Advanced Search
Sen. Robert Byrd
Sen. Robert Byrd
The Senate: 1789-1989
ISBN: 0160064058
The Senate: 1789-1989
Senator Robert Byrd commemorated 200 years of Senate history in his recent book, The Senate: 1789-1989. The book consists of speeches Senator Byrd delivered on the floor of the Senate about its history. Senator Byrd includes stories about senators such as Daniel Webster and Henry Clay as well as his personal experiences with Presidents Johnson and Nixon.
The Senate: 1789-1989
Program Air Date: June 18, 1989

BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Senator Robert C. Byrd, present pro-tempore of the United States Senate you have a new book out called "The Senate: 1789- 1989." Why did you do this?
ROBERT BYRD, AUTHOR, "THE SENATE: 1789- 1989:" I want my colleagues today and Senators of tomorrow, and the media of today and tomorrow, and the American people through them, to better understand this unique institution the United States Senate and the role that it has played over these two centuries in fulfilling its responsibilities under the constitution. We need to develop an institutionally memory. So many of us who are there now don't have that institutional memory and therefore we are unable to accurately interpret today's events and to foresee what may happen in the future. To do these things we need to look backward into the past.
LAMB: This book is 800 pages long. How did you put it together?
BYRD: That is what I refer to as a mini -- m-i-n-i -- Manhattan Project. There are almost 300 pictures in that book. There are 39 chapters. Those 39 chapters came from 42 speeches which I delivered on the Senate Floor. These speeches were carefully researched. I read them on the Senate Floor; I did not put them into the record via the back door. And the pictures came from many many sources. So it took a lot of people working together to do this job. The Library of Congress, the Senate Historian and his staff. I spent hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of hours on it myself. I've proofread the book five times. Know every word that went into it, every comma, exclamation point and question mark. I went over the pictures carefully and I chose the design on the book and it took many, many months -- years on the part of a lot of people.
LAMB: Explain what this design is.
BYRD: That design shows the eagle. And it's all on marbled paper. It's an excellent, exquisitely bound book. The title is very simple. "The Senate: 1789-1989."
LAMB: Can the general public buy this?
BYRD: The general public can buy it from the government printing office. The government printing offices has outlets all over this country. They can buy it at a cost of $55 per copy. They send their check to the Superintendent of Documents the Government Printing Office and they'll get the book. Let me hasten to say that I make no royalties. I get no benefits from the book. I would like to see it sell because I want the contents of that book to become known around this country. I want the Senate of the United States to be better appreciated than what it is. Not only by the people on the outside but the people on the inside and the people in the media.
LAMB: Tell the story how you came to give that first speech and what day was it?
BYRD: It was on March 21, 1980. I was the Majority Leader. That year I had told my colleagues that we would have no role call votes on Fridays. The Senate would be open. We could make speeches. We could carry on business by voice vote and so on. And in the gallery that day my younger granddaughter appeared with a class of students, she was one of the students, and with her teacher and with her father. And I felt that in as much as there was so little going on, I should take some time and talk about the Senate so that the class would feel that it had been benefited by its visit. That's how the first speech came about.

The following Friday my older granddaughter was in the gallery with a class, she being one of the students, and again she was with her teacher. Again the same father, my same son-in-law, was there so I felt that I ought to treat her as I treated my younger granddaughter. But at the same time I wanted my son-in-law to hear a different speech. So I made another speech. I didn't have these speeches prepared. There was no problem for me to talk about the Senate for an hour or so or a day. And so that's how it came about.

