891). Memorial Addresses on the Life and Character of Samuel J. Randall,. U.S. Government Printing Office. p. 15. 
  20. ^ "Philadelphia Record," November 12, 1892

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
William E. Lehman
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Pennsylvania's 1st congressional district

Succeeded by
Chapman Freeman
Preceded by
Leonard Myers
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Pennsylvania's 3rd congressional district

Succeeded by
Richard Vaux
Political offices
Preceded by
Michael C. Kerr
Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives
Succeeded by
J. Warren Keifer