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1787

Painting of the signing of the Constitution at the Constitutional Convention, with known figures such as George Washington and Benjamin Franklin.

June 26

From a number of competing proposals, the Constitutional Convention members selected the recommendation of Massachusetts delegate Nathaniel Gorham of Charlestown that U.S. senators serve a six-year term.

1788

United States Constitution

February 6

Massachusetts became the sixth state to ratify the Constitution.

1789

Drawing of Federal Hall, with horse and carriage in front.

March 4

The Senate convened for the first time at Federal Hall in New York City. Bay State senator Caleb Strong of Northampton appeared, but because only eight senators were present, there were not enough to constitute a quorum. The body was forced to adjourn each day, until April 6, when it achieved its first quorum of 12 members out of the eligible 22. 

1789

Image of Samuel Otis of Massachusetts

April 8

The Senate elected  Samuel A. Otis of Barnstable as secretary of the Senate.

1789

Tristram Dalton (Pro-admin-MA)

April 14

Tristram Dalton of Newburyport, Massachusetts' second senator, appeared at Federal Hall in New York City and took his seat. 

1789

John Adams by Eliphalet Frazer Andrews

April 21

John Adams of Braintree took his oath of office and presided over the Senate as the first vice president of the United States.

1789

William Cushing

September 27

The Senate confirmed the nomination of William Cushing of Scituate as associate justice of the Supreme Court.

1798

Theodore Sedgwick (F-MA)

June 27

The Senate elected Theodore Sedgwick, who began his Senate service in 1796, as its president pro tempore.

1800

Caleb Strong (Pro-admin-MA)

 

Caleb Strong, a delegate to the Constitutional Convention and one of Massachusetts' first senators, became governor.

1800

Samuel Dexter (F-MA)

May 13

Samuel Dexter of Boston resigned his Senate seat after the Senate confirmed his nomination as secretary of war. Dexter served in the administration of President John Adams. On December 30, 1800, the Senate confirmed Dexter as secretary of the treasury, a position he held from January 1, 1801, to May 6, 1801.

1803

John Quincy Adams (F-MA)

February 8

The state senate, of which he was a member, concurred with the lower house in electing John Quincy Adams of Braintree, to the U.S. Senate. He took his Senate oath of office on October 21 and began recording his view of Senate proceedings in his private diary.

1803

Timothy Pickering (F-MA)

March 4

Timothy Pickering of Wenham, who had served as postmaster general, secretary of war, and secretary of state under George Washington and John Adams, took his Senate seat. 

1808

John Quincy Adams (F-MA)

June 8

John Quincy Adams resigned from the Senate after the Massachusetts legislature held an early election to select his replacement. He was forced from office for refusing to obey the legislature's instructions to push for repeal of the Embargo Act.

1810

December 31

Senator Henry Clay of Kentucky introduced a resolution to condemn the actions of Massachusetts senator Timothy Pickering for violating a Senate rule by reading confidential documents in open Senate session. The Senate approved Clay's resolution, making Pickering the first senator to receive its formal censure.

1811

Joseph Story

November 18

The Senate confirmed the nomination of Joseph Story of Marblehead as associate justice of the Supreme Court.

1813

Elbridge Gerry (R-MA)

March 4

Elbridge Gerry of Marblehead presided over the Senate as the fifth vice president of the United States.

1813

Joseph B. Varnum (R-MA)

December 6

The Senate elected Joseph B. Varnum of Dracut as its president pro tempore.

1817

March 5

The Senate confirmed the nomination of former senator John Quincy Adams as secretary of state. Adams served in the administration of President James Monroe from September 22, 1817 to March 3, 1825.

1820

Prentiss Mellen (F-MA)

March 15

The Massachusetts District of Maine became a separate state. On May 16, at the conclusion of the first session of the 16th Congress, Senator Prentiss Mellen, a resident of Portland in the Maine District, resigned to make way for Maine's two elected senators, who took their seats when the second session convened on November 13, 1820.

1825

Image of John Quincy Adams

February 9

Former senator John Quincy Adams was elected president of the United States after the election was decided by the House of Representatives. None of the candidates--Adams, Andrew Jackson, William Crawford, and Henry Clay--received a majority of electoral votes, so following the provisions of the Twelfth Amendment to the Constitution, the House of Representatives chose from among the top three candidates. Despte the fact that Adams trailed in both the popular vote and the Electoral College, the House chose him over Jackson and Crawford.

1825

James Lloyd (F-MA)

December 12

James Lloyd of Boston became chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce (today's Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation), a position he held until 1826.

