Saturday, May 16, 2009

Henry Clay Outsmarts John Randolph of Roanoke

The House passed the legislation comprising the Missouri Compromise on March 2, 1820. The next day, March 3, John Randolph of Roanoke moved for reconsideration. Robert V. Remini tells the story as well as anyone:
Speaker [Henry] Clay turned to [Randolph] with a look of studied contempt. After a moment he announced that the hour was late, the members exhausted. The motion, he declared, would be postponed until the following day. At that time, it would be in order.

The following day Randolph rose to have the vote reconsidered. Clay ruled him out of order, until the routine business of the House had been concluded. Meanwhile, as Speaker he signed the Missouri bill and had the clerk deliver it to the Senate. When Randolph rose once more after the routine matters had been completed, Clay blithely announced that the bill had gone over to the Senate and could not be retrieved. The Missouri vote, already taken, was final.

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