Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Happy 225th Birthday, Congress!

The Russell Library joins its Association of Centers for the Study of Congress (ACSC) partner institutions across the nation to celebrate this landmark birthday during Congress Week 2014—April 1-7 with a week-long Twitter Fest focused on the forty-seven members of the U.S.  Congress and Senate representing Georgia who have placed their papers with the Russell Library.  The Twitter series is curated by Russell Library student assistants Sarah Hughes and Patrick Klibanoff and presents key moments from the careers of these Georgians.

The central goal of Congress Week is to foster the study of the United States House and Senate, and to promote a wider appreciation for the vital role the legislative branch plays in our representative democracy. Our celebration lauds its survival and its level of success over 225 years in finding ways to make representative democracy work.

Actually, the birth of Congress was not a single day event but a process of deliberation in the Federal Convention that met in the spring and summer of 1787. The Constitution provided for Congress to convene on March 4, 1789, and on that date, in New York City, the first meeting place of Congress, cannons fired and church bells rang to announce Congress's birth.

But only a few members had arrived on that date. Weeks passed before the House achieved its first quorum on April 1, with the Senate following five days later on April 6. Some members worried that the government would fail before it began. Fisher Ames of Massachusetts a member of the House, wrote "We lose credit, spirit, everything. The public will forget the government before it is born."

The fact that the House achieved its first quorum on April 1 was not lost on members then and will probably not be ignored today when we note that the first quorum was achieved on April Fool's Day. We could use a little humor as we contemplate the serious role Congress has played in shaping the long-range success of a mighty nation, whose Capitol is a symbol of freedom throughout the world.

In 2003, ACSC was founded as an independent alliance of institutions and organizations that support a wide range of programs designed to inform and educate students, scholars, policy-makers, and members of the general public on the history of Congress, legislative process, and current issues facing the United States Congress. ACSC encourages the preservation of material that documents the work of Congress, including the papers of representatives and senators, and supports programs that make those materials available for educational and research use.  The association also welcomes the participation of institutions and individuals committed to our goal of promoting a better understanding of Congress.

To experience the Georgians in Congress Twitter Fest, follow the Russell Library on Twitter: @RussellLibrary.  To find other congressional centers celebrating Congress Week on Twitter, search for the hashtag #CongressWeek

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