After the first two speeches then other Senator's who had read the speeches or who had heard them at that time on the squawk boxes, we didn't have television in the Senate then, and officers of the senate, the pages, other people around the Senate, the door keepers and so on commented on those speeches. And they said they liked them. They would like to hear more. So that planted the idea. Why don't I develop a history of the Senate? It will take a long time. I can possibly deliver 100 speeches on it. And so that's how it came about. So over the next seven to eight years, I delivered speeches on the history of the Senate so that there are a circa 100 speeches that I have made. Now there will be a second volume of materials already there because I've already delivered the speeches. There will very likely be a third volume because there is enough material. And maybe even a fourth volume.
LAMB: Did you deliver all your speeches without a copy in front of you?
BYRD: Oh, no. No. I had to -- going from the first two which were extemporaneous because the circumstances just came about without foreknowledge. Once I had decided that I was going to develop the history of the Senate through a series of lectures on the Senate Floor then I began to read from prepared speeches.
LAMB: Where is this picture from?
BYRD: That was a picture that was taken at a conference in Room 207 just off the Senate Floor. President Reagan came to the conference that day. He had been newly elected and so we had a joint meeting of Democrats and Republicans in the Mansfield Room 207 and the camera caught me looking over the President's head.
LAMB: 300 photographs. And I think I've heard this from so many people who pick this book up it's one of the most handsome books that people have ever seen. The paper, the printing. Who did it?
BYRD: The Government Printing Office. That's a Senate document. The Government Printing Office -- and it's been authorized, the printing of it, has been authorized by the Senate via a Senate Resolution. The Government Printing Office did the work on that. The Government Printing Office is not accustomed to doing this kind of work so there were a lot of bugs in for awhile. And I went over the galley proofs as I say five times and finally it was put into shape and then it was contracted out by the Government Printing Office. And an excellent publisher and binder actually did the final piece.
LAMB: Who helped you in the Senate itself?
BYRD: In the Senate itself, the Senate Historian and his staff and my own staff helped to a considerable extent but I, for the most part as far as in the Senate, other than the Senate Historian's staff, I for the most part did about all the work.
LAMB: What's the reaction that you're getting?
BYRD: Excellent. Senators are exuberant about it. Everybody who has seen it loves it wants a copy of it. And people who have received it comment very favorably with respect to it.
LAMB: Any idea how many copies the Government Printing Office has printed originally?
BYRD: I believe about 10,000 or 11,000 copies. Copies have gone to all of the depository libraries throughout the United States. Those that are on the Government Printing Office's list have received them. I have sent other copies to various colleges and universities, law professors where I've had access to the names because I want that book to get exposure where it will be most appreciated. There are people who would like to have the book. It's limited in number as of now but there can be a second or third printing or additional printing.

