You can count on Congress to provide a good laugh. Take, for instance, the Senator who talked about the war in "Indigo China," or the Representative who asked why the Israelis and Arabs couldn't settle their differences "like good Christians." But the U.S. Congress has always been much more than a good source of comedy. It has been home to brilliance as well as buffoonery, to integrity as well as corruption, to statesmanship as well as demagoguery. And in Congressional Anecdotes Paul F. Boller, Jr. captures it all with a sweeping, informative, and delightful look at the history of our national legislature. A professional historian and author of the bestselling Presidential Anecdotes, Paul Boller again shows his gift for lively-and revealing-stories. In this collection he provides a fascinating view of the history of our Congress, a history that reflects the life and character of the nation in often surprising ways. The first Congress, for example, was serious about its task of setting precedents for the new republic, earnestly debating how the President should be addressed.
But some Congressmen erupted in laughter when Vice President John Adams proposed "His Mighty Benign Highness," and they suggested in turn that Adams be hailed as "Your Rotundity." At one time dueling among members of Congress was common, and in the nineteenth century they often came to the Capitol armed with swords, pistols, and Bowie knives. In one session, as animosities flared between North and South, a general free-for-all broke out on the House floor and ended only when one Congressman pulled off another Congressman's wig, reducing the whole House to laughter. In the twentieth century, Boller reminds us, racial and sexual equality lagged on Capitol Hill just as it did across the country. For a long time black Congressmen were banned from the Congressional Dining Room because of their race, and the first women members waded in male condescension. Boller's book is filled with informative essays and entertaining stories about the sharp debates and fierce battles that took place in the nation's legislature during its first two hundred years. It also provides fascinating insights into its leading figures: John Randolph, Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, John C.
Calhoun, Robert LaFollette, Sam Rayburn, Gerald Ford, Tip O'Neill, Robert Dole. Organizing the anecdotes by subject, Boller has written ten chapters about Congress, each of them containing essays and stories about such topics as "Congress-Bashing" (a practice almost as old as the Constitution itself), "Manners and Morals," "On the Floor" (Congressional debates), "Oratory," "In the Chair" (about Speakers and Vice Presidents), and "Congress and the President." Amusing, dramatic, and poignant, Boller's tales about Congress reveal the rich and vital past of one of America's greatest institutions, as well as the indispensable part it has played in the nation's development.