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Mr. Speaker!: The Life and Times of Thomas B. Reed The Man Who Broke the Filibuster Hardcover – May 10, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


Advance Praise for

Mr. Speaker!

“Thomas Reed—Czar Reed, the all-powerful Speaker of the House at the end of the 19th century—was an architect of the modern American state. Sadly, he has been lost to history. But in this lively, intelligent biography, James Grant brings him back, with gusto, humor, and a sense of tragedy.”

--Evan Thomas, author of The War Lovers: Roosevelt, Lodge, Hearst and the Rush to Empire, 1898

“No period in American history is more colorful or relevant to our own—for better and worse—than the Gilded Age. James Grant brings it all memorably to life: Mugwumps and Half-Breeds, congressmen of flamboyant plumage for sale, not to mention a political process frozen in partisanship. Looming above it all, literally larger than life, is Thomas B. Reed, perhaps the most fascinating politician you’ve never heard of. A hero to young Theodore Roosevelt, as Speaker of the House Reed singlehandedly crushed the filibuster. (One is tempted to say, Boy do we need him now). At the same time, Reed’s erudition and stinging wit may well have cost him the White House. In the end, his ambition yielded to his principles, prompting him to resign the speakership rather than endorse the imperial vision of his fellow Republicans. It’s taken a century, but Reed at last has a biographer equal to his story.”

--Richard Norton Smith, author of The Colonel: The Life and Legend of Robert R.

McCormick, 1880-1955 and Scholar-in-Residence of History and Public Policy at George

Mason University

About the Author

James Grant is the founder of Grant’s Interest Rate Observer, a leading journal on financial markets, which he has published since 1983. He is the author of seven books covering both financial history and biography. Grant’s journalism has been featured in Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Foreign Affairs. He has appeared on 60 Minutes, Jim Lehrer’s News Hour, and CBS Evening News.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (May 10, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416544933
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416544937
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.3 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #420,360 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

James Grant, financial journalist and historian, is the founder and editor of Grant's Interest Rate Observer, a twice-monthly journal of the investment markets. His new book, The Forgotten Depression, 1921: the Crash that Cured Itself, a history of America's last governmentally unmedicated business-cycle downturn, won the 2015 Hayek Prize of the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research.

Among his other books on finance and financial history are Bernard M. Baruch: The Adventures of a Wall Street Legend (Simon & Schuster, 1983), Money of the Mind (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1992), Minding Mr. Market (Farrar, Straus, 1993), The Trouble with Prosperity (Times Books, 1996), and Mr. Market Miscalculates (Axios Press, 2008).

He is, in addition, the author of a pair of political biographies: John Adams: Party of One, a life of the second president of the United States (Farrar, Straus, 2005) and Mr. Speaker! The Life and Times of Thomas B. Reed, the Man Who Broke the Filibuster (Simon & Schuster, 2011).

Mr. Grant's television appearances include "60 Minutes," "The Charlie Rose Show," "CBS Evening News," and a 10-year stint on "Wall Street Week". His journalism has appeared in a variety of periodicals, including the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal and Foreign Affair. He contributed an essay to the Sixth Edition of Graham and Dodd's Security Analysis (McGraw-Hill, 2009).

Mr. Grant, a former Navy gunner's mate, is a Phi Beta Kappa alumnus of Indiana University. He earned a master's degree in international relations from Columbia University and began his career in journalism in 1972, at the Baltimore Sun. He joined the staff of Barron's in 1975 where he originated the "Current Yield" column. He is a trustee of the New York Historical Society. He and his wife, Patricia Kavanagh M.D., live in Brooklyn. They are the parents of four grown children.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Ira E. Stoll VINE VOICE on May 8, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Thomas B. Reed, a Republican congressman from Maine who served six years as speaker of the House of Representatives, mainly in the 1890s, is an obscure enough figure that this book uses a subtitle to explain who Reed was: "The man who broke the filibuster."

I came away from the book admiring Reed's defense of voting rights for blacks and his support for women's suffrage, but less than entirely convinced that the rest of Reed's policy program -- including a tariff to protect American industry from foreign competition and an isolationist bent in foreign affairs -- deserves to be rescued from obscurity.