1830

Painting of Senator Daniel Webster addressing the Senate in a crowded Senate Chamber.

January 26

Senator Daniel Webster of Boston began a two-day reply to earlier remarks by South Carolina senator Robert Hayne. He challenged the South's seeming willingness to subvert the Union for regional economic gain and its assertion that a state could defy any act of Congress that conflicted with its interests. Webster broadened a debate on tariffs, slavery, and land into a consideration of national sovereignty. This debate established Webster as a major statesman and confirmed the brilliance of his oratorical skills. Historian Allan Nevins proclaimed his remarks the most eloquent speech ever delivered in Congress.

1833

Nathaniel Silsbee (Adams/AJ-MA)

December 16

Nathaniel Silsbee became chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce (today's Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation), a position he held until 1835. The same day, Daniel Webster became chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, a title he held until 1836.

1841

Daniel Webster (Adams/AJ/W-MA)

February 22

Daniel Webster resigned from the Senate to become U.S. secretary of state. He was nominated and then confirmed by the Senate on March 5, and took office on March 6, serving until May 8, 1843. He was replaced in the Senate for the balance of his term by Rufus Choate of Salem, another noted Bay State orator. Choate is memorialized in a statue by Daniel Chester French at the Old Suffolk County Courthouse in Boston.

1850

Daniel Webster Addressing the United States Senate / in the great debate on the constitution and the union 1850.

March 7

Daniel Webster, who had returned to the Senate in 1845, delivered one of the most celebrated speeches in the nation's history. Addressing the Senate in support of the Compromise of 1850, he spoke the famous opening lines: "I wish to speak today not as a Massachusetts man, nor as a northern man, but as an American, . . . I speak today for the preservation of the Union. Hear me for my cause." His support for that compromise's Fugitive Slave Act created a political firestorm among his Massachusetts constituents and led to his resignation from the Senate, on July 22, 1850 (after he had been nominated and confirmed as secretary of state).

1850

July 20

The Senate confirmed the nomination of Daniel Webster as secretary of state under President Millard Fillmore. Webster first served as secretary of state from 1841 to 1843, under Presidents Harrison and Tyler. Secretary of State Webster delivered a well-received two-hour oration at the July 4, 1851, ceremony featuring the laying of a cornerstone for the U.S. Capitol wings that currently house the Senate and House Chambers.

1851

Benjamin R. Curtis

December 20

The Senate confirmed the nomination of Benjamin Robbins Curtis of Watertown as associate justice of the Supreme Court. Curtis had received a recess appointment on September 22 of that year. Six years later, as one of the Court's two dissenters from the notorious Dred Scott case, he resigned from the Court--the only justice ever to depart on a matter of principle. In 1868 Curtis served as lead defense attorney in the Senate impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson.

1856

John Hancock

 

The Senate purchased a marble statue of Massachusetts patriot John Hancock by Horatio Stone for display on the second floor of the Capitol's Senate wing.

1856

A cartoon of Representative Brooks raising his cane above a prostrate Senator Charles Sumner.

May 22

Symbolic of the increasingly bitter sectional divisions over the slavery issue in the Kansas Territory, South Carolina representative Preston Brooks attacked antislavery advocate Senator Charles Sumner of Boston in the Senate Chamber. Sumner's severe beating followed his provocative remarks three days earlier in a speech entitled "The Crime Against Kansas." Sumner was signing his postal frank to envelopes containing printed copies of that address when Brooks assaulted him. This event, symbolizing violence over reasoned deliberation, became a major milestone on the road to civil war.

1861

The Massachusetts Sixth Regiment

April 22

The Massachusetts Sixth Regiment was quartered in the Senate Chamber after suffering casualties in Baltimore on its way to defend the nation's capital at the outbreak of the Civil War.

1861

Charles Sumner by Walter Ingalls

July 6

Charles Sumner became chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, a position he held until 1871.

1861

Henry Wilson (R-MA)

July 6

Henry Wilson became chairman of the Senate Committee on Military Affairs (precursor to today's Committee on Armed Services), and held this influential post through the Civil War and reconstruction years, until 1871. 

1868

The Senate as a Court of Impeachment for the Trial of Andrew Johnson.

May 26

Massachusetts senators Charles Sumner and Henry Wilson of Natick voted to convict President Andrew Johnson on the final day of his Senate impeachment trial. The Senate narrowly failed to muster the two-thirds vote necessary to remove Johnson from office.

