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The Origins of Senatorial Courtesy

Today’s post comes from Christine Blackerby, an Outreach Specialist at the Center for Legislative Archives at the National Archives in Washington, DC. The Center for Legislative Archives is marking the 225th anniversary of the First Congress by sharing documents on Tumblr and Twitter; use #Congress225 to see all the postings.

Nomination of Benjamin Fishbourn and others to be Port Collectors, etc., August 3, 1789. (Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives)

Nomination of Benjamin Fishbourn and others to be Port Collectors, etc., August 3, 1789. (Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives)

Two hundred and twenty-five years ago, on August 3, 1789, President George Washington sent the Senate a seven-page list of nominees for port collectors. Several days before, he had signed an act establishing a system for collecting import taxes at the ports, and he acted quickly to staff the customs system so the new government could establish a steady flow of revenue.

The government’s inability to raise adequate revenue under the Articles of Confederation was one of the main reasons the Constitution had been adopted just the year before.

Washington sent his list of nominees to the Senate in observance of the Constitution’s requirement that the Senate give its “advice and consent” to Federal officers. The neatly prepared document listed each port and the positions to be filled.

The name of each nominee appears next to each position. Next to each name, a clerk in the Senate noted the outcome of the Senate’s votes. “Aye” is written next to all of the names but one—Benjamin Fishbourn for naval officer at the port of Savannah, Georgia.

Fishbourn was the first Presidential nominee to be rejected by the Senate, and the event marks the beginning of the custom of senatorial courtesy. This tradition holds that the Senate may reject a nominee who is not supported by the nominee’s home state senators. It encourages the President to engage the Senate in the “advice” part of the nomination process as well as the “consent” part.

In the case of Fishbourn, he was opposed by Senator James Gunn of Georgia. President Washington was reportedly angered at the rejection of his choice and went to the Senate directly to ask why. Senator Gunn told the President his reasons, but only after he made it clear that he was doing so out of his personal respect for Washington and that the Senate owed no explanation of its votes to any President.

Senatorial courtesy reflected the view that home state senators should have a voice in the selection of officials who could have a substantial impact within their state. By the early 1900s, this custom led to the advent of the “blue slip.”

Senator Thomas Hardwick’s Blue Slip for U.V. Whipple, April 11, 1917. (Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives)

Senator Thomas Hardwick’s Blue Slip for U.V. Whipple, April 11, 1917. (Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives)

The chairperson of the Senate Judiciary Committee sends a blue slip to the home state senators of a nominee for positions such as judge, attorney, or marshal.  It offers home state senators the opportunity to weigh in on the nominee and indicate whether the support or oppose the nomination.

This 1917 blue slip for U. V. Whipple to be a district judge for the southern district of Georgia is one of the earliest existing blue slips in the records of the Senate. Senator Thomas Hardwick of Georgia returned this blue slip to the committee chairman with a strong statement of his opinion. Hardwick wrote, “I object to this appointment—[Whipple] is personally offensive and objectionable to me, and I can not consent to the confirmation of the nominee.”

Under some Senate Judiciary chairmen, a “negative” blue slip was treated as a veto, and the chairman refused to move the nomination forward. At other times it was treated more as advisory. In 1917, the Judiciary Committee reported Whipple’s nomination to the full Senate, but recommended that the Senate reject Whipple. The Senate later voted against the nomination, thereby refusing to give its consent.

Although in 1789 Senator James Gunn couldn’t know the significance of his objection to President Washington’s nomination of Benjamin Fishbourn, it resulted in senatorial courtesy and later the blue slip—traditions that continue today.

 


An inaugural blunder

Today’s post is from David Steinbach, intern in the National Archives History Office.

Chief Justice William H. Taft administering the oath of office to Herbert Hoover, March 4, 1929. (Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum)

Chief Justice William H. Taft administering the oath of office to Herbert Hoover, March 4, 1929. (Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum)

William Howard Taft had unusually extensive experience with the Presidential oath of office. In 1909, Taft recited the text on the steps of the Capitol to become the 27th President of the United States.

Sixteen years later, as Chief Justice of the United States, Taft stood on the other side of the Bible and administered Calvin Coolidge’s swearing in.

By the time of Herbert Hoover’s inauguration ceremony in 1929, Taft should have mastered the oath. But the Chief Justice blundered nonetheless, substituting erroneously the phrase “preserve, maintain, and defend” for the traditional “preserve, protect, and defend.”

Letter from Chief Justice William Howard Taft to President Herbert Hoover Regarding the Oath of Office, 03/01/1929. (National Archives Identifier 7722952)

Letter from Chief Justice William Howard Taft to President Herbert Hoover Regarding the Oath of Office, 03/01/1929. (National Archives Identifier
7722952)

Taft could not blame lack of preparation. In the exhibit “Making Their Mark: Stories Through Signatures” currently open at the National Archives in Washington, DC, we see a particularly interesting letter from the Chief Justice to incoming President Hoover. The communication is dated March 1, 1929—three days before the inauguration. Taft described in great detail where the two men would stand, what text that he would recite, what Hoover’s response should be, and the logistics surrounding the Bible—all with the goal, as Taft asserted, that “you and I shall know what we are to do.”

