The Senate’s first filibusterer?

“The roots of ‘filibuster’ go back to a Dutch word for a pirate or privateer, ‘vrijbuiter.’ …. Dutch colonists of the 16th century used the term for pirates they encountered in the West Indies. In English it became ‘freebooter,’ in French ‘flibustier’ and in Spanish ‘filibustero.’

“In the mid-19th century, ‘filibustero’ became a key term in Latin America as soldiers of fortune, often hailing from the U.S., went on unauthorized expeditions to overturn Spanish colonial rule and take control of territories for themselves. These adventurers earned the ‘filibustero’ label, Anglicized as ‘filibuster’ in the American press….

“[In 1853] the word came up as the House of Representatives debated whether to annex Cuba. A North Carolina Democrat, Rep. Abraham Venable, broke with his party to denounce the idea as U.S. piracy, or as he put it , ‘now in our tongue filibuster, but still a freebooter.’ His fellow Democrat, Rep. Albert G. Brown of Mississippi, turned the label around on him — and began its transition to a new political meaning about hijacking the debate itself.  ‘When I saw my friend standing on the other side of the House filibustering, as I thought, against the United States, surrounded, as he was, by admiring Whigs, I did not know what to think.’ ”

— From ” ‘Filibuster’: A Pirating Maneuver That Sailed Into the Senate” by Ben Zimmer in the Wall Street Journal (Sept. 25, 2020) 

Sen. Bailey gives a filibuster tutorial

“Senate rules forbade members from speaking more than twice per day on a given piece of legislation, but a senator was free to offer as many amendments to the bill as he wished and could then  speak twice on each amendment. ….

[Preparing to filibuster FDR’s plan to ‘pack’ the Supreme Court, Senator Edward Burke of Nebraska] procured a stack of official amendment blanks and charged a group of young American Bar Association lawyers with the task of filling them in. After a day and half the lawyers had drafted no more than 15 amendments, each of which substantially altered the court bill.

“Exasperated, the men paid a visit to Senator [Josiah] Bailey, who laughed out loud at their paltry output. Reaching for a copy of the bill, he told one of the lawyers to take dictation. Bailey pointed to the provision that set a limit of 15 judges, and instructed the lawyers to replace ’15’ with ’14’. Then ’13’. Then ’12’. And so on through the various sections of the bill. Having received this lesson in legislative hair-splitting, the lawyers produced 125 neatly amendments by the next morning — enough to permit 250 speeches.”

— From “Supreme Power: Franklin D. Roosevelt vs. the Supreme Court” by Jeff Shesol (2010)