1869

George Boutwell (R-MA)

March 12

George Boutwell of Groton resigned his seat in the House of Representatives following Senate confirmation of his nomination as secretary of treasury in the administration of President Ulysses S. Grant. Boutwell resigned his cabinet post on March 16, 1873, when the Massachusetts legislature elected him to fill Henry Wilson's vacant Senate seat. He served in the Senate until March 3, 1877. 

1870

Hiram Revels (R-MS)

February 25

Senator Henry Wilson stood before the Senate and requested that the senator-elect from Mississippi, Hiram Revels, be sworn in. After several days of bitter debate, the Senate voted to seat Revels, who thus became the first African American to serve in the Senate.

1873

Washington, D.C.—The Inauguration—Scene in the Senate Chamber at the Capitol—Swearing in the Vice-President.

March 4

Henry Wilson presided over the Senate as the 18th vice president of the United States.

1874

"The Death of Charles Sumner" Currier and Ives print

March 13

The body of Senator Charles Sumner, who had died two days earlier, lay in state in the Capitol Rotunda. Sumner's funeral was then conducted in the Senate Chamber. 

1875

Washington, D.C.—Funeral Service over the Remains of the Late Vice-President Henry Wilson, in the United States Chamber, Friday, November 26th.

November 22

Vice President Henry Wilson died in his Capitol office adjacent to the Senate Chamber. Three days later, he followed Charles Sumner in being accorded the honor of lying in state in the Capitol Rotunda.

1876

Statue of Samuel Adams for the National Statuary Hall Collection

December 19

The Senate passed a resolution officially accepting from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts a marble statue of John Winthrop by Richard Greenough and a marble statue of Samuel Adams by Anne Whitney. Both statues were added to the Capitol's National Statuary Hall Collection.

1881

Henry Dawes (R-MA)

October 13

Henry Dawes of Pittsfield became chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, a position he held until 1893.

1881

Horace Gray

December 20

The Senate confirmed the nomination of Horace Gray of Boston as associate justice of the Supreme Court.

1885

Henry Wilson

January 16

On the initiative of Massachusetts senators George Frisbie Hoar of Worcester and Henry Dawes, the Senate adopted a resolution authorizing the installation of a commemorative plaque and a marble portrait bust in the vice president's Capitol office to commemorate the public career of Senator and Vice President Henry Wilson, who had died in that room 10 years earlier. Noted Massachusetts sculptor Daniel Chester French produced the bust in 1886.

1886

John Adams

May 13

The Senate commissioned Daniel Chester French to prepare a marble portrait bust of John Adams, the nation's first vice president. The Senate placed that work—the first in a newly authorized vice-presidential collection—on display in the gallery of the Senate Chamber in 1890. French was not pleased with the $800 fee the Senate had set for each of the portrait busts: "I consider it an honor and worth a great deal to have a bust of mine in so important a position. I do not know how many sculptors you will find who will look at it in the same way."

1893

George F. Hoar (R-MA)

April 6

Senator George F. Hoar delivered a two-day speech opposing a constitutional amendment providing for direct popular election of U.S. senators. He argued that such a change would promote electoral corruption and produce senators of inferior quality. His remarks became legendary in his time and served to block active consideration of such an amendment for another decade.

1894

Charles Sumner

 

The Senate acquired a portrait bust of Charles Sumner, sculpted by Martin Milmore, noted for his Soldiers and Sailors Monument on Boston Common. The Massachusetts state legislature had received the bust in 1875, and then presented it to George Curtis, editor of Harper's Weekly, in appreciation of the eulogy of Sumner he delivered before that body. The Senate acquired the bust as a gift from Curtis's widow.

1895

 

George F. Hoar became chairman of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary but lost the position in 1893 when the Democrats gained control of the Senate. Hoar regained the chairmanship in 1895 and held it until 1904.

1898

Cover of the Farewell Address Notebook

February 22

Henry Cabot Lodge, Sr., of Nahant delivered George Washington's farewell address on the floor of the Senate, a tradition dating to 1862.

1902

Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.

December 4

The Senate confirmed the nomination of Oliver Wendell Holmes of Cambridge as associate justice of the Supreme Court.

1903

November 

Senator George F. Hoar published his two-volume memoir, Autobiography of Seventy Years.

1904

September 30

Senator George F. Hoar died. He was a grandson of Connecticut senator Roger Sherman, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. Hoar enjoyed the added distinction of being the son of Representative Samuel Hoar, the brother of Representative Ebenezer Rockwood Hoar, the father of Representative Rockwood Hoar, and the uncle of Representative Sherman Hoar--all of whom represented Massachusetts in the U.S. House.