But there are people who will look at it, look at the pictures, look at the index to see if their names are in the index and then they'll put it on the shelf. It's a beautiful piece. But I want people to see it who will read it who will teach it in their classes. I want the media especially to absorb it so that they will get their facts straight. And I want Senators to read it today, and as I say Senators 50 years from now, so that they will have a deeper appreciation of this very unique institution which is larger than its sum of 100 parts.
LAMB: This picture comes from what era?
BYRD: That is a picture that was taken when Mr. Nixon was either a Senator or Vice President. It's a strange picture. It has only Mr. Nixon there and he is seated near the back row. I've never really understood why that picture was taken but it's quite a quite a unique picture.
LAMB: It's from ...
BYRD: He's seated in the back area of the Senate and he is -- no he isn't. He's seated at the front -- yes, he is seated in his chair. The Vice President's chair, the presiding officers seat. The chamber is empty. There are a few people in one gallery here ... those are the tourists. There is a door keeper up here and the Vice President is sitting there in the presiding officer's chair and he's looking back like this to someone who has a camera.
LAMB: Do you have a favorite part of this book. A favorite story?
BYRD: Oh, there's so many favorite stories in that book.
LAMB: Or a favorite Senator in history.
BYRD: I have several favorite Senators. Of course the great trio Webster, Calhoun and Clay would occur to every student of history. Thomas Hart Benton, Senator Russell I'll have a chapter on the late Senator Richard Russell in the next volume, and Senator and Vice President Aaron Burr. I'll have a chapter on him. There are other favorite Senator's but I think the ones I've named are probably typical.
LAMB: I'm looking for a Compromise of 1850, and I think I'll get it here in a second. There is a photograph in here of Daniel Webster. Do you happen to remember when photographs were first taken of Senators?
BYRD: I don't. I don't remember.
LAMB: Let me see if I can -- for some reason or another I can't find the Compromise of 1850, but talk about Daniel Webster. I will find that. What about Daniel Webster --do you like in history?
BYRD: Well, Daniel Webster of course we admire him. He was a great orator. We have to keep in mind however that in those days Senators had more time to reflect, to think, to compose their speeches, to write their speeches. Webster was a good writer. And he could memorize their speeches. And then after they spoke them they could take the transcript to their boarding houses -- a few of them had homes in the area, here at that time. They could take the transcripts of the speeches to the boarding houses and work them, edit them, so that what we read is not necessarily the speech as it was exactly given.
LAMB: This is Daniel Webster for our audience.
BYRD: Yes, that is Daniel Webster. I have several pictures I believe in there.
LAMB: Do you think he would have been as great an orator today -- with what we read about him compared to Senators of today?
BYRD: Oh, I think Webster would have been a great orator in any day. But times are so different now. Webster would not have had the time now to reflect and to think and to write and I would assume he memorized a good many of the speeches as men and great orators did in those days.
LAMB: Henry Clay, you mentioned him.
BYRD: Clay was a great orator. He was he a remarkable man. A tremendous politician. He became Speaker of the House on the first day that he became a member of the House. And he was a ...
LAMB: Would that happen today?
BYRD: No, I don't think it would happen today.
LAMB: What about Calhoun? You've got a picture of here of him.
BYRD: Calhoun was a fiery speaker. He spoke at the rate of about 180 words per minute. Each of these three were somewhat unique in his own right. And each brought qualities to his speeches that perhaps the others might not have. We spoke of Webster a moment ago. Webster was on the payroll of Mr. Biddles bank. And during one of the great debates in respect to the National Bank, Webster took the occasion to write to Biddle and to remind him that he had not received his check, and asked, "Do you wish to retain me longer?" Now that was an egregious breech of ethics in our day. For one in the Senate to be on the payroll of an institution about which the legislation is being acted upon and debated on the Senate floor.
LAMB: Let me go back to more modern times. Here is a photograph of two gentlemen who used to be leaders in the Senate and this gentleman right here I just saw a story in the paper about him today. Who are these two men?
BYRD: Senator Mansfield and Senator Hugh Scott. Senator Mansfield was the Majority Leader at that time. Senator Scott was a Minority Leader. They were the first to go to China. After President Nixon had opened the doors and had drawn down the barriers those two Senators went to China. Of course Mr. Mansfield had been in China for many years in his earlier life.
LAMB: Then went on to Ambassador to Japan for another ...
BYRD: Yes he did. Yes.
LAMB: He served as Majority Leader for 16 years.
BYRD: Sixteen years. The longest that any Senator has been a Majority Leader.
LAMB: Did you work with him closely?
BYRD: I worked very closely with him. I was Secretary to the Democratic Conference for four years; worked right at his elbow. I was the Majority Whip for six years; worked right at his elbow. And I spent as much time during those 10 years and those two offices -- as much time on the floor as I spent when I became Majority Leader and then Minority Leader and back to Majority Leader. I did practically all of the floor work for Mr. Mansfield while he was Leader.
LAMB: What's this picture?
BYRD: That is a picture that was taken at a time when we were meeting with Mr. Nixon down in -- not in the White House, but in the old Executive Office Building. I forget what we were discussing at that time. You can see my hair was not gray as it is now but it was black. There was Senator Griffin who was then I believe the Whip and that's Mr. Nixon there. And ...
LAMB: Gerry Ford.
BYRD: Gerry Ford. He was at that time in the House. And there's Hugh Scott who was the Minority Leader at that time.
LAMB: That Carl Albert. I can't ... I'm looking at this -- oh, here it is, right here. Speaker of the House?
BYRD: I believe that's Carl Albert I can't tell exactly from here but I believe that's right.
LAMB: What do you remember about this period?
BYRD: About the period when Mr. Nixon was President?
LAMB: And when you possibly were in this office and those gentlemen were in the leadership.
BYRD: Well, that was before the problems arose with regard to Watergate. Nixon was a President whom I liked because he understood how to work with Congress. He had been in both Houses and I had a very fond feeling for Mr. Nixon although he later had problems and I prepared at that time to be active in the impeachment trial which never finally occurred.
LAMB: Another picture of Senator Mansfield. What was his style compared to yours as a Majority Leader?
BYRD: Well, as the book will point out ... other people are quoted in it in answer to that particular question so I'll let them answer that question. It was kind of a laid back style. I served under both Mr. Johnson when he was Majority Leader and Mr. Mansfield. Mr. Johnson -- the hard driving type. The type who would twist arms, conjole, threaten, plead and drive. Mr. Mansfield was just the opposite. He believed in letting every Senator go his own way, make up his own mind. He didn't attempt to twist arms. I did the floor work. Mr. Mansfield was back in his office reading the press, papers, and books and so on. So they had their different styles. Both were good leaders.

