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About Samuel Jackson Randall
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 a contender for his party's nomination for the President of the United States in two campaigns.
Samuel J. Randall was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His paternal grandfather, Matthew Randall, had been a judge on the Philadelphia court of common pleas. His father Josiah Randall, had been one of the leading lawyers in Philadelphia and a leading Henry Clay Whig, as well as a supporter of Prohibition. When Josiah Randall moved into the Democratic party, his two sons moved there with him. He was a member of the common council of Philadelphia and a member of the Pennsylvania State Senate.
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 Maj. Granville Haller in the days before the battle, and had the same role at Columbia, Pennsylvania, during the battle of Gettysburg.
He was elected in 1862 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). Its 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. Later, the two men became close friends. Randall served in the United States House of Representatives as a Democrat from Pennsylvania from 1863 to his death.
Randall's early career in the House showed little promise. According to news reports, he drank heavily. Sometime in 1869, after getting into a fistfight with a Texas politician, he 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.".” 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; b ut 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....".” 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." .” 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.”
In 1875, he came into national attention, when he led a Democratic filibuster of Republican Reconstruction measures. That fall, he sought the Speakership, 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.".”
With the death of Speaker Michael Kerr of Indiana in the summer of 1876, the Democrats elected Randall to the chair. From 1876 to 1881, he served as the Speaker of the House and played a prominent role in establishing Democratic Party policy. 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, he proved a master of tactics on the floor and of parliamentary law from the chair. .” 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 after two years in the minority, it chose not to return Randall to the Speakership, selecting a supporter of low tariffs, John G. Carlisle of Kentucky, instead. Randall was placed at the head of the Appropriations Committee, where his diligence in cutting extravagance and pork-barrel provisions from spending bills made him the terror of lobbying interests. He also had time to lead 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.
He was considered for the Democratic presidential candidacy in 1880 and 1884. 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 foundering because Tilden waited too long to withdraw from the race. When, in 1884, he sought the nomination, his protectionist views had marginalized hm too far in the Democratic party to give him much chance of winning. 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 V. 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." 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. Part of the reason was his failing health. By 1889, he 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. while still in office. His remains were conveyed to Philadelphia and interred in the Laurel Hill Cemetery. To his credit, he died poor, leaving behind no real estate and very few personal effect. Funeral expenses and a $300 allotment to his wife exhausted his entire estate.