Ironically, it was Taft, not Hoover, who made the false step.

Taft’s error may have gone overlooked were it not for the attentiveness of Helen Terwilliger, a 13-year-old from New York. Listening on the radio, the teenager caught the slip-up and wrote Taft a letter explaining the blunder.

In his reply, Taft acknowledged he had made a mistake but disagreed regarding the error itself, claiming that he had instead said “preserve, maintain, and protect.”

Eventually, three different news networks delved into their footage and concluded that Terwilliger’s account was correct—Taft had been mistaken not just once at the inauguration, but for a second time a few days after the fact.

Taft was by no means the last to botch the delivery of the Presidential oath. In 2009, Chief Justice John Roberts and incoming President Barack Obama shared an awkward silence when Roberts misplaced the word “faithfully.” Like Taft, Roberts had prepared extensively for the ceremony. But both Chief Justices realized that on the big stage, all their rehearsals—even the detailed instructions and predetermined movements Taft shared with the President—could not save them from error.

The exhibit “Making Their Mark: Stories through Signatures” is free and open to the public in the Lawrence F. O’Brien Gallery of the National Archives Building in Washington, DC, through January 5, 2015.


New York’s First Senators: Late to Their Own Party

Today’s post comes from Dan Ruprecht, intern in the Center for Legislative Archives at the National Archives in Washington, DC. The Center for Legislative Archives is marking the 225th anniversary of the First Congress by sharing documents on Tumblr and Twitter; use #Congress225 to see all the postings.

New York City's Common Council resolution granting the use of the City Hall to the new Congress, 9/17/1788. (Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives)

New York City’s Common Council resolution granting the use of the City Hall to the new Congress, 9/17/1788. (Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives)

When Congress opened its doors under the new Constitution for the first time on March 4, 1789, at Federal Hall in New York City there were only eight senators present out of 22 expected. The senators from the host state of New York were not among them. The day before, the New York state legislature had adjourned without electing any senators.

In February and March, the New York State Senate, controlled by the Federalists, and the State Assembly, controlled by the Anti-Federalists, fought bitterly over their preferred candidates for the U.S. Senate. Since both parties expected to win a majority in each house in New York’s upcoming elections in April, they were content to allow its Senate seats to remain vacant.

Therefore, as the First Congress met in New York City, New York itself was not represented in the Senate. The state legislature remained in a deadlock for five months. It was not until July 16, 1789, that Federalists Rufus King and Philip J. Schuyler were chosen as New York’s senators.

Ten days later, on July 26, 1789, they arrived at Federal Hall to present their credentials—arriving late to their state’s own party. Rufus King’s credentials, shown here, are signed by New York Governor George Clinton and serve as evidence of his election by the state legislature.

Credentials of Rufus King,  Senator from New York, July 16, 1789. (Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives)

Credentials of Rufus King, Senator from New York, July 16, 1789. (Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives)

 

The issue of senatorial deadlocks did not end with the First Congress. They are a consequence of the method of selection agreed upon by the Founders. Article I, Section 3, of the Constitution states, “The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, chosen by the Legislature thereof, for six Years.”

Since most state legislatures are bicameral, deadlocks frequently arose when the two houses were controlled by different political parties and could not agree on a candidate. Instead of compromising in these instances, state legislatures would simply not elect any senator for months, or even years.

Resolutions of the Utah State Legislature and Governor, March 6, 1897. (Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives)

Resolutions of the Utah State Legislature and Governor, March 6, 1897. (Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives)

Between 1891 and 1905 alone, 45 deadlocks occurred in 20 different states—in 14 of those cases no Senate election was held for an entire legislative session. For instance, the state of Delaware had elected only one senator to the 56th Congress (1899–1901), and no senators at all for the entire 57th Congress (1901–1903).

By the late 19-century, senatorial deadlocks had become relatively common. It was one of several factors that contributed to a surge of support for a constitutional amendment to allow citizens to directly elect senators.

In this 1897 petition suggesting a constitutional amendment for direct election of senators, the Utah State Legislature and Governor included a list of reasons why the amendment was necessary.

The first stated problem: deadlocks.

The issue of deadlocks, along with frequent allegations of corrupt senatorial elections and a push for more democratic participation in government, eventually led to the ratification of the 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1913.

This amendment abolished the system of senatorial election by state legislatures and replaced it with direct popular election by citizens. One hundred and twenty-four years after the first deadlock in New York, a new method for selecting senators ensured an end to empty seats in the Senate.

Senatorial Deadlocks, cartoon by Clifford Berryman, February 4, 1911. (National Archives Identifier 6010878)

Senatorial Deadlocks, cartoon by Clifford Berryman, February 4, 1911. (National Archives Identifier 6010878)


John Russell Pope’s Lincoln Memorial designs

Today’s post comes from Christina James, intern in the National Archives History Office. 

