1st United States Congress

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The First United States Congress, consisting of the United States Senate and the United States House of Representatives, met from March 4, 1789, to March 4, 1791. This was during the first two years of George Washington's presidency. Congress met first at Federal Hall in New York City and later at Congress Hall in Philadelphia. With the initial meeting of the First Congress, the United States federal government officially began operations under the new (and current) frame of government established by the 1787 Constitution. The apportionment of seats in the House of Representatives was based on the provisions of Article I, Section 2, Clause 3 of the Constitution. Both chambers had a Pro-Administration majority. Twelve articles of amendment to the Constitution were passed by this Congress and sent to the states for ratification. The ten ratified as additions to the Constitution on December 15, 1791 are collectively known as the Bill of Rights (Amendments one through ten).

Major events[change | change source]

Congress Hall in Philadelphia, meeting place of this Congress's third session.
  • April 1, 1789: House of Representatives first achieved a quorum (required minimum number) and elected its officers
  • April 6, 1789: Senate first achieved a quorum and elected its officers.
  • April 6, 1789: The House and Senate, meeting in joint session, count the Electoral College ballots, then certify that George Washington has been unanimously elected President of the United States and John Adams (having received 34 of 69 votes) elected as Vice president.[1]
  • April 30, 1789: George Washington was inaugurated as the nation's first president at Federal Hall in New York City
  • January 8, 1790: President Washington gave the first State of the Union Address
  • June 20, 1790: Compromise of 1790: James Madison agreed to not be "strenuous" in opposition for the assumption of state debts by the federal government; Alexander Hamilton agreed to support the capital site being above the Potomac River.

Major legislation[change | change source]

Session 1[change | change source]

Held March 4, 1789, through September 29, 1789, at Federal Hall in New York City

Session 2[change | change source]

Held January 4, 1790, through August 12, 1790, at Federal Hall in New York City

Session 3[change | change source]

Held December 6, 1790, through March 3, 1791, at Congress Hall in Philadelphia

Constitutional amendments[change | change source]

  • September 25, 1789: Twelve articles of amendment to the Constitution passed Congress (without recorded vote). They were officially submitted to the legislatures of the several states for consideration on September 28, 1789. Articles Three through Twelve were ratified as additions to the Constitution on December 15, 1791, and are collectively known as the Bill of Rights. Article Two was ratified on May 7, 1992, becoming the Twenty-seventh Amendment, and Article One is still technically still pending before the states.

States admitted and territories organized[change | change source]

Party summary[change | change source]

Statue of George Washington in front of Federal Hall, where he was first inaugurated as president.

There were no political parties in this Congress. Members are informally grouped into factions of similar interest, based on an analysis of their voting record.[2]

Details on changes are shown below in the "Changes in membership" section.

Senate[change | change source]

During this congress, two Senate seats were added for North Carolina and Rhode Island when each ratified the Constitution.

House of Representatives[change | change source]


During this congress, five House seats were added for North Carolina and one House seat was added for Rhode Island when they ratified the Constitution.

Leadership[change | change source]

Senate[change | change source]

House of Representatives[change | change source]

References[change | change source]

  1. "Journal of the First Session of the Senate of The United States of America, Begun and Held at the City of New York, March 4, 1789, And In The Thirteenth Year of the Independence of the Said States". Senate Journal. Gales & Seaton. 1820.
  2. Martis, Kenneth C. The Historical Atlas of Political Parties in the United States Congress.

Other websites[change | change source]