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The Opening of the First Congress in New York City

March 04, 1789
The Opening of the First Congress in New York City Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
In the 1st Congress (1789–1791), Frederick Muhlenberg of Pennsylvania served along side his brother, John Muhlenberg of Pennsylvania.
The First Congress was scheduled to meet in New York City on this date, though it failed to achieve the quorum necessary to conduct business. The Constitution mandated only that “Congress shall assemble at least once in every year” on the first Monday in December unless, by law, it set another date. Before adjourning in 1788, the Continental Congress appointed March 4, 1789, as the opening day of the First Federal Congress. But primitive modes of transportation—horseback, stage, and sailing ship—made the journey arduous for many of the House’s 65 Members as they trekked toward the capital. Members slowly straggled into town. The opening was delayed for days, then weeks. The House finally achieved a quorum on April 1—electing its first Speaker, Representative Frederick A.C. Muhlenberg of Pennsylvania. The Twentieth Amendment to the Constitution, ratified in 1933, required that modern Congresses begin on the third day of January, unless Congress passes legislation appointing a different date.

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