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The Third House – What Would Mark Twain Say?

May 6, 2024 | McAvoy Lane

Mark Twain was once given a pocket watch engraved, “Governor of the Third House.”

 Now unless you’re from Carson City, you might be wondering why. So I’m going to set out here to tell you why as best I can. You see, the Third House was a loose comingling of legislators, lawyers and journalists who would gather together at a groggery following a session of the Constitutional Convention away back in the early 1860’s to burlesque that day’s law making.  And Sam Clemens so enjoyed lampooning the legislators they made him Governor of the Third House. Here is a small sampling of his attentions…

“Mr. Youngs, how do you suppose anybody can listen in any comfort to your speech, when you are fumbling with your coat all the time you are talking, and trying to button it with your left hand, when you know you can’t do it?”

 Subsequently the Third House asked Sam to give a public talk to raise money for a new roof on the First Presbyterian Church. So he cobbled together his first public talk and had flyers printed up that were handed out in Virginia City & Carson…

The man lecturing has a very large nose and anyone whose nose exceeds its measurement will be admitted free.  All other noses must pay one dollar.

Well, two or three noses did get in free, but they raised $200 and put a new roof on that First Presbyterian Church.  One of the parishioners suggested that because it was Mark Twain who put a roof on their church, it would collapse and crush the congregation.  But it never has… 

I only wish we had a Third House in Washington today, as we Americans are getting better at throwing bricks than we are at laying bricks. I can just hear Sam following today’s Supreme Court hearing regarding immunity of a sitting president…

“Honorable Jurists, Complete immunity comes with knowing right from wrong.” (My words not Sam’s.)

As an impartial observer not living in a small corner of the internet, Sam might just go away from Washington today with a parting word, and yet another watch. 

“It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no native American criminal class -except congress.”

Finally, as is our custom, we shall leave the last word to Mr. Twain…

“I covered the legislature for the Enterprise, and in all these years, nothing has changed. Never have I seen a body of men with tongues so handy and information so uncertain.  They could talk for a week without ever getting rid of an idea.  If any one of them had been on hand when the creator was at the point of sayin’, ‘Let there be light,’ we never would have got it. No, the legislature meets every two years for sixty days, when they ought rightly meet every sixty years for two days. When the Nevada legislature is in session, nobody is safe.”

Audio: https://open.spotify.com/show/7Fhv4PrH1UuwlhbnTT23zO

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