Birth of the Nation: The First Federal Congress 1789-1791
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    Setting Precedent
Federal Hall and Wall Street by C. Tiebaut
(Courtesy of the New York Historical Society)

"Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings, . . . Each House shall keep a Journal of its Proceedings, and from time to time publish the same . . ."

Article I, Section 5

As soon as both Houses of Congress achieved the required quorum, the senators and representatives elected their officers, drew up rules for conducting their business, counted the electoral votes for president and vice president, planned the inaugural ceremonies, and tended to other procedural business. Almost every action set the tone for the new government and established precedents for future Congresses. Members were quite aware that, as Connecticut Governor Samuel Huntington wrote to Senators William S. Johnson and Oliver Ellsworth, "Public attention is very much fixed on the proceedings of the new Congress." (March 30, 1789, Connecticut Historical Society) Thus, they sought to settle these matters quickly and move on to their pressing legislative agenda.

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