That's the picture that was taken in the rose garden -- and Mr. Johnson ... at the time he was President and there's the late speaker McCormick is there. The late Hale Boggs, Congressman Boggs and Carl Albert, who is Speaker at that time. Mr. McCormick was then the Whip, I believe. Then there's George Smathers who was then the Senator from Florida. There is the late Hubert Humphrey. And there is Mike Mansfield with his back turned and his head turned and Mike was walking away. And that picture was given to Senator Mansfield by the late President Kennedy who wrote on it something to the effect, "To Mike Mansfield who knows when to go." And so it looks as though Mike is walking away from the center of conversation.
LAMB: Who is the new arrival here in this picture?
BYRD: Well now that is the late Senator Dirksen. Senator Mansfield was the Majority Leader, Senator Dirksen was Minority Leader and Dirksen was the greatest orator that I have ever heard in my time of Capitol Hill which spans now going on 37 years on Capitol Hill. Martin Dyes, the late Martin Dyes, Representative in the House who was chairman of the Unamerican Activities Committee was also a great orator. But there are those two men the two leaders. Mike Mansfield worked very closely with Dirksen. There was a an excellent rapport between the two and for that reason we were able to enact the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Because Dirksen through his massive influence into the fray and help to bring about the cloture. Dirksen was probably the most influential man in the Senate at that time.
LAMB: Why was that?
BYRD: Well he was an excellent politician. He knew how to -- he was excellent. If there was any Senator who could change another Senator's mind with a speech it was Everett Dirksen. There is a picture of Mike Mansfield and myself. He was talking with me. We were probably going over some quick check. I was the Majority Whip at that time and we were probably counting votes or some such.
LAMB: What's the Whip do?
BYRD: Well, I'll tell you what I did. When I was Majority Leader I did practically all the floor work which hasn't been the case with other Whips but I stayed on the floor all the time. And in those days, when I was Majority Whip and later when I first became Majority Leader, we had in the Senate the late Senator Jim Allen of Alabama who was an excellent Senator, fine man, excellent parliamentarian. Knew how to use the rules and the precedents. And he had the guts to take a stand if he had to stand alone. And so he had a lot of parliamentary battles. And Senator Allen perfected the art of the post cloture filibuster. We've had the filibuster for many decades but the art of the post cloture filibuster, the filibuster that occurs after clotures in vote and that has proved to be a more filibuster than the pre cloture filibuster. The battles were between Senator Allen and me. I was the Majority Leader. I would act for the -- I was the Majority Whip. I would act for the Majority Leader. Then as I became Majority Leader those battles would occur between Jim Allen and me. The Parliamentary battles on the floor.
LAMB: Here's a photograph from the 1964 signing of the Civil Rights Act. And there's some new faces here. Here's Senator Dirksen, Senator Humphrey, Charlie Halleck. Who was he?
BYRD: Charlie Halleck was the Leader in the House. The leader of the Minority.
LAMB: The gentleman next to him? Is that Emmanual Cellar. I'm looking at it backwards and I can't ...
BYRD: I can't see from here. I see ...
LAMB: Congressman Cellar I believe.
BYRD: I see Tom Keikle, over there behind that ...
LAMB: Gentleman right here?
BYRD: California. Yes. There's Keikle, there's Hubert Humphrey.
LAMB: What did you think of Lyndon Johnson?
BYRD: Well Lyndon Johnson had a unique drive about him. He would simply twist arms and it was difficult to say no to Lyndon Johnson. I'm one of the few who ever said no to him. But Lyndon probably couldn't operate as he did today in today's Senate.
LAMB: When did you say no to him?
BYRD: When he called me on one occasion I can remember very carefully, he called me and asked me to support the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and I told him that I could not vote for it. And there were some parts of it I could support and some I could not. But he started out like this. How bad do you want that judgeship. And I had sent to the Justice Department and to the White House of a man in West Virginia whom I wanted to see appointed as a Federal District Judge.

So Mr. Johnson called me on the phone. He was President of the United States then. "How bad do you want that Judgeship?" "Well," I said, "I want it."

He said, "He doesn't qualify. Send us another name." I said, "Why doesn't he qualify?" He said, "He's too old." "How old does he have to be?" He said, "He's past 60." I said, "Well, he wasn't 60 when I sent his name down."

