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The Law Library’s Constitution Helps Swear in Congress

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The following is a guest post by James Martin, Reading Room Operations Coordinator.

We the People...

On January 5, 2011, the 112th Congress assembled in Washington for the beginning of its term.  The first order of business for the House of Representatives was administering the oath of office, as set forth at title 5 United States Code §3331, to all of the members of the House.  At the request of the House of Representatives, the Law Library of Congress provided a copy of the Constitution of the United States of America that representatives could use during swearing in ceremonies.

Acts passed at the First Congress of the United States of America

The selected imprint dates from 1789, and was printed by Francis Childs and John Swaine, two prominent printers from New York City.  Childs and Swaine printed several documents and laws from early Congresses, including broadside publications of individual laws that can be found on the American Time Capsule webpage of the American Memory website.

After the conclusion of the first session of the first Congress in September 1789, Childs and Swaine printed a collection of the acts and resolutions of the session.  This publication includes the text of the Constitution as adopted and the first 12 proposed amendments that were submitted to the states.  Ten of these proposed amendments would subsequently be ratified and become the Bill of Rights; one, concerning congressional pay, would be ratified in 1992.  Childs and Swaine would continue to print the text of congressional documents and laws in New York, and later Philadelphia, until 1795.

The Law Library has five copies of this work.  The item used for the ceremony was restored by the Library of Congress Books and Paper Conservation Section.

For more on the Constitution from the Law Library of Congress, see Christine’s post.

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