This week the Poage Library is celebrating the 225th birthday of the United States Congress. “Congress Week” is the creation of the Association of Centers for the Study of Congress (ACSC). It takes place during the first week of April each year, commemorating the month in which Congress achieved its first quorums in 1789. Its goal is to increase public awareness of the rich and colorful history of the United States Congress, to remind citizens of the central importance of Congress to the system of government described in the U. S. Constitution, and to encourage public reflection on the first branch of the federal government, which had to be in place before the nation could launch the presidency and the Supreme Court.
A special website will serve as a clearing house for Congress Week. This site contains links to the ACSC member organizations and to information on Congress, both historical and current. A special poster, which features the oldest known photograph of the Capitol of the United States, can be downloaded to commemorate the first 225 years of Congress.
Congress Week encourages citizens of the United States and people from nations around the world to send birthday greetings to Congress. We ask teachers in classrooms around the world to send a greeting via Twitter to using the hashtag #HappyBirthdayCongress. If you use a combination of the hashtag plus the Twitter handle–@CongressCenters–we can retweet your greetings!
When is the actual birthday of Congress? The birth was not a single day event but a process of deliberation in the Federal Convention that met in the spring and summer of 1787. The Constitution provided for Congress to convene on March 4, 1789, and on that date, in New York City, the first meeting place of Congress, cannons fired and church bells rang to announce Congress’s birth.But only a few members had arrived on that date. Weeks passed before the House achieved its first quorum on April 1, with the Senate following five days later on April 6. Some members worried that the government would fail before it began. Fisher Ames of Massachusetts a member of the House, wrote “We lose credit, spirit, everything. The public will forget the government before it is born.”
The fact that the House achieved its first quorum on April 1 was not lost on members then and will probably not be ignored today when we note that the first quorum was achieved on April Fool’s Day. We could use a little humor as we contemplate the serious role Congress has played in shaping the long-range success of a mighty nation, whose Capitol is a symbol of freedom throughout the world.
The Association of Centers for the Study of Congress, founded in 2003, is an independent, non-partisan alliance of more than 40 organizations and institutions including the Poage Library which promote a wide range of programs and research opportunities related to Congress. Many of the member institutions house archival collections of the papers of current and former members of the House of Representatives, the Senate, and other related research collections.
Happy Congress Week Y’all!