And I said, "Mr. President, when you were running for President I went to the convention as a delegate from West Virginia and openly announced in support of Lyndon B. Johnson. And I was 100 percent for Lyndon B. Johnson. I wasn't 80 percent. I wasn't 90 percent. I was 100 percent. And I announced it from the steeple tops. I didn't run hide under a rock." Now, I said, This is the same way I feel about this man who whom I wanted to be judge. I'm not 80 percent, not 90, I'm 100 percent for him. Well, we went round and round like that for about a half hour then he asked me to vote for cloture. And I said I'm not going to vote for cloture. I'm going to be with Dick Russell on that and he
BYRD: ... places it will indicate right underneath there the Library of Congress. Some came from Jimmy Carter's Library. Some came from Martin Luther King Library. Some came from my own office. Some came from libraries in other parts of the country.
LAMB: What made ... and we'll move on after this. Do you think Senator Dirksen acquired his oratorical ability? Or the whole time that you knew him in the Senate did he have a good speaking technique?
BYRD: Oh, yes. The whole time I knew him he did. The book will tell that he acquired this ability first singing in the church choir. It helped him to develop his voice. And he also got involved in writing plays and in acting -- being the actor in some of the plays. He had a natural voice and he had a natural flamboyant way about him. He clowned. Always he acted with great theatrics. And the press galleries would always fill when they knew Dirksen was going to speak. And he had a marvelous mind. He was a big man. Fairly big man physically. But a big man mentally and he had a soul and a heart.
LAMB: For those who have just joined us, we are half way through talking with Senator Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia currently the chairman of the appropriations committee and the present pro-tem in the United States Senate and author of this book, "The Senate: 1789-1989." It addresses on the history of the United States Senate. Available at the Government Printing Office for $55. And we'll have that address on the screen as the program goes on. Definitely at the end of the program. It's the U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. and the zip code is 20402. I don't know that you know this, but if you buy more than one copy can you get them cheaper.
BYRD: Not that I know of.
LAMB: There are -- here's a picture. There are three Senate office buildings one of them named after Senator Dirksen. One of them named after Russell. And the other one named after this gentleman. Who is he? And why did you name one of your buildings after him?
BYRD: That's Senator Phil Hart. He was in the class of 1958 of which I was a member. Senator Phil Hart took on some of the great issues of that day. He was thought of and spoken of as the conscience of the Senate. He often went against what some of the powerful political interests in his state would have been for. Or he went for issues that they would have been against. He's demonstrated a tremendous amount of courage. He died of cancer during his time in the Senate. And so I have his picture there. I have Senator Howard Cannon's there. And then there, Senator Eugene McCarthy. There's Senator Vance Hartke. All those were members of the 1958 class. And I have a whole chapter of that class. I'm the last remaining member of that class. And the class had some very remarkable Senators in it. And they went on to become Chairmen of various committees. And as such were highly instrumental in the passage of very important legislation.
LAMB: What do you remember about Senator Hartke of -- Democrat of Indiana?
BYRD: Well he was very instrumental in education measures. I was thinking about Muskie -- Senator Muskie's picture is in there, too.
LAMB: On the next page.
BYRD: Senator Muskie was in that class and he was very instrumental in passing of a lot of environmental legislation. There is Muskie's picture. Senator Muskie, Senator Johnson is lauding Senator Muskie in the background of that picture. Senator Muskie then went on to be Secretary of State. But Senator Muskie, when he was in the Senate, he was the author of environmental legislation. Clean Water Act. Clean Air Act.
LAMB: Were you surprised that you are the only one of the class of 1958 left?
BYRD: Well I guess I may be a little surprised about it.
LAMB: Here's a more of a cartoon of a number of familiar faces. Do you recognize any of these? I know that ...
BYRD: Yes I recognize a good many of those pictures. There is
LAMB: Is this Senator Russell?
BYRD: Yes that's Senator Russell. And then there's Senator Dirksen just behind him. Sentor Humphrey's in the picture. Senator Bob Curr's in the picture. Senator Wayne Morris is in the picture. Senator..
LAMB: Wayne Morris right here?
BYRD: Yes. And Senator Keating. Kenneth Keating.
LAMB: Way over here.
BYRD: Yes.
LAMB: How can someone who is interested in the Senate and teaching it use this book? What's the best way to use it if you're a teacher?
BYRD: Well you know I'm not a teacher therefore I don't suppose I should attempt to answer that question except to say if I were a teacher I would do exactly what I've done with this book. I you can see I've read it again since it was published and it was published in February. We launched it in February so it hasn't been very long ago. But I've read it again since that time as you can see from all the underlining in it. Many people ...
LAMB: Let me ... this is a little bit awkward and I want to show the audience because you do this ... we once before talked about how you read the book of precedence ...
BYRD: Yes.
LAMB: Senate precedence every year and go through and underline it. I'm going to fold the pages here. And this is your copy. How many times have you done this. This is ...
