Birth of the Nation: The First Federal Congress, 1789-1791 | Next Page
Setting Precedent
Part 1 of Rules of the House of Representatives
Rules of the House of Representatives, April 7, 1789
(Courtesy of the Library of Congress)


Part 2 of Rules of the House of Representative Part 3 of Rules of the House of Representative
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Each house established its own rules for conducting business. One method provided for in these House rules, the committee of the whole, was used often by the House. Rep. Fisher Ames criticized it: "Our great committee is too unwieldy for this operation. A great, clumsy machine is applied to the slightest and most delicate operations--the hoof of an elephant to the strokes of mezzotinto." (to George Richards Minot, July 8, 1789)

In addition, joint committees drew up joint and conference rules and reported on communication with the president, the appointment of chaplains, and the communication of messages between the houses. An impasse nearly developed when the Senate tried to insist that House messages be delivered by two representatives, while the Senate secretary would carry communications to the House. Sen. William Maclay (Pa.) reports the House's reaction to this assertion of superiority on the part of the Senate: "Now we hear the House below laugh at it."

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