Through Oct. 1: Congress Week exhibition
University Library exhibition celebrates Congress Week 2012
2:06 p.m., Sept. 12, 2012--The University of Delaware Library has joined the Association of Centers for the Study of Congress in a national celebration of the third annual Congress Week, Sept. 16-22.
Coinciding with the commemoration of Constitution Day on Monday, Sept. 17, the theme of Congress Week 2012 is “Congress: Chosen by the People,” reflecting the constitutional language about direct election of members in Article 1, Section 2, and the 17th Amendment.
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Selected documents from the papers of Willard Saulsbury, Jr., who served Delaware in the U.S. Senate from 1913 through 1919 are on display in the Information Room of the Morris Library through Monday, Oct. 1. An online version of the exhibition is available.
Saulsbury was the last U.S. Senator selected by the Delaware state legislature before direct popular elections enacted by the 17th Amendment to the Constitution in 1913.
Article 1, Section 3 of the Constitution held that the “Senate of the United States shall be composed of two senators from each state, chosen by the legislature thereof for six years” which worked until the mid-19th century when numerous factions in state legislatures delayed elections of senators.
By the turn of the 20th century, between 1891 and 1905, 45 election deadlocks occurred in 20 states and Delaware’s contentious state legislature notoriously failed to elect a senator in 1895, 1899, 1901 and 1905. Between 1901 and 1903, both seats were vacant and Delaware had no representation in the U.S. Senate.
Saulsbury (1861-1927) was the scion of one of Delaware’s most storied political families.
His father Willard Saulsbury, Sr., (1820-1892) served two terms in the U.S. Senate, from 1859 through 1871, during the tumultuous years of the Civil War and was known for passionate speeches against Union abuses of states’ rights. The father faced competition for election to a third term in the Senate from both of his brothers, one of whom, Dr. Gove Saulsbury, was the governor of Delaware. Willard Saulsbury, Jr., however, supported his other brother, Eli Saulsbury, who succeeded him and served three terms in the U.S. Senate from 1871 through 1889.
Willard Saulsbury, Jr., who had become active in Democratic Party leadership at the state and national level was widely credited for orchestrating the nomination of Woodrow Wilson as the Democratic presidential nominee in 1912 and managing a large part of the national campaign leading to his Wilson’s election. After six attempts to win nomination from his state party, Saulsbury finally succeeded and was elected by the Delaware legislature to serve in the U.S. Senate in 1913.
The 17th Amendment, which was passed in 1913, replaced the phrase “chosen by the Legislature thereof” with “elected by the people thereof” and the first direct elections of senators were held in 1914. When Saulsbury ran for re-election to a second term in 1918, he lost the popular vote in Delaware to L. Heisler Ball, who served one term.
The Willard Saulsbury, Jr., papers document a remarkable period in Delaware and national politics. Selected items from the collection, which is housed in Special Collections in the University of Delaware Library, reflect Saulsbury’s leadership in the U.S. Senate, where he served as president pro tempore.
Campaign ephemera from the lost 1918 election and early 1920s Delawareana attest to Saulsbury’s continuing political clout.
The papers were acquired in the late 1940s with the assistance of the late Dr. John A. Munroe, H. Rodney Sharp Professor Emeritus of History, and the late Judge Hugh M. Morris. Judge Morris, chairman of the University of Delaware Board of Trustees, and after whom the Morris Library is named, was Saulsbury’s law partner and executor of his estate.
About the ACSC
The University of Delaware Library is an institutional member of the Association of Centers for the Study of Congress (ACSC), which was founded in 2003 to support a wide range of programs designed to inform and educate students, scholars, policy-makers and members of the general public on the history of Congress, legislative process and current issues facing Congress.
The ACSC encourages preservation of material that documents the work of Congress, including the papers of representatives and senators, and supports programs that make those materials available for educational and research use.
University Library congressional holdings
In addition to the Willard Saulsbury, Jr., papers and the papers of George Gray, who served in the U.S. Senate from 1885 through 1899, the University of Delaware Library holds a stellar collection of modern congressional holdings.
The holdings include materials from: John J. Williams, who served in the U.S. Senate from 1947 through 1971; J. Allen Frear, Jr., who served in the U.S. Senate from 1949 through 1961; Thomas C. Carper, who served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1983 through 1993; Michael N. Castle, who served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1993 through 2011; and Edward E. (Ted) Kaufman, who served in the U.S. Senate from 2009 through 2010.
The most recent addition to these important resources is the collection of senatorial papers from Joseph R. Biden, Jr., who served in the U.S. Senate from 1973 through 2009, which arrived in June 2012.
This third annual Congress Week exhibition coincides with the appearance of U.S. Sen. Thomas Carper, who will be the featured speaker for the James Soles Lecture on Friday, Sept. 14.
Constitution Day is Monday, Sept. 17.