BYRD: As you can see, I've read the entire book since it was published in the last six weeks. I've read it and I've underlined it and in the margins I've written little notes as to the highlights of the paragraphs. And in that way, I can quickly find some of the highlights that I wish to look up at a particular time aside from looking in the index.
LAMB: By the way -- is all the information that is in your book ... is it all available in the Congressional Record if somebody wanted to go that route to get the ... most of it there in you speeches you gave on the Senate Floor?
BYRD: They could do that. They could do that. However, since I made the speeches some of them have been combined. In other words, there are 42 speeches that have been put into 39 chapters. And some of them have been brought up to date as well.
LAMB: What's this picture?
BYRD: Picture over there is a picture of my receiving my law degree from the late President John F. Kennedy. He addressed the American University Law School commencement in 1963. Upon that occasion I received my law degree and had the great honor of receiving it from him.
LAMB: Should you have to have a law degree to serve in the United States Senate?
BYRD: No. As a matter of fact there have been great Senators who were not who were not lawyers but most members of that body have been lawyers. I learned years ago when I was starting out in both Houses of the West Virginia legislature that the lawyers seemed to be the movers and shakers and they knew more about parliamentary procedure and I decided I should try to get a law degree. Not that I ever expected to become a lawyer but that I just wanted to be a better servant. I wanted to make myself more able.
LAMB: Do you recognize this picture?
BYRD: That picture yes. That's..I believe that's the Madame Chiang Kai Shek shaking hands with the late Clifford Case and Mike VanSeals at the table. Senator Dick Russell is there.
LAMB: Senator Russell back here.
BYRD: Back there. And that's Senator Dirksen at the left, then I believe Senator Sparkman is just the other side of the Madame.
LAMB: See what we have here on the page.
BYRD: That's a picture of President Eisenhower having a little fun and badinage and persiflage with the late Speaker Rayburn. And I believe that's Senator Russell Long there in the center. Yes Russell Long right in the center. I don't recognize the others in the picture.
LAMB: If this is 1958 ... I don't know, did you say '58? I can't see it from where I am. But you know Eisenhower is President from '52 to '60. Where were you at that point?
BYRD: I was in the House. I went to the House in 1953 January when Mr. Eisenhower became President and I was in the Senate the last two years of Mr. Eisenhower's second term.
LAMB: This photograph includes Sam Rayburn and Joe Martin. Who were they?
BYRD: Sam Rayburn was, at the time that picture was taken ... you see, when I first went to the House, Joe Martin was the Majority that first year. The Republicans had taken control in the 1952 elections. And so Joe Martin was the Speaker and Mr. Rayburn was the Majority Leader. But then the next ...
LAMB: Bill Nolan. Who was he?
BYRD: Bill Nolan was the Majority Leader in the Senate.
LAMB: If these four gentlemen were here today, would the Senate be different than it is?
BYRD: No. They wouldn't operate like they did today if they were here in the Senate.
LAMB: How would they change?
BYRD: Well, the makeup of the Senate has changed. When Lyndon Johnson was Majority Leader, the great issue of that day was the Civil Rights issue. And Senator Russell and the southern block constituted a homogeneous block. And all of the old Confederate States of America were represented by Democratic Senators.
LAMB: Did you respect this man?
BYRD: Oh the late Senator Richard Russell. Yes. I ...
LAMB: Why?
BYRD: I did very much. Because he was he was a man who revered the Senate and he was keenly astute to its rules and precedence and traditions.
LAMB: What do you think he would think of television in the Senate today?
BYRD: Well he probably wouldn't have gone for it.
LAMB: This photograph?
BYRD: That is a photograph of..oh yes John Bricker. He pushed the Bricker Amendment and with him in that picture is..I don't recognize those other persons.
LAMB: Do you remember what the Bricker Amendment was?
BYRD: Yes, it had to do with executive agreements and treaties and it almost ... a substitute for it almost passed but for the vote of the late Senator Harley Kilgore of West Virginia, one of my predecessors who cast the deciding vote against it. That's a picture that was taken on the White House steps when Mr. Eisenhower was ....that was very early in his Presidency and they have Margaret Sullivan there with him and beside her is a new member of the House. Sam Freedale beside him, and I see Jack Brooks in the picture. Lee Metcalfe and Bob Mollahan of West Virginia and some other I can't recognize from here.
LAMB: When we first started talking about all this you hoped that press and students and all would read this -- and why is it -- what does it matter?
BYRD: Well it matters a great deal. Let me explain. The people in the media need to know the history of the United States Senate if they are going to accurately report on it and interpret the day's events -- accurately interpret today's events in the light of history. For example, recently following the Tower nomination vote I heard a very fine news reporter make the statement on a TV show. She was on a panel she said the Senate will never be the same again. Well, that reflected to me a lack of institutional memory. The Senate's already the same again. I mean, those things come and go. That's why we need to read the history.

