Pine Nuts: The Third House |

Pine Nuts: The Third House

Samuel Clemens was invited to address a Nevada Legislature Luncheon on Alumni Day last week, and was greeted with hale and hearty handshakes, even hugs, with the exception of one assemblywoman who asked him what district he was from. Well, he didn’t know what district she was from either, so they were even.

Having covered the first Nevada Legislature for the Territorial Enterprise, Samuel had plenty to say …

“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.

“… the first Nevada Legislature met every two years for 60 days, when they ought rightly have met every 60 years for two days.”

“No, the first Nevada Legislature met every two years for 60 days, when they ought rightly have met every 60 years for two days. Oh, they carried whiskey into committee rooms in demijohns and carried it out in demagogues. When that first Nevada Legislature was in session, nobody was safe.”

As an impressionist of Mark Twain, this wonderful occasion allowed me to relive a gathering of the 19th century “Third House.” The Third House was an informal group of legislators, lawyers and journalists who would gather together at a groggery following a session of the Constitutional Convention and burlesque that day’s law making. Upon being elected President of the Third House, Sam Clemens made the following acceptance speech …

“Gentlemen — This is the proudest moment of my life. I shall always think so. I shall ponder over it with unspeakable emotion down to the latest syllable of recorded time. It shall be my earnest endeavor to give entire satisfaction in the high and bully position to which you have elevated me.” [Applause.]

“Gentlemen, your proceedings have been exactly similar to those of the convention which preceded you. You have considered a subject which you knew nothing about; spoken on every subject but the one before the house, and voted without knowing what you were voting for or having any idea what would be the general result of your action. I will adjourn the Convention for an hour, on account of my cold, to the end that I may apply the remedy prescribed for it by Dr. Tjader — the same being gin and molasses. The Chief Page is hereby instructed to provide a spoonful of molasses and a gallon of gin, for the use of the President.”

Mark Twain was so good at lampooning legislators that they made him “Governor of the Third House” and gifted him a gold pocket watch with that title engraved upon the surface.

As I file this account on the 109th anniversary of his unexaggerated death, I have to believe that Samuel Clemens would be happy to know that a 21st century impressionist had an opportunity to make it comfortably warm for the 80th session of the Nevada Legislature. His enduring, irreverent Nevada spirit lives on …

Learn more about McAvoy Layne at

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