Hon. Thomas B. Reed
HON. THOMAS B. REED was born in Portland on the 18th of October, 1839. He was educated in the common schools of Portland and at Bowdoin College, where he was graduated in the class of 1860. During the four years immediately following his graduation Mr. Reed was engaged in teaching and in the study of law. He was for a time assistant teacher in the Portland High School. In April, 1864, before he had passed his examination for admission to the Bar, he was appointed Acting Assistant Pay-master in the United States Navy, and was assigned to duty on the “tin clad” Sybil, then under command of Lieut. H. H. Gorringe, later a distinguished officer of the navy.
After the close of the war Mr. Reed returned to Portland and was admitted to the Cumberland Bar. Before three years the Republicans of Portland made him their candidate for one of the seats in the lower branch of the State Legislature. His election followed, and he took his seat in the House in the session of 1868. Mr. Reed was re-elected to the Legislature of 1869, and in 1870 the Republicans of Cumberland County promoted him to a seat in the State Senate.
In his terms of service as a member of the Judiciary Committee Mr. Reed had shown his abilities as a lawyer, and great confidence was felt in his judgment by all with whom he came in contact. So it happened that while acting as a member of the State Senate, he was selected in 1870 by the Republicans of Maine as their candidate for Attorney-General of the State He was elected, and assumed the duties of the office at the age of thirty years, being younger than any man who had held the office since the organization of the State. The three terms which he served in this important office were marked by the trials of many important causes for the State.
In 1874, Mr. Reed became City Solicitor of Portland, and for four years served the city in that capacity. It was a time when the city had large interests at stake, for the management of which Mr. Reed’s experience and ability were most successfully applied.
Mr. Reed was still serving the city of Portland as its Solicitor, when the election of 1876 approached for the choice of members of the Forty-fifth Congress, which was to assemble in December, 1877. Mr. Reed’s friends in the first district determined that he should be the Republican nominee. In a memorable canvass he was nominated and elected. The House of Representatives which he entered was Democratic, as have been all the Houses but two since he has been in Congress. But he was not long in coming to the front, and gave early promise of the distinguished legislative career of influence and leadership which has marked his membership of the House. As speaker of the Fifty-first Congress, and as leader of the Republican side, he has won great fame. Mr. Reed’s speakership marked a new era in the legislative history of Congress. Before that, it had always been within the power of a strong and determined minority to stop any legislation. Minorities had never failed to use this power, and the absurdity of allowing a minority to dictate in a popular government, where all government is supposed to be by majorities, had not only been tolerated, but had actually been elevated to the dignity of a great principle of statesmanship. It was Mr. Reed’s great work to abolish this pernicious usage. His famous rulings caused a tremendous uproar in the national House and throughout the country. He was denounced in unmeasured terms by partisan papers; but his rulings were sustained by the Supreme Court of the United States, and the principle that he enunciated of the inviolability of the right of the majority to rule has been followed by his political opponents. Although they have studiously asserted that the “Reed Rules” would never be adopted by them, they have used analogous methods; and now no minority is allowed to thwart the will of the majority.
As a leader on the floor Mr. Reed has attained distinguished success. This is in a large measure due to the fact that he has added to unrivaled forensic ability good common sense and honesty of purpose. An undoubted partisan, he has always had a firm conviction that in the domination of the Republican Party lies the surest safeguard of the fame and prosperity of his country. Keeping the mission of his party in view, he has never allowed his influence to count for any partisan move of doubtful patriotism. In the present Congress he has just led the Republican minority in the repeal of the Sherman law, when the Democratic majority found itself powerless by itself to carry out the program of its President.
Mr. Reed has not allowed his engrossing duties as a public man to interfere with his taste for literary pursuits. He is a student of English literature and a great admirer of its masterpieces. He is also familiar with the literature of several foreign tongues, and especially French literature. Few names are more familiar on the title pages of the great magazines than his, and the North American Review for the last four years has rarely failed, at any memorable juncture of public affairs, to contain a luminous and charming article from his pen.
Mr. Reed’s attachment to the city of his birth is sincere and strong; and whenever public duties do not call him away, he is to be found at his office or his home in Portland.