Constitutional Mandate by David Barton 05/07/2010
This second plaque in the Small Senate Rotunda notes that on November 22nd, President John Adams delivered the first Presidential speech ever given in this building – a speech given to the first joint-session of Congress assembled in the original Senate Chamber. His speech was quite short, but in it, President John Adams offered his prayer for this city. According to the Records of Congress, John Adams prayed:
May this territory [Washington, D.C.] be the residence of virtue and happiness! In this city, may that piety and virtue, that wisdom and magnanimity, that constancy and self-government which adorned the great character whose name it bears, be forever held in veneration! Here and throughout our country, may simple manners, pure morals, and true religion flourish forever! 75 This is quite a prayer for Washington, D. C. – and for the nation – and it was a prayer which occurred in the room immediately behind the plaque – the original Senate Chamber now called the Old Supreme Court Chamber).
Another item of significance connected with this part of the Capitol is one of the first official acts of Congress. This occurred when our Founders moved into and first occupied this room and the adjoining chamber, and this action is recorded in the Annals of Congress.
David Barton explains that the records of Congress are required by the constitutional mandate of Article I, Section 5, ¶ 3, which requires that written records be kept of the proceedings in Congress. The Founders required this because they wanted government open, accessible, and accountable to the people.
With the congressional records, citizens, at any time, may read what our elected officials are doing and saying – or not doing and not saying – and then hold them accountable. Every debate and every vote which has taken place in Congress from 1774 to the present is recorded in these public records. And it is because of these records that we know exactly what happened when Congress moved into this building.
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