Today, the Capitol Visitors Center Commemorative Half Dollar Coin remembers the activities of 214 years ago today.
For the first time, the members of Congress met at the new Capitol in the Federal City of Washington, DC.
The capitol building was not finished, however the structure was such that the Representatives and Senators could begin their official meetings.
The day began in the House:
“Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States.
“Congress of the United States:
“Begun and held at the City of Washington, in the Territory of Columbia, on Monday, the seventeenth day of November, one thousand eight hundred, being the Second Session of the Sixth Congress held under the Constitution of Government of the United States:
“On which day, being the day appointed by law for the commencement of the present session, the following members of the House of Representatives appeared and took their seats in the House…”
The returning members that met that day included two from New Hampshire, seven from Massachusetts, one from Connecticut, six from New York, seven from Pennsylvania, six from Maryland, seven from Virginia, three from North Carolina, two from South Carolina and one from Tennessee.
In addition, a new member from Connecticut joined the group replacing a gentleman from that state that resigned his position.
In total, 43 members of the Federal House of Representatives met at the new location that day, however since a quorum was not present, the House adjourned until the next morning at 11 am.
For the Senate, the day similarly began:
“Congress of the United States.
“The Second Session of the Sixth Congress, conformably to the constitution of government of the United States, and as the law provides, commenced this day; and the Senate assembled at the city of Washington; being Monday, November 17, 1800.”
Their attendance included two each from New Hampshire, Connecticut and Tennessee and one each from Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Kentucky and Georgia.
In total, 15 men met in the Senate chambers on that day, but since the number did not equal a quorum, the Senate adjourned until 11 am the next day.
In Article I, Section 5, the Constitution states, “Each House shall be the Judge of the Elections, Returns and Qualifications of its own Members, and a Majority of each shall constitute a Quorum to do Business; but a smaller Number may adjourn from day to day, and may be authorized to compel the Attendance of absent Members, in such Manner, and under such Penalties as each House may provide.”
From the reverse of the Capitol Visitors Center Commemorative Half Dollar Coin, the Sixth Congress in 1800 had 32 Senators and 106 Representatives.
Both groups continued to meet each day and adjourning without a quorum.
During the week, the number of representatives in the House steadily increased to 54.
Likewise, the Senators in attendance grew to exceed a majority.
On Friday, November 21, 1800, the second session of the Sixth Congress achieved quorum in both chambers. The House and the Senate began their order of business.
The Capitol Visitors Center Commemorative Half Dollar Coin shows against an image of the Capitol, circa 1800.