Ceremonial Meeting of Congress in Philadelphia for Bicentennial of Constitution
On this date, Congress convened in a ceremonial session at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to commemorate the bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution. It marked the first time since 1800, the year the federal government moved from Philadelphia to Washington, that Congress met somewhere other than on the banks of the Potomac. The 100th Congress (1987–1989) authorized the special session earlier in the year, and selected July 16th because it marked the 200th anniversary of the “Great Compromise” in which Delegates to the Constitutional Convention approved the federal government’s two-chamber legislative branch. The Delegates signed the final version of the Constitution on September 17, 1787. “That compromise saved the convention from collapse,” House Speaker Jim Wright of Texas said at the ceremony. “It made the Constitution, with all of its other delicately balanced compromises, possible.” Initially, event planners had hoped to include every Member of the 100th Congress in the celebration but security, space, and cost made it nearly impossible. Instead, in an ode to the 55 original Delegates to the Constitutional Convention, each state delegation appointed one lawmaker to accompany five members of the congressional leadership to attend the gathering in Independence Hall’s Assembly Room. Following a roll call of the states, the Members elected Representative Lindy Boggs of Louisiana to chair the proceedings. The participants then passed a resolution commemorating the Great Compromise. In order to accommodate the thousands of people who gathered outside, the organizers televised the event on screens on Independence Mall.