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hall formerly occupied by the House of Representatives, is situated in the south wing of the centre building, between the rotunda and the present hall of the House. This stately hall is one of the most interesting relics of the history of Congress. The grand and imposing architecture still remains firm, like the Constitution, bidding defiance, as it were, to all change. It is semicircular in form, 95 feet in length, and 60 feet in height to the apex of the vaulted ceiling. Twenty-four massive Corinthian columns, of variegated green breccia, support the entablature, from which springs the domed ceiling, beautifully painted in panel to imitate that of the Pantheon at Rome. From the centre of the ceiling rises a handsomely painted cupola, through which the light is admitted. In the tympanum of the arch stands a colossal statue of Liberty, modeled in plaster, by Signor Causici. Beneath this figure, upon the entablature, is the American eagle, modeled from life, and cut in sandstone, by Signor Valaperti. Over the main entrance from the rotunda, is a beautiful statue, by Franzoni, representing History standing in a winged car, the wheel of which, resting on a globe, forms the face of a clock. The figure lends a listening ear, and, with pen and volume in hand, seems about to record the events as time rolls on. A full-length portrait of Lafayette adorns the western wall of the hall,a present to Congress on the occasion of his visit to the United States, in 1825. The opposite wall bears a fulllength portrait of Washington, painted by Vanderlyn, by order of Congress, for which he received $2,500.
The Speaker's chair and desks have been removed, and the grand corridor traverses the hall to the south wing. The galleries, occupying the space between the
columns and the wall, are to be removed, and the floor laid with tessellated pavement, when the hall will form an open court, serving as an additional rotunda, and as a receptacle for historical paintings and sculpture.
The Document Library of the House.—This library occupies very incommodious apartments situated in the second story of the old south wing, and is reached by a flight of stairs at the left of the entrance of the old hall of Representatives. It contains about 65,000 volumes of documents, laws, reports, debates, and newspapers, and is accessible to members of Congress, and persons introduced by them. The library is to be removed to more suitable and convenient apartments in the south wing. It is in charge of a librarian appointed by the Clerk of the House.
The Commissioner of Public Buildings.—This officer has in charge the care of the public buildings in the city, the public parks and grounds, and all streets and avenues under the control of the government. He is appointed by the President, whom it is customary for him to serve in the capacity of usher at receptions and on occasions of ceremony. The Commissioner is assisted in his other duties by clerks, and occupies apartments on the west front of the basement story of the centre building of the Capitol.
The Court of Claims.—This court occupies rooms upon the basement story of the centre building of the Capitol, on the western front. The formation and duties of the court will be included in the chapter on the judicial department of the government.
The Capitol Grounds.
The Capitol is skirted on the western front by a stone terrace twenty-five feet wide, from which the glacis is descended by a double flight of stone steps to a second terrace or embankment, from which a second flight of steps leads to the sloping park below. These grounds are traversed by three flagged walks, fifteen feet wide, diverging from the foot of the first flight of steps and terminating at heavy stone gateways in the lofty iron palisade which surrounds the park. This park is ornamented with flower-beds and graveled walks, and a fountain in the centre, throwing a jet one hundred feet in height.
In the eastern park is a colossal statue of Washington, executed in marble by Horatio Greenough. He is represented sitting in a curule chair, his body nude to the waist, the right arm and lower limbs being draped. In his left hand he presents a Roman sword, hilt foremost, while with his right he points to heaven. The statue rests upon a pedestal of granite, twelve feet high, upon which is inscribed, “George Washington, First in War, First in Peace, and First in the Hearts of his Countrymen."
This statue is evidently an imitation of the antique statue of Jupiter Tonans. The ancients made their statues of Jupiter naked above and draped below, as being visible to the gods but invisible to men. This is eminently the case with this statue, being sufficiently exposed to the heavens, but scarcely recognizable, in this garb, to his countrymen.
The Capitol Guard.--The Capitol is protected by a vigilant police force, whose duty is to keep the peace and preserve order in and about the building and grounds, by day and night. There is a guard-room in the basement,
in which disturbers of the peace are temporarily confined, as occasion requires. The guard extend civilities, at all times, to strangers, and direct them to the different parts of the Capitol. They are easily distinguished by their badge.
The old Continental Congress and Congress of the Confederation, was composed of delegates sent from the colonies to discuss the grievances charged against the mothercountry, and to resolve upon measures of redress. The first session was held at Carpenters' Hall, Philadelphia, September 5, 1774. The following sessions commenced at Philadelphia, May 10, 1775; Baltimore, December 20, 1776; Philadelphia, March 4, 1777; Lancaster, Penn., September 27, 1777; York, Penn., September 30, 1777; Philadelphia, July 2, 1778; Princeton, N. J., June 30, 1783; Annapolis, Md., November 26, 1783; Trenton, N. J., November 1, 1784; New York City, January 11, 1785, where the session continued until August 12, 1790.
The Congress of the United States of America, under the Constitution, assembled for the first time, March 4, 1789, and on July 16, 1790, passed an act locating the present seat of government, with the provision that Congress should sit in Philadelphia until the seat of government should be removed; and Congress commenced its first session in the Capitol, in the city of Washington, November 17, 1800.
All legislative powers are vested, by the Constitution, in Congress, which consists of a Senate and House of Representatives, and must assemble at least once a year, on the first Monday in December, unless they shall by. law appoint a different day. The second session of every Congress terminates, by law, at twelve o'clock at noon, of the 4th of March next following the commencement of the session. A majority of each house constitutes a quorum to do business, but a smaller number may adjourn from day to day. Neither house can adjourn for more than three days without consent of the other. Senators and Representatives are bound by oath to support the Constitution. Members of both houses are privileged from arrest, except for treason, felony, or breach of the peace.
The Senate.—The Senate is composed of two Senators from each State, chosen by the legislature for six years. In case of a vacancy, the Governor of the State appoints until the next meeting of the legislature. No person can be a Senator under thirty years of age, or who has not been nine years a citizen of the United States, and is not at the time of election an inhabitant of the State for which he is chosen. The Vice-President is President of the Senate, but has no vote except on an equal division, when he has the casting-vote. On the motion of a Senator, the galleries may be cleared, and the doors closed for secret session. The Senate held their sessions with closed doors until the second session of the third Congress, when they decided to sit with open doors and galleries, and to allow the debates to be reported, except on occasions when secrecy is required by law, or thought advisable. Twelve o'clock at noon is the hour fór meeting, unless otherwise ordered. The Secretary of the Senate, the Sergeant-atarms, Doorkeeper, and Assistant-doorkeepers, are chosen on the second Monday of the first session of each Congress. The Vice-President does not participate in debate.