1906

William H. Moody

December 12

The Senate confirmed the nomination of William Henry Moody of Newbury as associate justice of the Supreme Court.

1916

Louis D. Brandeis

June 1

The Senate confirmed the nomination of Louis D. Brandeis of Dedham as associate justice of the Supreme Court.

1916

Henry Cabot Lodge Sr. (R-MA)

November 7

Incumbent senator Henry Cabot Lodge, Sr., defeated former Boston mayor John Fitzgerald, grandfather of future senator John Fitzgerald Kennedy, for a new Senate term. Lodge became Massachusetts’ first directly elected senator after the adoption of the Seventeenth Amendment in 1913. (Ironically, in 1952 John F. Kennedy would win a Senate seat after defeating Lodge's grandson, Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr.,)

1919

David I. Walsh (D-MA)

March 4

David I. Walsh of Clinton became the first Democrat to represent Massachusetts in the U.S. Senate in the 68 years since 1851. (Five years earlier, he had become the state's first Roman Catholic governor.) He lost that seat in 1924 but staged a political comeback in 1926, winning the seat again and serving until 1947.

1919

Photograph of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 1919

May 28

Henry Cabot Lodge, Sr., became chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, a position he held until 1924.

1919

Cartoon depicting Henry Cabot Lodge escorting the Treaty of Versailles out of the committee room

November 19

Henry Cabot Lodge, Sr., the Republican majority leader and chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, successfully led Senate opposition to the Treaty of Versailles, which ended World War I and created the League of Nations. Massachusetts' junior senator, Democrat David I. Walsh, reflecting the views of his large Irish- and Italian-American constituency, crossed party lines to join Lodge in blocking ratification of the treaty.

1921

Calvin Coolidge

March 4

Calvin Coolidge of Northampton presided over the Senate as the 29th vice president of the United States. He became president of the United States upon the death of Warren G. Harding on August 3, 1923, and was elected to a second term as president in 1924, serving until March 3, 1929.

1921

John Weeks (R-MA)

March 4

The Senate confirmed the nomination of former senator John Weeks to serve as secretary of war. Weeks had served in the Senate from 1913 to 1919.

1925

Frederick H. Gillett (R-MA)

March 4

Frederick H. Gillett of Westfield took his Senate oath following a 32-year career in the U.S. House of Representatives. During his last six years in the House, Gillett served as Speaker. Although he explained that he would rather be Speaker of the House than hold any other position in the world, Gillett loyally yielded to President Calvin Coolidge's insistence that he run for the Senate as their mutual home state's strongest possible Republican candidate. He chose not to seek reelection in 1930 and devoted his retirement to writing a biography of his father-in-law, former Massachusetts senator George Frisbie Hoar.

1933

March 9

David I. Walsh became chairman of the Senate Committee on Education and Labor (precursor to today's Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions), at the beginning of the New Deal era.

1937

Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., (R-MA)

February 22

Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., of Beverly delivered President George Washington's farewell address on the floor of the Senate, a tradition dating to 1862. 

1939

Felix Frankfurter

January 17

The Senate confirmed the nomination of Felix Frankfurter of Boston as associate justice to the Supreme Court.

1944

Photo of Senator Lodge pinning Purple Heart on wounded soldier.

February 4

Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., resigned from the Senate to resume military service during World War II. Two years earlier, as an incumbent senator, he had served with American tank crews in Libya. A subsequent order by the War Department prohibiting members of Congress from active duty in the armed forces prompted his definite conclusion that, "given my age [42] and military training, I must henceforth serve my country as a combat soldier in the Army overseas." In 1946, following his tour of duty in Europe, Lodge won reelection to the Senate.

1949

Leverett Saltonstall (R-MA)

January 3

Senate Republicans elected Leverett Saltonstall of Dover as their party's whip, a post that he held until 1957.

1952

John F. Kennedy (D-MA)

November 4

John F. Kennedy of Boston defeated Senator Henry Cabot Lodge Jr., thus balancing the 1916 Senate defeat of his grandfather, John Fitzgerald, by Lodge's grandfather, Henry Cabot Lodge Sr.

1953

January 13

Leverett Saltonstall became chairman of the Senate Committee on Armed Services and served until the close of the 83rd Congress in 1955.

1953

Sinclair Weeks (R-MA)

January 20

The Senate confirmed the nomination of former senator Sinclair Weeks as secretary of commerce. Weeks served President Dwight Eisenhower through 1958.

1955

Senate Reception Room overview

August 2

Senator John F. Kennedy chaired a special committee charged with selecting five outstanding members in Senate history. Among those chosen two years later was Daniel Webster. Portraits of these senators were added to blank oval spaces on the walls of the Senate Reception Room.

