This section is from the book "Hill's Manual Of Social And Business Forms: A Guide To Correct Writing", by Thos. E. Hill. Also available from Amazon: Hill's Manual Of Social And Business Forms: The How-To-Do-Everything Book Of Victorian America.
ALTHOUGH the Constitution of the United States quite fully details the work to be done by Congress, the following outline of the form of procedure will doubtless be interesting, it being much the same as that observed in the State legislatures in the passage of State laws:
The day having arrived for the regular meeting of a new Congress, the members of the House of Representatives gather in their hall in the Capitol at Washington, at three o'clock in the afternoon, and come to order.
The Clerk of the last previous Congress rises and says: "The hour fixed by law for the meeting and organization of the House of Representatives of the Forty------Congress having arrived, the
Clerk of the House of Representatives of the
Forty------Congress will proceed to read the list of members-elect to the House of Representatives for the Forty------Congress, prepared by him in accordance with law."
He then reads the list by States, comprising about 200 names. During the reading, some member, whenever a certain name is called (each member answering to his name), says: "I reserve a point of order on that name," intimating that he has objections to the called member's right to a seat in Congress.
The list being called through, the Clerk says: "One hundred and ninety-three persons have answered to the call. Being a quorum of the body, the Clerk is now ready to receive motions." Sometimes, at this point, members rise and state their objections to seating certain new members, making motions to refer the credentials of such members to the Committee on Elections, etc. This business consumes considerable time in discussion, with more or less bitterness of feeling and speech.
At length the Clerk says: "The Clerk appeals to members of the House to preserve order."
Sometimes the confusion continues after this. At length the Clerk is heard to say: "The gentleman from Tennessee is out of order. The tellers will please take their places" - to aid in the organization of the House.
-----; Mr. A. has-----; Mr. B., -----."
The Clerk announces: " Mr. A., of New York, having received a majority of all the votes given, is duly elected Speaker of the House of Representatives for the Forty-------Congress. The gentleman from Wisconsin (Mr. Brown) and the gentleman from Connecticut (Mr. Jones) will please conduct the Speaker-elect to the chair, and the gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. Robinson), the senior member of the body, will please administer to him the oath required by the Constitution and laws of the United States."
Mr. Brown and Mr. Jones then conduct Mr. A. to the chair, where he stands and expresses, in a brief speech, his thanks for the honor conferred upon him, and pays a handsome compliment to the intelligence and political strength of the new Congress. The oath of fidelity to the Constitution, the laws and his duties, is then administered to him by Mr. Robinson.
The Speaker then says: "The first business in order is the swearing-in of members. The various delegations (by States) will present themselves in a convenient number as they are called."
As the various members present themselves, the other members listen in silence, or occasionally interpose an objection to a certain member being qualified. These objections properly take a written form, and are referred to the Committee on Elections for examination; with the necessary affidavits to show why the members objected to should not have a seat in Congress. Long discussions sometimes intervene, and if the objections are not withdrawn, the oath is not administered to the member in dispute until the Committee on Elections report favorably in his case.
The Delegates elect from the several Territories are also sworn in.
A member offers a resolution, which meets with no opposition, but is immediately read, considered and agreed to, as follows: "That the Senate be informed that a quorum of the House of Representatives has assembled, and that Mr. A., one of the Representatives from New York, has been chosen Speaker, and that the House is now ready to proceed to business."
Mr. C., of Illinois, rises and presents a resolution, which is read, considered and adopted, appointing the Speaker and four members a committee to revise the rules of the House for its better government, to report at an early day.
Mr. G., the Secretary of the Senate, now appears on the floor of the House to announce: "Mr. Speaker - I am directed to inform the House that a quorum of the Senate has assembled, and that the Senate is ready to proceed to business."
Sometimes discussions as to the rights of certain members to seats in the House are then resumed.
Presently, a member rises and asks unanimous consent to take up and concur in a resolution just received from the Senate. No objection being made, the resolution is read, announcing the appointment of two members of the Senate to join certain members of the House (to be selected by the House) to wait upon the President of the United States, and inform him that a quorum of each House has assembled, and that Congress is ready to receive any communication that he may be pleased to make.
Mr. E. moves that the House appoint three members to join the committee on the part of the Senate. The motion being agreed to, the Speaker appoints Mr. L., of Georgia; Mr. M., of Tennessee, and Mr. N., of New Jersey, as the committee on the part of the House.
During the absence of this committee but little business is done, beyond discussions upon the eligibility of certain members, or the election of the following officers of the House of Representatives: A Clerk, a Sergeant-at-Arms, a Door-keeper, Postmaster and Chaplain, in the order named. Members nominate candidates for each office as their own names are called, if they choose; the Speaker appoints tellers, and the voting is done by voice.
The vote having been announced, the successful candidate is declared elected by the Speaker. He then comes forward and qualifies for his new position by taking the Constitutional oath of fidelity. Sometimes the election of Chaplain is postponed, in order to find a candidate who is entirely satisfactory to the majority.
Somebody then proposes a regular hour for the daily meeting of the House, and the hour of twelve, noon, is usually adopted.
The drawing of seats for the members of the House is usually next in order, either by themselves or their colleagues.
This is also considered a good time to lay before the House the papers in the various contested election cases of members of the House, to be referred to the Committee on Elections when that committee has been appointed by the Speaker, within a few days after the organization.
The Joint Committee of the two Houses of Congress, appointed to announce to the President the readiness of Congress to receive any communication from him, having fulfilled their duty, return to their respective houses and report what they have done, and are then discharged from further duty in the case.
The President's annual or inaugural message is, about this time, delivered to both houses, in joint session in the House of Representatives, being usually read by the Clerk of the House and his assistants. After it has been read, the Senate retires to its own chamber and both houses proceed to refer certain portions of the message to appropriate committees for consideration and future action.
A resolution is usually adopted in the House of Representatives, authorizing the printing of several thousand copies of the message for the use of members and others.
By this time the first day's session has drawn to a close. A motion to adjourn is therefore made, seconded and adopted, and the House dissolves until the next hour of meeting.
In the Senate, on the first day of the new session, the proceedings are usually marked by less feeling and confusion, but the organization is similarly effected. The Vice-President of the United States is inducted into the chair of the Senate; the new Senators are sworn in, or have their credentials referred to the Committee on Elections, and but little other business is, generally, transacted.
Among the members of the House of Representatives whose credentials were found to be all right, and whose eligibility and claim to a seat in Congress are therefore undisputed, is Mr. Sempronius Smith, from the Tenth District of Wisconsin. Mr. Smith has been a prosperous merchant, and mill-owner, a wide-awake and useful citizen, and his popularity resulted in his being sent to Congress to represent the interests of a large and thrifty constituency. For a few days after the organization, he wisely refrains from making himself conspicuous in the councils
Interior of House of Representatives, Washington, D. C.
THIS ILLUSTRATION represents the members of the House of Representatives in session during the meeting of Congress. The full number entitled to vote, from 1883 to 1893 is 325. The speaker of the house occupies the upper seat; at one end of his desk sits the door-keeper, at the other end the sergeant-at-arms: at the desk in front are the clerks, and at the lower desk, are the official reporters. In the gallery above the speaker, newspaper correspondents have their seats; the remainder of the gallery, which will hold about 1,000 persons, being allotted to spectators.
The members occupy the seats in the body of the house, the individuals standing on the floor being pages, who serve the members when they desire to communicate with the clerks or with each other.
of the nation. He is "learning the ropes." He confers with his colleagues and a few new acquaintances in the House upon national topics. Naturally he is shrewd and honest, and he comes to Congress fully decided to do his duty.