What does deserve to be rescued from obscurity, though, is this period in American history, and here Mr. Grant is an able guide and Reed a better-than-serviceable vehicle for the narrative. For many Americans, exposed to their country's history mainly in yearlong high school survey courses, Civil War Reconstruction jumps pretty quickly into Teddy Roosevelt's trustbusting. But pause to look around rather than rushing on through, and it turns out that the period between the Civil War and the turn of the 20th century was full of ferment, not least on the monetary policy matters to which Mr. Grant, as founder of Grant's Interest Rate Observer, brings particularly deep knowledge.

To anyone following the current headlines about Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke and the price of the dollar in gold or silver, Mr. Grant's account of the events of 1869 (when the Resumption Act was passed, providing that as of January 1, 1879, $20.67 would be exchangeable for an ounce of gold) through 1900 (when the Gold Standard Act was passed), is valuable context.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Christian Schlect VINE VOICE on May 27, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
My knowledge level of U.S. political history takes a nosedive for the years between the aftermath of the Civil War and the onset of World War I.

Therefore, James Grant has provided a significant service to me, and I would hope to many other readers, with his interesting and well-written biography of Thomas B. Reed, a.k.a. Czar Reed.

The boom-and-bust economic cycles, obscure tariff battles, and the intense debates over the federal currency (to be backed by silver or gold or both) of the times are nicely explained by the author, who is a financial expert. Reed was an early supporter of voting rights for women and one who did not see the value in going to war to acquire off-shore territories. Most important, he reformed House rules to ensure that elected majorities had the opportunity to rule on questions of the day and were not made ineffectual by recalcitrant minorities.

Reed, a hard partisan warrior, comes across as a funny, honest, and bright guy. And one of those rarest of politicians, one who walked away from true power on Capitol Hill at a time of his own choosing and with the admiration of his peers.

Anyone with an interest in our nation's political history, especially that of the U.S. House of Representatives and the late 1800s, should buy and read Mr. Grant's book.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Mara B. on July 3, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I first became interested in Thomas B. Reed after reading Evan Thomas's excellent book The War Lovers and was excited to see this biography on the shelf since I was eager to learn more about him. Reed was renowned for both his sardonic wit and his willingness to stand apart from the crowd, both of which make him an extremely promising subject for a biography...Unfortunately this book was not quite what I expected.

Grant seems much more interested in describing the general political context of the 1870s-1890s, particularly the economic issues that were being debated at the time, than he is in creating a detailed and in-depth portrait of the man the book is purportedly about. It isn't until the last third of the book that Reed is even reliably center-stage, and before that there are long sections of the book where his name barely appears at all.

This doesn't mean the book is a waste of time, as it is a good treatment of the politics of the time and Grant can be quite funny and insightful in his descriptions of the political landscape. I learned a lot! But I do feel like there's a lot more to be said about Reed, and I think we're still waiting for a biography that fully does him justice as the fascinating man he was.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Erez Davidi on September 13, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Thomas Reed is a person well worth reading about; he was a man of great intellect, integrity and wit. Unfortunately, Reed is largely forgotten nowadays. Thus, I was pleased to learn that Grant has written a new biography about Reed. I suspect that Grant, who is chiefly famous as a financial writer, decided to write a biography about Reed, not only because of his interest in Reed, but also because of the economic and political issues of the time; issues which are more related to Grant's day job as a financial writer.

Reed's times were characterized by intense debates regarding the gold standard, tariffs and the nature of the Federal government in general. These topics are discussed over and over again throughout the entire book. Grant devotes large sections of his book to review these issues, which are oftentimes unrelated directly to Reed, and so the subject of his book tends to be neglected. This is the biggest drawback of the book, but also its greatest advantage. Readers who are only interested in reading about Reed might be disappointed that large sections of the book concern the times of Reed, but not Reed himself. However, readers who are interested in that period can gain an invaluable opportunity to better understand the economics and politics of the time aided by the impressive depth of research.
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