Birth of the Nation: The First Federal Congress, 1789-1791 | Next Page
Setting Precedent
Part 1 of Rules of the House of Representatives
Senate Rough Journal,
February 26, 1791

(Courtesy of the National Archives)
Senate Smooth Journal
Senate Smooth Journal,
February 26, 1791

(Courtesy of the National Archives)
Senate Legislative Journal
Senate Legislative Journal,
February 26, 1791

(Courtesy of the Library of Congress)

Senate Secretary Otis
Secretary of the Senate Samuel A. Otis by Gilbert Stuart (as illustrated in Laurence Park's Gilbert Stuart 4:367 (Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution)

Under the Constitution each house of the Congress is required to keep a journal of its proceedings. Samuel A. Otis, the first Secretary of the Senate, sat in the chamber and took rough notes. We know from the diary kept by Sen. William Maclay that the Secretary read the minutes the next day and the senators attempted to correct them. Maclay was extremely critical of Otis's work: "Otis, our Secretary makes a most miserable hand of it, the grossest Mistakes made on our minutes and it cost Us an hour or Two to rectify them." But historians applaud Otis for his stewardship over Senate records and preservation of nearly every scrap of documentary evidence.

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