The House

The People's Chamber

The founders expected the House of Representatives to take center stage in the new American government. They felt that its status as the only national institution with members elected directly by the people made the House uniquely important—and posed special dangers. "The evils we experience flow from the excess of democracy," warned Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts at the Constitutional Convention.

Through much of this early period, the House was indeed the nation's driving political force. It proposed the Bill of Rights, drafted legislation to create government agencies, carried out investigations, and shaped an aggressive policy toward Great Britain.

Getting Organized

The House of Representatives was new, yet rested on familiar foundations. The individual states had long experience with popularly elected legislatures. Representatives also looked to Britain's House of Commons, adopting ideas such as a presiding Speaker and basic parliamentary procedures. Its launch went smoothly.

Jeannette Rankin

Tue, 2013-04-23 15:43 -- administrator

While Rankin has become known for her votes against U.S. entry in both world wars, she had first come to Congress with a different agenda. She expected to play a vital role in passing a constitutional amendment that granted women the right to vote. But among the press and public, her votes against war overshadowed her other legislative interests.

Nicholas Longworth

Tue, 2013-04-23 15:35 -- administrator

Dismissed as a mere playboy, Longworth—the "most gorgeous bloom after dark," who "knew the milkmen of Washington by their first names"—was Theodore Roosevelt’s son-in-law. Yet as House Speaker, he showed his steel. His forceful defense of party government helped to revive the Speakership after the Progressive reform.

Rayburn Gavel, 1941

Tue, 2013-04-23 15:32 -- administrator

Speaker Sam Rayburn wielded this gavel during the House roll call votes to declare war against Germany and Italy on Thursday, December 11, 1941.

Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives, Gift of Irving Swanson

Head of Genius

Tue, 2013-04-23 15:31 -- administrator

This is a small-scale plaster version of the head of the symbolic child Genius protected by Peace in the House pediment by Paul Bartlett, located on the Capitol's East Front.

Tudor Place Historic House & Garden

Second image: Pediment, House wing, east front Capitol

Photograph © 1993 Fred J. Maroon


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