Kentucky became the 15th state admitted to the Union. The legislation giving the consent of Congress to the creation of a new state out of the jurisdiction of an existing state (required by Article IV, section 3 of the Constitution) had passed the Senate on January 12, 1791, the House of Representatives on January 28, 1791, and was signed by the president on February 4, 1791.
John Brown, born in Staunton, Virginia, but later of Daneville, Kentucky, and John Edwards, born in Stafford County, Virginia, but later of Bourbon County, Kentucky, were elected as the state's first United States senators by a joint ballot of the general assembly. At the time of his election, Brown was serving as a representative from Virginia.
John Brown and John Edwards took their seats in the Senate and the president pro tempore administered the oath of office. The statute regulating the taking of an oath, mandated by Article VI of the Constitution, was enacted on June 1, 1789.
John Brown and John Edwards drew lots to determine their Senate class assignments. Brown drew the Class 2 seat (with a term to expire in 1793) while Edwards drew the Class 3 seat (with a term to expire in 1795).
The Kentucky Gazette printed a petition to the state legislature from the inhabitants of Clark County, who denounced Senator Humphrey Marshall for his vote in favor of ratifying the Jay Treaty, and urged the legislature to instruct Marshall to oppose the treaty if it should come back before the Senate. Marshall, born in Fauquier County, Virginia, but later of Woodford County, Kentucky, responded with a series of articles explaining his ratification vote, and asserting that he had to vote according to his own judgment.
The governor and state legislature of Kentucky requested that the Senate investigate allegations of perjury made against Humphrey Marshall by two state judges. A Senate committee concluded that because no official charges had been brought, Marshall was innocent until proven guilty, and took no action against him. Marshall completed his term and returned to Kentucky, where he later fought a duel with Kentucky senator Henry Clay of Lexington.
John Breckinridge, born near Staunton, Virginia, but later of Lexington, Kentucky, entered the Senate. During his single term in office, Breckinridge served as the chief Senate spokesman for President Thomas Jefferson's administration. He was the grandfather of future senator and vice president John Cabell Breckinridge
Henry Clay of Lexington took the oath as senator, despite not having reached the constitutional age of 30, and served until his term ended in 1807. Clay served in the Senate again from 1810 to 1811, from 1831 to 1842, and from 1849 until his death in 1852.
The Senate adopted a resolution, by a vote of 27-6, affirming the vacancy in the seat of Senator Jesse Bledsoe of Lexington. Bledsoe had offered his resignation from the Senate in December 1814, but the governor of Kentucky declined to accept it. After reading reports that a successor had in fact been elected, Bledsoe sent a letter to the Senate inquiring about his status. On February 2, Bledsoe's elected successor, Isham Talbot of Frankfort, took his oath of office and was seated.
Henry Clay became the first U.S. senator to win the presidential nomination of a political party, the National Republicans, meeting in convention in Baltimore. Previously, candidates had been selected by congressional caucuses. Clay lost the election to the incumbent president, Andrew Jackson.
In the first speech of his Senate career, Henry Clay launched a major attack on the Jackson administration with a defense of an economic development plan known as the "American System." The plan, consisting of a national bank, protective tariffs, and federal subsidies for internal improvements, formed the legislative agenda of the new Whig Party.
After a 10-week debate, the Senate voted 26 to 20 to censure President Andrew Jackson for withholding executive branch documents requested by the Senate. At the time of the censure, Henry Clay's anti-administration coalition in the Senate held an eight-vote majority over Jackson's fellow Democrats. In 1837 Jackson's supporters successfully had the censure expunged from the Senate Journal.
When no vice presidential candidate won a majority in the Electoral College, the Senate elected former senator Richard Mentor Johnson of Great Crossings vice president of the United States, by a vote of 33 to 16; Johnson was inaugurated on March 4 and served one term.
Henry Clay ran for president of the United States on the Whig Party ticket. His running mate was former senator Theodore Frelinghuysen of New Jersey. They lost to Democrats James K. Polk and former senator George M. Dallas.
Senator Henry Clay delivered a long and impassioned speech on the Senate floor in favor of the Compromise of 1850, designed to settle the issue of slavery in the western territories taken as a result of the war with Mexico. Clay's omnibus bill ultimately failed, but the Senate eventually adopted its individual sections in separate votes.
A bronze bust of Henry Clay was sculpted by Henry Kirke Brown. The bust, first owned by Isaac Bassett, assistant doorkeeper of the Senate, was purchased by the U.S. Senate Commission on Art in 1990.
The seating of Archibald Dixon of Henderson was contested by California senator William McKendree Gwin. Gwinn argued that the Senate had not been in session at the time Dixon's predecessor, David Meriwether, resigned and Dixon was elected, and that therefore there had not been a vacancy. On December 20, the Senate voted to seat Dixon.