1957

January 3

Leverett Saltonstall was elected chairman of the Senate Republican Conference. He held that post until he retired from the Senate in 1967.

1960

John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson

November 8

Senator John F. Kennedy was elected president of the United States. His running mate was Senator Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas. Kennedy was the 13th senator to become president, and only the second sitting senator to do so.

1962

Kennedy Brothers, 1963

November 7

Edward M. Kennedy of Boston was elected to fill the term left vacant by the election of his brother John F. Kennedy as president of the United States. Benjamin A. Smith II of Gloucester had served by gubernatorial appointment in the interim.

1967

Edward Brooke (R-MA)

January 3

Senator Edward William Brooke III of Newton Centre became the first African American to serve in the Senate since the Reconstruction era of the 1870s. He was also the only black member to serve in the 112 years between 1881 and 1993.

1969

January 3

Senator Edward Kennedy defeated incumbent Senate Democratic whip Russell Long (D-LA) for that post by a vote of 31 to 26. Two years later, Kennedy lost the whip's job to Senator Robert C. Byrd (D-WV). Despite the bitterness of that moment, the two senators later became close personal friends.

1978

Paul Tsongas (D-MA)

November 7

Paul Tsongas of Lowell defeated incumbent senator Edward Brooke. Diagnosed in 1983 with non-Hodgkins lymphoma, he chose not to seek a second term in 1984. Tsongas later won the symbolically important 1992 New Hampshire Democratic presidential primary, but, in the first electoral defeat of his career, lost the nomination to Bill Clinton.

1979

Edward M. Kennedy

January 23

Edward Kennedy became the chairman of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, a position he held until January 5, 1981.

1980

March 4

Senator Edward Kennedy won the Massachusetts Democratic presidential primary, besting the incumbent, President Jimmy Carter. Kennedy would go on to win eight more state primaries plus the District of Columbia before withdrawing his bid for the presidency in August. 

1987

January 6

Edward Kennedy became chairman of the Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources (today's Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions), a position he held until the beginning of the 104th Congress in 1995. He chaired the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions from 2001 to 2003 and again from 2007 until his death in 2009.

1987

Daniel Webster

 

In honor of former majority leader Mike Mansfield, the Senate accepted a gift from the Charles Englehard Foundation of a 30" bronze statue of Daniel Webster created in 1853.

1993

Presidential Medal of Freedom

December 6

John F. Kennedy posthumously received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, awarded by the president of the United States to honor individuals who have made great contributions to either the United States or the world. To date, 24 senators have received the award.

1994

Stephen G. Breyer

July 29

The Senate confirmed the nomination of Stephen G. Breyer as associate justice of the Supreme Court.  

2001

John F. Kerry (D-MA)

January 3

John F. Kerry of Boston, elected to the Senate in November 1984, became chairman of the Senate Committee on Small Business (today's Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship), a position he held until 2003.

2004

Presidential Medal of Freedom

June 23

Former senator Edward Brooke received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, awarded by the president of the United States to honor individuals who have made great contributions to either the United States or the world. To date, 24 senators have received the award.

2004

July 29

Senator John F. Kerry won nomination as the Democratic Party's candidate for president of the United States. He lost the November general election to incumbent president George W. Bush by 34 electoral votes out of 538 cast.

2009

January 21

John F. Kerry became chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, a position he held until 2013.

2009

Presidential Medal of Freedom

August 12

Senator Edward M. Kennedy received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, awarded by the president of the United States to honor individuals who have made great contributions to either the United States or the world. To date, 24 senators have received the award.

2009

Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA)

August 25

Senator Edward M. Kennedy died of a malignant brain tumor, ending his 46-year Senate career. He is Massachusetts's longest-serving senator and one of only three members in Senate history to be elected to nine six-year terms. (The others were West Virginia's Robert C. Byrd and Hawaii's Daniel Inouye.)

2009

October 28

Former senator Edward Brooke was presented with the Congressional Gold Medal, awarded by Congress as its highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions by individuals or institutions. The Senate had passed the legislation awarding the medal on March 29, 2007.

2010

Scott Brown (R-MA)

January 19

In a political upset, Republican Scott Brown won the special election to fill the seat vacated by the death of Senator Edward M. Kennedy.

2012

November 6

Elizabeth Warren of Cambridge became the first woman elected to represent Massachusetts in the United States Senate.

2013

January 29

The Senate confirmed the nomination of Senator John F. Kerry as secretary of state. Kerry resigned his Senate seat effective February 1, 2013.