Ilona Nickels
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Accountability of Elected Officials
Career Paths to Congress
Chaplains in the U.S. Congress
House Ethics Process
House/Senate Differences
Lame Duck Congress: Attendance and Voting
Members of Congress: A Job Description
Members of Congress: Who Do They Represent?
Oath of Office for Members of Congress
Pledge of Allegiance: Standing for the Pledge
Pledge of Allegiance: Use in Congress
Qualifications to Run for Congress
Senate: 50-50 Split?
Senate Majority Leader: A Job Description
Sessions of Congress: Lengths
Size of House and Senate
Speaker of the House: a Job Description
Amending the Constitution
Constitutionality of Legislation
August Recesses
First Congress
GOP: Origins of Term
Ideology: Left or Right
Lame Duck Congress: Definition
Party Animals: the Donkey and the Elephant
Statue of Freedom
U.S. Citizenship Test
Amendment Tree in the Senate
Changing a Law
Conference Committees: In Decline
Conference Committees: Procedures
“Deem and Pass” Procedure
Executive Orders
Holds in the Senate
How to Find Basic Legislative Information
How to Keep Up With Congress
Types of Legislation

Capitol Corner

First Congress

Where and when did the First Congress meet? How many days were they in session and what was their agenda?

First Congress by Ilona Nickels
Federal Hall, N.Y. City
The First Congress was one of the longer ones -- but then so was its agenda. It drafted the Bill of Rights; it established the Departments of Treasury, War, and Foreign Affairs; and it established the structure and procedures of the federal judiciary. Other issues the First Congress worked through included settling the Revolutionary War debts, choosing a site for a new capital city, creating a national bank, establishing copyright and patent procedures, regulating trade with Indians, and providing for a national census.

The First Congress consisted of three separate sessions. It convened on March 4, 1789 and adjourned sine die on March 3, 1791, for a total of 519 days.

The first and second sessions were held in Federal Hall in New York City, the third session was held in Congress Hall in Philadelphia. The first session was held from March 4, 1789 to September 29, 1789. The second session convened on January 4, 1790 and adjourned on August 12, 1790. The third session convened on December 6, 1790 and adjourned on March 3, 1791, which ended the First Congress.

The First Congress had 65 Representatives and 26 Senators. Each state sent 2 Senators. The 13 states each sent the following number of Representatives:

For more information on the First Congress, see the website of George Washington University’s First Federal Congress Project, and the book, Inventing Congress: Origins & Establishment Of First Federal Congress (Perspective History Of Congress) by Kenneth R. Bowling and Donald R. Kennon (Hardcover - July 4, 1999). New and used copies are available on the website.