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This Week in Senate History


October 31, 1791
John Adams by Eliphalet Frazer Andrews

The entire Senate walked from its quarters in Philadelphia's Congress Hall to the nearby residence of President George Washington. Vice President John Adams, on behalf of the Senate, presented a formal written reply to the president's annual message, delivered several days earlier before a joint congressional session in the Senate's chamber. Washington's message fulfilled his constitutional duty to "give the Congress Information on the State of the Union" (Article II, section 3). Today, the opposing political party replies to the president's State of the Union Address rather than the full Senate or House of Representatives.

November 1, 1860
Image: Senator Poise Penrose

Boise Penrose, Pennsylvania's legendary Republican political boss, was born on this day in 1860. A brilliant member of Philadelphia's aristocracy, Penrose won a seat in the state legislature at age 24. In 1897, with the support of Pennsylvania senator Matthew Quay, Penrose began a U.S. Senate career that would last nearly a quarter century, until his death in 1921. In the Senate, Penrose chaired the powerful Committee on Finance and championed higher tariff rates. He also became a leading member of the Republican National Committee. An isolationist, Penrose opposed U.S. involvement in the First World War and the League of Nations.