We could see that in President Tyler's time, for example. In 1843, Tyler sent in the name of Caleb Cushing to be Secretary of the Treasury. And it was on March the 3rd. In those days Congress wound up its work on March 3rd and a new Congress convened on March 4. And Presidents were wont to come up to the Capitol and sit in the Vice President's room which was where the Republican Leaders offices now are .... just across from the old Senate Chamber and send in their last minute nominations and sign bills.

And Tyler sent in the name of Caleb Cushing to be Secretary of the Treasury. It was rejected by the Senate by a vote of 27 to 19. Tyler immediately sent it back in to be Secretary of the Treasury. It was again rejected by a vote of 27 to 9. He immediately sent Cushing's name back in to be Secretary of the Treasury. A third time it was rejected by a vote of 29 to 2. But that wasn't all of it. Tyler's nominee for a Minister to Brazil was rejected. His Minister to France was rejected. His nominee for Secretary of War was rejected. His nominee for Secretary of the Navy was rejected. His nominee for the Supreme Court was rejected. And yet the Senate got over it.

The same thing can be said with respect to the embroglio in which Senator Foote drew a gun on Senator Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri on the Senate floor in the old Senate Chamber. Now you talk about fireworks. That may be a pun. But you talk about bitterness and anger and passion. All of these were a part of the Senate in the days in which they were arguing over Abolitionist legislation and petitions. And the free states versus slave states. Deep passions. And Foote drew a gun on Thomas Hart Benton. And the Senate has been the same since.

And there was Charles Sumner who was beaten with a cane by a member of the House as Sumner sat at his desk in the old Senate Chamber because he had made a vitriolic speech titled "The Crime of Kansas." And he was sitting at his desk franking out this speech to his constituents and Preston Brooks a relative of Andrew Butler who had been the subject of Sumner's vitriolic invective came in and said, "I want to settle a little matter with you. I didn't like what you had to say about my kinsman." And he proceeded to beat Charles Sumner with a cane. And Sumner in rising, he was a large man, he ripped up his desk and he was out of the Senate for about three years.

There have been things like that happen. Clay fought a duel with John Randolph, Representative Randolph of Virginia and Clay shot a hole through Randolph's coat. Where upon Randolph shot up into the air with his pistol, threw his gun down and shook hands with Clay and said you owe me a coat. So it makes one laugh when people get the idea that because we have some passionate arguments and considerable bitterness over a nomination that the Senate will never be the same again. You know if one reads that book there one will see that the Senate has been here a long time -- 200 years and its roots go far deeper that 1789.
LAMB: I want you to talk about this set of photographs. George Thames took them and there is a whole series of them. Why did you include these?
BYRD: Well Theodore Francis Greene I think was about 90 years old at the time that picture was taken. He was chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee in the Senate. And one of the newspapers had recommended that Greene give up the chairmanship. And Greene was about to give it up and so stated. Well, Lyndon Johnson wanted Greene to carry out his decision but he wanted to make Greene feel that Lyndon Johnson who was the Leader would like for him to stay. So that's a picture following a meeting of the committee when Johnson has ostensively tried to prevail on Greene to stay on as chairman. And Greene had said he would like to off in the next room and think about it just for a few minutes.

