Cannon, Joseph G.

Cannon, Joseph G. (Gurney)

(1836–1926) U.S. representative; born in New Garden, N.C. A country lawyer with only six months of law school, as state's attorney in Danville, Ill. (1861–68) he dismissed a charge of theft against Lincoln's stepmother. A conservative Republican congressman (Ill., 1873–91), his racy language and uncouth manners earned him the nickname "Uncle Joe." He voted against appropriations for the Civil Service Act in 1882 and was a minority member of the Committee on Rules. Defeated in 1890, he returned to the House (1893–1913) and chaired the Committee on Appropriations; he offended fellow committee members by putting through a $50,000 national defense bill in 1898 for President McKinley without consulting them. Elected Speaker of the House (1903–11), he began "cannonising" procedures to benefit Republicans. When congressmen protested, he kept them off desirable committees. In 1910, Democrats and Republicans led by Champ Clark were finally able to break his arbitrary control of the Rules Committee, but he remained in the House until 1913, then returned in his eighties (1917–23).
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.