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This Week in Senate History


June 27, 1789
Image of Federal Hall

The framers of the Constitution created a bicameral Congress to include a Senate and a House of Representatives. When the new Congress convened in March of 1789, senators and representatives established the practice of appointing a conference committee to reconcile differences between a House version and a Senate version of a bill. Meeting in New York City's Federal Hall in late June 1789, a committee of members from both houses held the first conference meeting, on a measure that imposed customs duties on imported goods. After three days of negotiations, this first conference committee reached agreement on passage of the act.

June 29, 1852
H Clay

Senator Henry Clay of Kentucky died of tuberculosis at the age of 75. Known by many as "the Great Compromiser," Clay played a major role in influencing domestic and foreign policy, becoming a legendary figure in American history. He first came to the Senate in 1806, then served intermittently until his death in 1852. He also served in the House of Representatives and as secretary of state under President John Quincy Adams. His death in 1852 sent a nation in mourning. Following a funeral service in the Senate Chamber, Clay became the first person to lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda.

July 1, 1935

The Senate designated Charles Watkins as "parliamentarian and journal clerk." An Arkansas native, Watkins had been journal clerk since 1919, recording minutes of daily proceedings. While sitting in the Senate Chamber Watkins occasionally advised presiding officers on parliamentary procedures. In 1928, Vice President Charles Dawes observed: "He is called a 'journal clerk'...yet by indefatigable work almost every minute of the day and most of the night he has made himself the actual parliamentarian of the Senate." In 1935, with the increased legislative pace of the New Deal era, the Senate named Watkins as its first official parliamentarian.

July 2, 1915
Image of the 1915 Bombing in the Capitol Building

During the early months of World War I, a former Harvard University German language instructor decided to express his anger at America's apparent shift from a policy of neutrality to one of support for Great Britain. Just before the Capitol closed for the day, he placed three sticks of dynamite connected to a timer behind a telephone switchboard in the Senate Reception Room. He also left a note explaining, "This explosion is the exclamation point in my appeal for peace." At 11:40 p.m., the bomb exploded, causing extensive damage to the historic space. The bomber was soon apprehended.