Phonozoic Text Archive, Document 133

The Phonograph in Congress

Philadelphia Times, April 25, 1878

This country has fair warning that the inventor of the phonograph has got his machine before Congress.  A talking machine in Congress is nothing new, but it is something that the country doesn’t need any more of, and, as the political conventions always remark in their resolutions, the phonograph in Washington will be viewed with alarm by everybody.  And yet this new and truly wonderful machine may be as useful as it is dangerous, if handled with any sort of discretion.  The correspondents will find it useful to set up in the Senate when executive sessions are in progress, or in committee rooms when the doors are closed on the public.  The machine can be put under a desk and taken out afterward and a full report of the proceedings ground out of it.  To Congressmen the phonograph will prove a great labor saver and do the work with much more exactness than the average statesman.  No member can afford to be without at least one machine, and some members, as Hale and Springer and Conger, can have their phonographs manufactured to order by the wholesale, after the same pattern, without any particular amount of brains, but fixed to reel off words and words on the perpetual-motion principle.  A rattle-box with a well-oiled crank would make for an economical sort of machine for this kind of member.  But a good many phonographs with special talents would be required.  Mr. Glover will want a machine adapted to the work of getting up in the House every blessed morning and making a personal explanation, and unless the ferocious character of Mr. Glover’s committee is curbed somewhat he will have employment for a great number of these little instruments in the personal explanation department alone.  Mr. Sam Cox will want a light and airy phonograph, wearing only a moustache, that he can fill with comic remarks and keep pointing at Mr. Ben Butler; it will be necessary to have this machine constructed with some fortifications for defense, or at the very least to have some power to kick back when sauced in its own language.  Congressman Thompson will want one he can fill with a few select but profane and wicked words, and then set it running for the good of things in Pennsylvania, where there is plenty of room for something of that kind at this particular time, goodness knows; Harry White needs a phonograph mounted on a rather active pair of legs to move around newspaper row and tell the correspondents all about it; Senator Don Cameron may attune his to sweetest notes that shall float out on spring breezes laden with the perfume of orange blossoms, for thus –

                                In many ways does the full heart reveal

                                The presence of the love it would conceal.

                Mr. John I. Mitchell can put his phonograph under his arm, and going up to the White House join in the reviving Sunday evening choruses; Fernando Wood will be in search of a machine with nerve and some intelligence in the matter of the draw, and there are quite a number of other members who will want one out of the same box; Senator Conkling had better not get one, but if he must have it, as a matter of safety he had better carry it in his pocket and not keep it loaded; Senator Dorsey will demand a kind that can make suspicious postal contracts and not get found out; Mr. Russell Errett will want an instrument that he can set up behind the door when he wants to communicate with – Garfield, for instance; Senator Kellogg’s phonograph will have to understand the noble virtues of the Returning Board crowd – something not within human understanding – and grind out its praises and work to get nice Federal offices for it while honest people sleep; General Butler will probably fill his with bricks and fractional currency and Democratic veterans of two wars and such loose articles, and when these things begin to fly around the House all other phonographs will have occasion to get out of the way.  There will be an overwhelming demand for a common kind of phonograph that can make a fair stump speech full of expressions of love for the people, to circulate in the various Congressional districts.  It won’t be much trouble for the inventor to get up a machine of this kind, needing only care to see that it isn’t too intelligent, in which event the people would just as likely as not want to have their law making done by phonograph without the expensive trifling of human beings in the transparent disguise of statesmen.  Anybody can see that the phonograph will have its uses even in Congress, but there ought to be a limit to the number.