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The First Quorum of the House of Representatives

April 01, 1789
The First Quorum of the House of Representatives Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
Fisher Ames of Massachusetts served four terms in the House of Representatives before returning to his law practice in Dedham, Massachusetts.
On this date, the House achieved its first quorum. Poor traveling conditions and a lack of urgency to convene the new government outlined in the Constitution caused a delay in the scheduled proceedings at Federal Hall in New York City. Members slowly trickled in to the city, leaving those who made the trip to wait idly for the required number of Members necessary for a quorum (30 Representatives). “This is a very mortifying situation,” lamented Representative Fisher Ames of Massachusetts. “We lose credit, spirit, every thing. The public will forget the government before it is born.” Nearly a month after the government opened on March 4, 1789, the House reached a quorum with the arrival of James Schureman of New Jersey and Thomas Scott of Pennsylvania. “I am rather less awed and terrified at the sight of the members than I expected to be,” Ames observed of the assembled body. With few guidelines in place, the House set out to “chuse their Speaker and other Officers.” Members elected Frederick A.C. Muhlenberg of Pennsylvania as the presiding officer and John Beckley as the first Clerk of the House. In the subsequent days, the House continued to organize itself by electing a Doorkeeper, Sergeant at Arms, and Chaplain.

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