Scott R. Meinke (email@example.com) is Assistant Professor of Political Science, Bucknell University, Department of Political Science, Lewisburg, PA 17837.
Slavery, Partisanship, and Procedure in the U.S. House: The Gag Rule, 1836–1845
Article first published online: 7 JAN 2011
2007 Comparative Legislative Research Center at the University of Iowa
Legislative Studies Quarterly
Volume 32, Issue 1, pages 33–57, February 2007
How to Cite
MEINKE, S. R. (2007), Slavery, Partisanship, and Procedure in the U.S. House: The Gag Rule, 1836–1845. Legislative Studies Quarterly, 32: 33–57. doi: 10.3162/036298007X201976
- Issue published online: 7 JAN 2011
- Article first published online: 7 JAN 2011
From the 24th through the 28th Congresses, the House of Representatives operated under versions of a “gag rule” that blocked petitions dealing with abolition and related matters. This article presents the gag rule as not only a historically important window into slavery deliberations in Congress but also a case study in majority party restrictions of minority rights—and in the boundaries that constituency politics can place on majority power. Through analysis of vote choices and voting changes over time, I demonstrate that the gag rule's partisan origins gave way as northern members voted against party and with specific constituency pressures as well as general sectional sentiment. The gag rule shows the power of electoral considerations and constituency in the early U.S. House, and it also illustrates the force that constituency can have over majority procedural maneuvering.