Obrázky stránek
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

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 for 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. The House of Representatives.—This body is composed of members chosen every second year by the people of the States, and each is required to be twenty-five years of age, seven years a citizen of the United States, and an inhabitant of the State in which he is chosen. The apportionment of Representatives to population is made every ten years, after taking the census, the whole number being divided by 233, the number to which the House is limited by law, gives the rate of representation to population. There may be a greater number of Representatives when new States are admitted between the periods of the census. Delegates from Territories have a seat upon the floor, and a voice in debate, but no vote. The Speaker and officers of the House are chosen by the House for the Congress. The privileges of the Speaker are the same as those of any other Representative. The House meets at twelve o'clock at noon, unless otherwise specially ordered.

Committees.—The appointment of committees of the two Houses is by the Vice-President and Speaker, respectively. To these committees is confided the initiation of business. The chairman of each committee reports, by bill or otherwise, and upon such report the Senate or House goes into Committee of the Whole House, when all the members are regarded as forming one committee. The Speaker calls a member to take the chair. Speaker is then allowed to participate in debate. The Vice-President does not leave the chair. After consideration of the subject before the committee, it rises, and the chairman reports the action of the committee to the House or Senate.




The judicial powers of the government are vested in a Supreme Court and such inferior courts as Congress may from time to time establish. The present establishment consists of a Supreme Court, Circuit Courts, District Courts, and Court of Claims.

[blocks in formation]

This court consists of a Chief Justice and eight Associates, appointed by the President, to hold their offices during good behavior, any five of whom shall be a quorum, and hold annually one session, commencing on the first Monday in December. The court has exclusive jurisdiction of all controversies of a civil nature, where a State is a party, except between a State and its citizens, and except also between a State and citizens of other States, or aliens,—in which latter case it has original, but not exclusive jurisdiction. It has, exclusively, all such jurisdiction of suits or proceedings against ambassadors as a court can have, by the law of nations. The trial of issues in fact, are by jury. This court has appellate jurisdiction from the Circuit and State courts, in certain cases provided for by law. Each justice is also judge of one of the circuit courts. The officers of the court are, the Attorney-General, a clerk, deputy-clerk, reporter, marshal, and crier. Attorneys and counselors admitted to the bar of the court, must have practiced three years in the supreme court of the State in which they reside, and must have a fair private and professional character. They must take the oath to support the law and the Constitution. The court, in term-time, sits daily from 11 A. M. to 3 P. M.

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

By act of Congress, September 24th, 1789, a person learned in the law is appointed to act as Attorney-General of the United States, sworn to a faithful execution of his office. It is his duty to prosecute and conduct all suits in the Supreme Court in which the United States are concerned, and give his advice upon questions of law, when required by the President, or when requested by the heads of any of the departments, touching any matters that may concern their departments. He is a Cabinet officer, and meets the President and Secretaries in council. He is allowed an assistant, three clerks, and a messenger.

[blocks in formation]

This court was established February 24th, 1855, and consists of three judges, appointed by the President, by and with the consent of the Senate. Any two of the judges constitute a quorum. They hold their offices during good behavior, and hear and determine all claims founded upon any law of Congress, or upon any regulation of an executive department, or upon any contract,

« PředchozíPokračovat »