March 4th 1789: First United States Congress
On this day in 1789, the first Congress of the United States met at Federal Hall, 26 Wall Street, New York City. The Congress comprises two houses - the Senate, which at this point had 21 senators, and the House of Representatives, of which there were originally 58 members. The first Congress lasted until March 3rd 1791, spanning the first two years of George Washington’s presidency. The Speaker of the House was Frederick Muhlenberg, and the President of the Senate was, per the Constitution, Vice President John Adams. In the early stages of the American republic, there were no coherent and defined political parties, and Congress was simply divided between those who supported the Washington administration and those who did not, with the supporters holding a majority in each house. The first Congresss’ main accomplishments include passing the first ten amendments to the Constitution - known as the Bill of Rights - establishing the United States Census, creating Washington D.C. as the national capital, establishing the Departments of State, War and Treasury, and creating the Supreme Court through the 1789 Judiciary Act. The first meeting of Congress officially created the government set out in the Constitution, which had been ratified in 1788, and thus marks the day the Constitution was put into effect.
“All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives”
- Article I, Section I, Clause I of the United States Constitution