Where does the term lobbyist come from ?

Lobbying is the deed of trying to manipulate decisions made by government officials mostly legislators or members of authoritarian agencies. The people who perform the act of lobbying are known as lobbyists. They can be individuals in the private sector, organized groups, corporations, advocacy groups or even fellow government officials.

Professional lobbyists are people whose job is to try to influence decisions on behalf of organizations or individuals who hire them. Nonprofit organizations and also individuals can carry out lobbying as an act of volunteering. For so many years there has been a myth surrounding the origin of the term. Up to date, not so many people actually know where the moniker came from. 

President Grant’s account

GrantAccording to native Washington DC teachings, President Ulysses S. Grant was the one who coined the term lobbyist. During his term in office (1869-1877), Grant would often visit the well known Willard hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue. He did this in search for amnesty from the demands of the workplace. Even though Grant tried his best to keep his days off from the office private, people standing in the hotel lobby would come up to Grant to ask him for jobs and special favors. Grant used to refer to such individuals as lobbyists. This made some people especially residents of Washington DC to believe that the word was first uttered by his Excellency Ulysses S. Grant though this not true.

New York state capitol account

The above-mentioned story has proven to be making an interesting but unreliable piece of history. This is because it was later discovered that the term lobbyist cannot be traced to the regal lobby of Willard hotel. Noticeably, lobbyist was a part of the dictionary in the United States even before the year 1850. According to the dictionary, the word was used to describe to petitioners who would hang around to have a conversation with the members of legislation in the lobby of New York state capitol in Albany.

Jesse Sheidlower’s account

There are several accounts which trace the origin of the word lobbyist to be in London England. Those accounts state that members of parliament and their colleagues would assemble in the lobbies of the fortress of Westminster before and after the parliamentary debates. They would do this in order to discuss various political issues. Lobbying was viewed as an extension of parliamentary sessions but with no strict rules and regulations as compared to real parliamentary sessions. Lobbyist was hence reportedly in ordinary usage in Britain all through the 1800s.

One of the sources, Jesse Sheidlower editor of Oxford English dictionary to be precise, actually states that the name was present in the early years of the 1640s.

It is without a doubt that president Grant is not the first person to coin the word. It will also be wrong to assume that the word was coined in London England during the 1800s meetings of parliamentary members and their colleagues in the lobby of New York state capitol in Albany. The origin of the moniker will remain a myth, but it is important to believe that it was present from as early as 1640 as stated by the top Oxford dictionary editor Mr. Sheidlower.