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Forty-fourth Congress, 1875-77 .........
248 255 263
305 311 317
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356 362 368
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Fifty-sixth Congress, 1899-1901 ........
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Seventy-ninth Congress, 1945-46 ........
I. Glossary .................
House of Representatives, 1789–1954 .
sentatives • • • • • • • • • • • • • V. List of references . . . . . . . . . . . . Index . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
394 398 404 410 415 421
The United States House of Representatives, often referred to as the lower House or as simply the House, was established by article I, section 1, cf the Constitution, which provides that "All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives." Section 2, as amended by section 2 of the 14th amendment, stipulates that "Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed." The section further provides that Members of the House shall be chosen every second year by the people of the several States and that the House shall choose its speaker and other officers. Section 4, as amended by the 20th amendment, provides that the Congress shall assemble at least once in every year, beginning at noon on the third day of January unless a different day is designated by law.
Section 7 of article I provides that "All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills." No express provision vests in the House the sole power to originate general appropriation bills, but customarily such bills originate there. The Senate exercises the same power to amend or approve appropriation bills that it does in relation to revenue bills.
In addition to the legislative function, the Constitution vests certain other powers in the House of Representatives. Article I, section 2, provides that the House "shall have the sole Power of Impeachment," that is, the bringing of charges against the President and other public officials for trial before the Senate; and section 5 provides that "Each House shall be the Judge of the Elections, Returns, and Qualifications of its own Members." The 12th amendment provides that the electors for President and Vice President in each State shall transmit their votes to the President of the Senate, who shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all such votes to be counted. The 12th amendment also gives the House the power to elect a President should no candidate receive a majority of the votes of the whole number of electors.
Provision is also made in article I, section 5, for each House to determine its rules of procedure, to compel the attendance of absent Members, and to punish its Members for disorderly behavior. Each House keeps bill books, accounts, registers, indexes, and other administrative records and, under its rule-making power, makes rules for the preservation and control of its records.
The first session of the Congress of the United States, under a resolution passed by the Congress of the Confederation, on September 13, 1788, was called to meet in New York City on March 4, 1789. On the appointed day only 13 Members of the House were present and, as this number did not constitute a quorum, the sessions were adjourned from day to day until April
1, when a majority of the Members made their appearance. The House thereupon olooted Frederick Augustus Muhlenberg as its Speaker, and John Beckley as its Clerk. On April 6 the House was notified that a quorum of the Senato had assembled, whereupon the Houso withdrow to the Senate chamber where the electoral votes for President and Vice President were counted jointly. On April 7 the House adopted rules and orders for the conduct of its business, and on April 8 the Chief Justice of the State of New York administered the oath of office to all House Members who were present.
Tho first and second 808sions of the First Congress were held in New York City, but the third session, which began on December 6, 1790, was hold. in Philadelphia. Congress continued to meet there until it moved to the now Capitol in Washington for the opening of the second session of the Sixth Congress on November 17, 1800. The House occupied a room in the south end of the new building.
Both Houses were forced to vacate their chambers temporarily in 1814, when the British burned the Capitol Building. The Congress met first in Blodgett's Hotel on E Street between Seventh and Eighth Streets NW., and later in larger quarters erected for its use at the corner of First Street and Maryland Avenue NE., on the site now occupied by the Supreme Court Building. After the Capitol was restored both Houses returned to their respective quarters for the opening of the 1st session of the 16th Congress on December 6, 1819.
The House continued to occupy the chamber originally provided for its use until December 16, 1857, when it moved into a much larger chamber in the newly constructed House wing. Since that time the old chamber has been need to house statues of famous Americans and has been known as Statuary Hall.
The general organization and nature oi wo House of Representatives have changed little since 1789. The House is a new body at the beginning of each Congress, since all its Mombers are elected overy 2 years and none of them carry over from ano Congress to another except by reelection.
Kuch of the work of the House is done in committees. In the early years most legislation was handled by special committees appointed by the Speakor, although there were more standing committees in the House than in the Senate. Two standing committees of the House were created in 1789 and others were added untii in 1816 there were 14 such committees. The number of standing committees gradually increased to 47 in 1946, but the Legislative Reorganization Act of that year (60 Stat. 812) reduced their number to 19.
For the record of the organization meetings of the House of Representatives, see the House Journal, 1st Cong., 1st sess., p. 3-11.
In addition to the standing committees of each House, there are special and joint committees. Special (or select) committees are creatod by resolution to consider matters that are outside the authority of standing committees or that require extensive study. Special committees automatically cease to exist after they have completed the studies they were created to conduct. Joint committees consist of Members of both Houses. Some joint committees are standing committees and others are special. The Congressional Directory, which appears periodically, lists the special House and special joint committeds, as well as the standing House and standing joint committees in each Congress.
Records of the House of Representatives were transferred from Now York to Philadelphia in 1790 and from Philadelphia to Washington in 1800. The early records of the House are rather incomplete. It is possiblo that some records were lost in those moves, and others may have been lost as the result of inadequate filing space and the carelessness of early custodians. 2 Still more were lost when the British burned the Capitol in 1814. A letter written on September 15, 1814, to the Clerk of the House, Patrick Magruder, by two of his subordinates, S. Burch and J. T. Frost, explains in some detail what records were lost on that occasion. They wrote in part:3
(We were ordered not to begin packing up until it was ascer-
We immediately went to packing up, and Mr. Burch went out
Claude H. Van Tyne and Waldo G. Leland, Guide to the Archives of the Government of the United States in Washington, p. 256 (washington, 1907).
American State Papers, Class X, Miscellaneous, Vol. II, Doc. 371, p.
and four oxen; it did not arrive at the office, until after
Every thing belonging to the office, together with the library of Congress, we venture to say, might have been removed in time, if carriages could have been procured; but it was altogether impossible to procure them, either for hire, or by force.
The most material papers which have been lost are, the last
The secret journal of Congress was also consumed; it was kept in a private drawer in the office, and in the hurry of removal was forgotten. Its contents, however, have been, in most cases, published by order of the House.
The manuscript papers, which have not been saved, were mostly of a private nature, consisting chiefly of petitions, and unimportant papers, presented previous to the year 1799.
This letter was transmitted by the Clerk to the Speaker of the House, together with the explanation that the clerk himself had been absent from the city since he had left home "the latter part of July, for the Springs, on account of indisposition."4 The committee to which this matter was referred reported that it was "constrained to express the opinion that due
4Ibid., Doç. 371, p. 245.