U.S. Capitol Visitor Center

Welcome to the U.S. Capitol

The Gag Rule

In the 19th century, Americans vigorously exercised their First Amendment right “to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” An antislavery petition drive in the 1830s swamped Congress with 130,000 petitions in a single year. In response, beginning in 1836, proslavery members of the House of Representatives passed a series of gag rules to prevent discussion of such petitions. Representative and former President John Quincy Adams of Massachusetts worked for years to overturn the gag rule, which the House finally repealed in 1844.

1 Image Memorial against slavery in the District of Columbia from females of... View All Images
2 Images Index of Petitions referred to the Select Committee to Abolish... View All Images
1 Image Representative John Quincy Adams's motion denouncing the "... View All Images
1 Image "Gag Rule" Resolution, December 21, 1837 View All Images