Thomas B. “Czar” Reed (1839-1902), Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives in three tumultuous Gilded Age congresses, single-handedly transformed both the House and the Speakership and unintentionally opened the floodgates of political modernity. And the problems with which Reed grappled were as modern as today’s front page: a war of choice (in his day, with Spain), the impact of globalization on the American economy, and the fraught question of the dollar—should it be backed by gold, silver, or nothing at all? James Grant discusses how Reed changed the political landscape and how his story resonates today.
James Grant is the founder and editor of Grant’s Interest Rate Observer and the author of the new book Mr. Speaker! Mr. Speaker!: ‘Czar Reed and the Gilded Age. Beverly Gage (moderator) is associate professor of 20th-century U.S. history at Yale where she teaches courses in American conservatism and 20th-century American politics.