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Isaac Bassett’s Memoir, ca. 1880

These pages from Bassett's manuscript recount how he "stopped the clock" in the Senate Chamber so that legislative business could continue after the time for that session of Congress should have expired.

Collection of the U.S. Senate

Isaac Bassett’s Memoir, ca. 1880 Isaac Bassett’s Memoir, ca. 1880

Eyewitness to History 1831-1895

Isaac Bassett walked the Senate halls for 64 years. Appointed a page in 1831 by Daniel Webster, Bassett served later as messenger and then as Assistant Doorkeeper before his death in 1895. In his later years, reporters and visitors often sought out the old man, eager to hear stories of the Senate's "golden era."

Bassett is famed for turning back the clock—literally—to let senators pass last-minute laws. His true legacy, however, is on paper. Planning to write a memoir, Bassett kept careful notes, clipped news items, and wrote short vignettes of people he'd met and events he'd seen. Bassett died before finishing it. Fortunately, the manuscript survives, a rare firsthand account of the 19th-century Senate.