Due to a special event taking place in the U.S. Capitol on Thursday, September 18, there will be no tours of the U.S. Capitol that day until approximately noon. The Capitol Visitor Center will remain open during this time, and guided tours in the Capitol Visitor Center will be available.

Reining in the Speaker, 1910

Many members of Congress believe that fewer laws are better. "The country don't need any legislation," was the way the colorful Joseph G. Cannon, Republican of Illinois, put it. Elected Speaker in 1903, "Uncle Joe" Cannon was among the more conservative House members. He wielded his power to stop President Theodore Roosevelt's crusade to regulate business and land use.

As conservative members retired or lost elections, however, Cannon's base of support gradually eroded. Conservative Republican control of the chamber became vulnerable to an alliance of Progressive Republicans and Democrats. In 1910, Nebraska's George W. Norris, one of the Progressive reformers, proposed new rules to curb the Speaker's power—igniting two days of nearly continuous debate. The Progressive–Democrat coalition prevailed, and many hailed Norris's resolution as a return to democracy in the House.

"The country don’t need any legislation."
— Speaker Joseph G. Cannon

  • Joseph Cannon, by Freeman Thorp, 1914

    Joseph Cannon, by Freeman Thorp, 1914

    Architect of the Capitol

  • Who Will Bell the Cat?, by Clifford Berryman, December 1909

    This cartoon shows the dilemma facing House insurgents—the mice—plotting to confront Speaker Cannon—the cat.

    U.S. Senate Collection, Center for Legislative Archives

    Joseph Cannon's Trunk

    Capitol carpenters built wooden packing crates for members to store or ship their papers at the end of a Congress. This trunk, discovered in the Capitol in 1994, held materials for Speaker Joe Cannon in the early 20th century.

    Records of the U.S. House of Representatives, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.

  • Letter from President Theodore Roosevelt to Joseph Cannon, May 29, 1905

    This letter by President Theodore Roosevelt was among the contents of Speaker Cannon's trunk. The president delicately attempted to influence Cannon's committee-assignment decisions—a power that was exclusively the Speaker's at this time.

    Records of the U.S. House of Representatives, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.

  • Letter from Francis Cushman to Joseph Cannon, November 13, 1902

    Representative Francis Cushman of Washington candidly expressed his concerns to Cannon, who had requested Cushman support his candidacy for Speaker. Cushman addressed Cannon by a nickname commonly used at the time.

    Records of the U.S. House of Representatives, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.

  • Political cartoon, by Clifford Berryman, November 24, 1907

    Cartoonists took witty note of Cannon's immense power as Speaker of the House. Here, legislators plead for him to assign them to plum chairmanships.

    Collection of the U.S. Senate, Center for Legislative Archives