At the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Connecticut delegates Roger Sherman of New Haven and Oliver Ellsworth of Windsor crafted the "Connecticut Compromise," also called "The Great Compromise," in which each state would be represented equally in the Senate and according to the relative size of its population in the House.
The new Congress convened at Federal Hall in New York City, with Connecticut's first two senators, Oliver Ellsworth and William S. Johnson of Stratford, both present that day. Once a quorum of 12 senators had convened on April 6, out of the eligible 22, the Senate began its work.
The Senate drew lots to determine the three classes of senators. Oliver Ellsworth was assigned to Class 1 (with a two-year term to expire in 1791) and William S. Johnson was assigned to Class 3 (with a six-year term to expire in 1795, although he resigned in 1791).
The Judiciary Act of 1789, which established the nation's federal court system, was adopted. Oliver Ellsworth was the principal author of the act. He also devised the Senate's first set of procedural rules.
Roger Sherman, coauthor of "The Connecticut Compromise," which helped to establish the Senate, began his Senate service. Sherman was the only member of the Continental Congress to sign the Continental Association of 1774, the Declaration of Independence of 1776, the Articles of Confederation of 1777, and the federal Constitution of 1787. He was the grandfather of four subsequent members of Congress, including Connecticut senator Roger Sherman Baldwin and Massachusetts senator George Frisbie Hoar. While a senator, until his death in 1793, he also served as mayor of New Haven.
Congress commissioned Connecticut artist John Trumbull, a former Revolutionary War aide to General George Washington, to produce four large history murals for permanent display in the Capitol Rotunda. Trumbull completed all four (Declaration of Independence, George Washington Resigning His Commission, Surrender of General Burgoyne, and Surrender of Lord Cornwallis) within seven years.
Typically high rates of member turnover and death plagued the early Senate. In one glaring example, eight individuals successively occupied Connecticut's Class 1 Senate seat in the 30 years between 1821 and 1851. Three of those eight did not live to complete their terms.
Senator Jabez Huntington of Norwich became chairman of the Committee on Commerce (today's Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation), serving until 1845.
Congress accepted Connecticut's contributions to the National Statuary Hall Collection: an eight-foot, one-inch marble statue of Jonathan Trumbull, and a seven-foot, eleven-inch marble statue of Roger Sherman.
Senator William Buckingham of Norwich became chairman of the Committee on Indian Affairs and served until his death in February 1875. Sixty years later, Frank Brandegee of New London chaired that panel.
Artist Seth Eastman's painting of Fort Trumbull in New London was presented to the House Committee on Military Affairs. Part of a series of 17 canvases depicting army forts commissioned by the committee, the painting now hangs in the first floor of the Capitol on the Senate side.
Orville Hitchcock Platt of Meriden took his seat in the Senate, beginning a 26-year-career.
The Senate accepted a marble portrait bust of former senator Lafayette Foster in honor of his service from 1865 to 1867 as "acting vice president." The bust, which suggests the classical image of an ancient Greek philosopher, is displayed in the vice president's formal office adjacent to the Senate Chamber.
After the Spanish-American War, Senator Orville Platt, chairman of the Committee on Relations with Cuba, introduced an amendment to the 1901 army appropriations bill that established Cuba as a quasi-protectorate of the U.S. The Platt Amendment, attached to the Cuban constitution, prohibited Cuba from making agreements with foreign powers impairing its independence or granting concessions without the consent of the United States. It remained in force until 1934.
Senator Orville Platt died. Until 2007, his 26-year Senate career, beginning in 1879, established him as Connecticut's longest-serving senator. (Senator Chris Dodd broke that record in 2007.) Platt was among the group of four power brokers (including William Allison, Nelson Aldrich, and John Spooner) who largely controlled Senate legislative operations between 1897 and 1905.
Future senator Hiram Bingham, a noted explorer traveling in Peru, discovered the ruins of the pre-Columbian city Machu Picchu. His book, Lost City of the Incas, became a best-seller when published in 1948, 15 years after he left the Senate.
In a mark of respect for his fairness and parliamentary skills, the Senate elected Frank Brandegee of New London as its president pro tempore. Thirteen years earlier, he had gained valuable presiding experience as speaker of the Connecticut house of representatives.
The Seventeenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution went into effect allowing the election of U.S. senators by popular vote. Frank Brandegee, who had served in the Senate since 1905, in 1915 became Connecticut's first directly elected senator. Brandegee had previously opposed the direct election of senators.
In financial difficulties and poor health, 20-year Senate veteran Frank Brandegee committed suicide. A New London newspaper described him as a plain-spoken man with much dry wit, with a tendency toward cynicism. He was not given to flowery language, and retained to the end in his speech and conversation many New England characteristic phrases.
The Senate censured Hiram Bingham of New Haven for employing a staff member who worked simultaneously as a paid lobbyist for the Manufacturers Association of Connecticut. Bingham served until March 1933.
Senate Democrats elected Francis T. Maloney of Meriden as their Conference secretary. He held that post until his death in February 1945. He was succeeded in that post by his Connecticut colleague, Brien McMahon of Norwalk.
Senator Francis T. Maloney sponsored the Legislative Reorganization Act. Following its enactment in August 1946, that law helped to modernize Senate and House operations for the next quarter-century.
Thomas J. Dodd of West Hartford, who would win a Senate seat in 1958, served as vice chairman, Board of Review, and later executive trial counsel, office of United States Chief of Counsel for War Crimes at the Nuremberg Military Tribunals. His son Christopher Dodd, also a future senator, later published his father's 1945-1946 correspondence to his mother, Letters from Nuremberg (2007).
Prescott Bush of Greenwich won election to the Senate following a defeat in the 1950 election. Reelected, he served until 1963. He was the father of President George Herbert Walker Bush and grandfather of President George W. Bush.
Senator Abraham A. Ribicoff of Hartford became chairman of the Committee on Government Operations and in 1977 continued to chair its successor, the Committee on Governmental Affairs (today's Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs), until 1981. Joseph I. Lieberman of New Haven subsequently chaired that committee.
Senator Joseph Lieberman became his party's nominee for vice president of the United States at the Democratic National Convention. Lieberman and presidential candidate (and former senator) Vice President Al Gore lost the November election.