Representative (and future senator) John Cabell Breckinridge of Lexington was inaugurated vice president of the United States with President James Buchanan. The grandson of former senator John Breckinridge, he was just 36 years old—a year over the constitutional age requirement—making him the nation's youngest vice president.
Thomas Ball sculpted a statuette of Senator Henry Clay. The statue was accepted by the U.S. Senate Commission on Art in 1987.
Vice President John C. Breckinridge delivered a speech bidding farewell to what is now known as the Old Senate Chamber. He then led the procession of senators down the hall to the new Senate Chamber in the recently expanded north wing of the U.S. Capitol.
More than a year before the end of his term of office, Vice President John C. Breckinridge was elected to the Senate term beginning March 4, 1861.
Vice President John C. Breckinridge was the southern Democratic candidate for president of the United States. (The northern Democrats nominated Illinois senator Stephen Douglas.) Breckinridge lost the election to Republican Abraham Lincoln. He took his seat in the U.S. Senate (to which he had been elected the previous December) on March 4, 1861.
The Senate, by a vote of 36 to 0, expelled Senator John C. Breckinridge. Although Kentucky remained in the Union, Breckinridge had left the Senate in August, and in November, the former senator became a Confederate general. Three years later, Breckinridge led an unsuccessful assault on Washington, D.C.
An oil portrait of Henry Clay by Henry F. Darby was purchased by the Joint Committee on the Library for installation on the second floor of the Senate wing. The portrait, painted around 1860, was purchased from Matthew Brady.
Senator Joseph Blackburn became chairman of the Democratic Conference, assuming the role of his party's floor leader (before the positions of majority and minority leaders had been established), and served until 1907.
Statues of Henry Clay and Dr. Ephraim McDowell, a pioneering surgeon, sculpted by Charles H. Niehaus, were unveiled at the Capitol as Kentucky's contributions to the National Statuary Hall Collection.
With the implicit support of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Alben William Barkley of Paducah was chosen as Senate Democratic leader by a single vote in the Democratic caucus. Barkley served as majority leader until 1947, and then as minority leader from 1947 to 1949.
Senator Alben Barkley resigned as majority leader in a dispute over President Roosevelt's veto of a tax bill, but was unanimously reelected by the Senate Democratic Conference. Congress overrode the presidential veto.
Senator Albert B. "Happy" Chandler of Versailles resigned from the Senate to become Commissioner of Baseball. Chandler explained his decision that the baseball commissioner drew a salary five times that of a U.S. senator. It was during his tenure that major league baseball began racial integration.
The findings of the Joint Committee on the Investigation of the Pearl Harbor Attack, chaired by Senator Alben Barkley were released, absolving President Roosevelt and his advisors and blaming the commanders in Hawaii for insufficient defensive provisions.
Alben Barkley was inaugurated vice president of the United States with President Harry S. Truman, serving until 1953. Barkley would be the last vice president to spend the largest share of his time presiding over Senate debates.
Vice President Alben Barkley withdrew as a candidate for the Democratic nomination for president after meeting with leaders of organized labor who felt he was too old at 74 to be a successful candidate. Missouri senator Thomas Hennings placed Barkley's name in nomination nevertheless as a tribute to his long years of service.
Senator Earl C. Clements of Morganfield was elected Democratic whip, serving until 1957. He served as acting majority leader from 1955 to 1956, during the absence of Democratic Leader Lyndon B. Johnson, who was recuperating after a heart attack.
Senator and former vice president Alben Barkley (who had returned to the Senate in 1954) died on stage at Washington and Lee University after delivering an address. At the conclusion of his speech, Barkley reminded his audience that after 42 years in national politics he had become a freshman again and had declined a front row chamber seat with senior senators. His final words were, "I am glad to sit on the back row, for I would rather be a servant in the House of the Lord than to sit in the seats of the mighty."
A portrait of Senator Henry Clay by Allyn Cox was unveiled in the Senate Reception Room (S-213). The work was one of five commissioned to commemorate former outstanding senators. The portraits were placed in oval medallions on the walls originally planned for likenesses of "illustrious men," but left vacant when Constantino Brumidi painted the room in the mid-19th century.
As chairman of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, Senator Wendell Ford accompanied President-elect George H. W. Bush from the White House to the inaugural ceremonies at the Capitol.
As chairman of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, Senator Mitch McConnell accompanied President-elect George W. Bush from the White House to the inaugural ceremonies at the Capitol.
A newly restored painting of Henry Clay, titled "Henry Clay in the U.S. Senate, was installed in the East Brumidi Stairway of the U.S. Capitol. Painted in 1866, the likeness of Clay lay in obscurity until its rediscovery in 2006.