So Johnson followed him out into that room. So beginning here at the top you see Johnson talking with Greene. Then Johnson gets a little closer. Then Johnson gets a little closer. Then Johnson's a little closer. And here Johnson has Greene back over the table. And here Johnson's right up in Greene's face with that typical pressure action that Johnson could bring to bear, talking right up under your chin looking you in they eye. And it's a series. It's like an old silent picture film. And it shows Greene backing away.
LAMB: Anybody in the Senate today deal with his or her colleagues this way?
BYRD: No, and Johnson couldn't deal with them today. I keep saying that. Johnson could not deal with them today. We have a different type Senate there today. A different type of Senator. And in those days as I said, Johnson had the southern block. All the Senators from the Confederate States were Democrats. Today, many of those old Confederate States are represented by Republicans. So Johnson would not have had that solid southern block backing that he had then.
LAMB: Who are these three gentlemen?
BYRD: That picture there is President Taft.
LAMB: In the middle?
BYRD: In the middle. And on this side is his son who later became a Senator. One of the great Senators whose pictures are in the medallions in the Senate Reception Room.
LAMB: And on the other side is another Robert Taft. Is that the Robert Taft that became Senator. The son of ...
BYRD: No. No. That ...
LAMB: That's not the same one?
BYRD: No. That son did not become a Senator. This one became the Leader of the Republicans in the Senate and sought on more than one occasion to secure the nomination for President.
LAMB: On the other side of the page here we have -- I don't know what you would call this but it's Robert Taft again. Isn't he the only -- you describe it the Taft Memorial that's up on the Capitol why is that there and could that happen today?
BYRD: Well Taft was ... he was a powerful force in the Senate. He was a great leader of his party. He came near being President least he sought to get the nomination. And he was a very influential Senator. And he was chosen by a committee of Senator's as one of the all time five great Senators. And those five Senators -- their pictures are in the medallions in the Reception Room just off the Senate Floor.
LAMB: What did his colleagues think was so great about him?
BYRD: Well the things I have outlined. He was a very influential Senator. He was ...
LAMB: Was he a good orator?
BYRD: No. He was not an excellent orator. But he was a powerful force.
LAMB: Was he tough?
BYRD: He was tough. Many people thought he was arrogant. He was effective as a leader and he was a statesman.
LAMB: This picture?
BYRD: That is a picture of McCarthy. Senator McCarthy and Senator Tidings.
LAMB: Millard Tidings?
BYRD: Yes.
LAMB: Whose son Joe Tidings also came to the Senate.
BYRD: Yes. Yes. And Millard Tidings lost the election in Maryland. As the book will explain, he lost to a man who was a protege of McCarthy. And as the book states, McCarthy diatribes and vindictive accusations helped to bring about the defeat of Tidings.
LAMB: Where were you when Senator McCarthy was in the Senate?
BYRD: I was in the House.
LAMB: What did you think of him?
BYRD: I don't remember too much about what I thought about him at that time. But I saw him from a great distance at that time. I was new member of the House and serving in the House. I served there three terms. I wasn't a close observer of the Senate in those days.
LAMB: What's this photo? Here ... the old Senate Chamber ... and I think I remember reading where it was the day that for some reason or another you couldn't get into the Senate Chamber itself.
BYRD: Oh that, yes. That's the Old Senate Chamber. And they were meeting at that time to debate the NATO agreement. And that's President Barkley.
LAMB: Alvin Barkley that was Vice President at the time.
BYRD: Yes.
LAMB: Right here. And was this the permanent home of the Senate at that point or were they just using it for temporary ...
BYRD: No, they were using it at that time while they were renovating the Chamber in which we now sit. The members moved into the Chamber we now use on January 4, 1859. There were 64 members of the Senate at that time. But I can remember coming here as a Boy Scout when they were renovating the Senate Chamber that we are now in. At that time then the Senators met in the Old Senate Chamber.
LAMB: Could the Senate legally meet anywhere it wanted to?
BYRD: Well the Senate can meet if it passed a resolution to meet somewhere else it can do it. It has met in the Old Senate Chamber on a few occasions. The President can convene under the United States Constitution, the President can convene the Senate anywhere he wants to. If there were an emergency for example he could convene the Senate on Spruce Knob over in West Virginia. It would be hard for the Soviets to get there with a battalion or 20 battalion because the mountaineers over there are like those Afghans they ..
LAMB: Senator VandenBurg?
BYRD: Senator VandenBurg was a great Republican Senator, a great statesman. He was really the spokesman the chief spokesman for the Republicans at that time in the area of Foreign Policy. He was chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.
LAMB: Do Senators smoke like they used to today?
BYRD: No. No they don't.
LAMB: Any reason?
BYRD: Oh I think it's about like you see everywhere else. Smoking is not as prevalent as it was. It certainly isn't with Senators.
LAMB: These three gentlemen do you recognize them?
BYRD: Yes, there is Senator Connolly, Tom Connolly who was also chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee at one time. And there is Senator VandenBurg and the late Secretary of State John Foster Dulles. He was Secretary of State when I was in the House of Representatives. I was on the Foreign Affairs Committee at that time.
LAMB: Anybody else ... we only have a short time left and we haven't even begun to look at all the pictures. You say there are 300 pictures.
BYRD: Yes.
LAMB: 800 pages.
BYRD: Yes.
LAMB: When you read this book, by the way, how do you it? Do you read it right straight through in one sitting? Or do you come back to it every day?
BYRD: No. I read it through. I've read it through. I go back to it many times for certain areas and refresh my memory. I also on the occasion of reading it through look for any possible errors that I may have failed to pick up in my five proof readings.
LAMB: About how many people do you think overall had something to do with putting this book out that work in the Senate?
BYRD: Oh, not more than a half dozen I would say that really put a good..
LAMB: Time in it. Are there any other Senators today sitting in the United States Senate that have as much interest in history as you do?
BYRD: Oh, there are Senators who have interest in history. I'm not sure that any other Senators have as much interest in Senate history as I do. I hope there will be others and I hope that this book will spark a great deal of interest. My interest in history goes beyond the history of the Senate. I have great interest in the history of England. There are several reasons. One is it's very interesting and secondly we're related to our English forbearers. But for the most part I'm interested in the history of England because of its influence on our own history and our own parliamentary procedures and on our own constitution. We value the legislative power of the purse, those of us who are members of the Congress.

And Englishmen fought and shed their blood to establish the control over the purse by Parliament. And many of our phrases and clauses in our own Constitution have roots in English events. And it is for that reason that I like to know as much as I can about those roots because then I can better evaluate our own Constitution. And we must remember that the men who wrote the American Constitution were fresh in the English experience.
LAMB: Senator Byrd, we are about out of time. Here is a color photograph in the book of it looks like to be at the Old Senate Chamber.
BYRD: Yes.
LAMB: And I'm going to show the audience the front cover of this book and thank you very much for joining us. The book is available at the U. S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. Author is Senator Robert Byrd and it's called "The Senate: 1789-1989." Thank you very much.
BYRD: Thank you very much. Thank you.
Copyright National Cable Satellite Corporation 1997. Personal, noncommercial use of this transcript is permitted. No commercial, political or other use may be made of this transcript without the express permission of National Cable Satellite Corporation.