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Citadel



William S. White (1957) 

Many books have been written about the Senate as an institution, but Citadel, an immediate bestseller, is still considered one of the most influential. It popularized the idea of the Senate as a “gentlemen’s club,” or as the “world’s most exclusive club,” managed by a small inner circle of skilled legislators. White presented the reader with a realistic, insider's view of how the Senate functioned behind the scenes. He examined the creation of the Senate, and how the Founding Fathers chose a legislative chamber based on equal representation among the states. White ultimately argued that equality in the Senate stopped at the Senate's chamber door. He disregarded the notion of a senator as “one among 100 equals," presenting instead stories of people who make up an “inner” club of the Senate. Members of this so-called inner club displayed a “tolerance toward his fellows, [and] intolerance toward any who would in any real way change the Senate, its customs or its way of life.”

White wrote that personal qualities are as important in the Senate, or maybe even more important, as seniority, status, and party affiliation. He characterized major Senate committees as “imperious”  forces whose chairmen, unless they were “weak and irresolute,” were emperors.

When Citadel was published, several senators spoke on the Senate floor about White and the accomplishments he achieved with his new book. Senator George Smathers called the book “incisive in recognizing the supersedence of common good over partisanship.”  Senator Richard Neuberger called its publication “a major event in the realm of books.”  In a review of the book for the New Leader magazine, then-Senator John F. Kennedy said that although White’s “picture [of the Senate] does not have the detachment of a photograph, it is so much the better for being a painting with the interpretation and flavoring that a talented and sensitive artist can bring to such work. Mr. White may not love all Senators, but he loves the Senate, and this affectionate regard shines through his work.”

Although White’s Citadel is out of print, check with your local library to see if a copy is available to borrow. White also wrote books about the U.S. House of Representatives, Lyndon B. Johnson, Robert Taft, and Franklin D. Roosevelt.