John Russell Pope's Competition Proposal for a Monument to Abraham Lincoln on Meridian Hill, Detail from North, 1912. (National Archives Identifier 6087981)

John Russell Pope’s Competition Proposal for a Monument to Abraham Lincoln on Meridian Hill, Detail from North, 1912. (National Archives Identifier
6087981)

Walking through our nation’s capital, you will inevitably come across at least one structure adorned with triangular pediments, massive columns, or a majestic dome. Many of Washington, DC’s most iconic buildings and monuments feature these elements and exemplify neoclassical architecture.

John Russell Pope, one of the most famous American neoclassical architects, believed that a democracy’s public buildings should be designed in the style of the ancient Greeks and Romans. Today, Pope’s designs are scattered throughout the city and include the Jefferson Memorial, the National Gallery of Art, and the National Archives.

However, one of the most recognizable neoclassical structures in the capital, the Lincoln Memorial, is not one of Pope’s designs. If Pope had been chosen to design the memorial, the National Mall would look very different.

The construction of a memorial to President Abraham Lincoln in Washington, DC, was first approved by Congress in 1911. The bill authorizing the construction created the Lincoln Memorial Commission to approve a site and a design for a memorial honoring the 16th President. The Committee was given a budget of $2 million dollars, the largest amount to ever be provided for a national memorial at the time.

Coming off of his enormously popular and celebrated design for the Temple of the Scottish Rite in Washington, DC, John Russell Pope was eager to be given the honor of designing the Lincoln Memorial. Despite Pope’s interest, the Commission of Fine Arts advised the Lincoln Memorial Commission to select architect Henry Bacon as the designer. Knowing  Pope’s interest in the project, and reluctant to accept the ideas of the Commission of Fine Arts, Representative Joseph G. Cannon of the Lincoln Memorial Commission laid out his own plan.

Cannon proposed that Bacon and Pope each be allowed to design a memorial. Perhaps in an attempt to give Pope a greater chance of being selected, Cannon arranged for Pope to present designs for two proposed sites, Meridian Hill and Old Soldiers’ Home. Bacon prepared a design for the third site, Potomac Park.

When the Lincoln Memorial Commission officially chose the Potomac Park site for the Lincoln Memorial, Bacon and Pope were each asked to submit one last design. The two men then presented their designs to the Lincoln Memorial Commission and President William Howard Taft.

Pope’s final proposed design was an enormous monument, circular in shape.

John Russell Pope’s Competition Proposal for a Monument to Abraham Lincoln, 1912. (National Archives Identifier 2581315)

John Russell Pope’s Competition Proposal for a Monument to Abraham Lincoln, 1912. (National Archives Identifier 2581315)

In addition to this design, he presented several alternative drawings, including pyramid and ziggurat style structures.

John Russell Pope’s Competition Proposal for a Ziggurat Style Monument to Abraham Lincoln, 1912. (National Archives Identifier 6065986)

John Russell Pope’s Competition Proposal for a Ziggurat Style Monument to Abraham Lincoln, 1912. (National Archives Identifier 6065986)

In the end, the Commission of Fine Arts awarded Henry Bacon the job, choosing to stick with their initial recommendation. Though the structures Pope designed for the Lincoln Memorial were never constructed, they were widely appreciated at the time. His designs were released and displayed by prestigious architects clubs in 1914 and received a great deal of interest and admiration from the public.

John Russell Pope’s Competition Proposal for a Pyramid with Porticoes Style Monument to Abraham Lincoln, 1912. (National Archives Identifier 6087967)

John Russell Pope’s Competition Proposal for a Pyramid with Porticoes Style Monument to Abraham Lincoln, 1912. (National Archives Identifier 6087967)

Today, these drawings are kept among the records of the Office of Public Buildings and Public Parks of the National Capital at the National Archives.

John Russell Pope went on to have great success and see his later designs become celebrated landmarks in Washington, DC, and other cities around the country.

Construction on Bacon’s design began in 1914 and the Lincoln Memorial was completed in 1922.


Roberto Clemente, A Legacy Beyond Baseball

Today’s post comes from Idaliz Marie Ortiz Morales, Intern in the Office of Strategic Planning and Communications at the National Archives. To find out more about our Bilingual Social Media Project.

Today the National Archives remembers baseball superstar Roberto Clemente. It has been many years since his death, but to this day Clemente is remembered as one of the greatest players and humanitarians of all time. Clemente has come to represent much more than just baseball where he played right fielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1955 to1972. His devoted following extends around the world. More than 40 schools and 200 parks are named in his honor in places ranging from Puerto Rico to Germany. The way in which this great baseball player died is a part of his legacy.

Clemente was flying from San Juan, Puerto Rico, his native homeland, to Managua, Nicaragua, carrying aid to the Nicaraguans who had been devastated by an earthquake on December 22, 1972. That trip exemplified how Clemente had been raised and lived, always helping others. In the final years of his life, his mantra was: “If you have a chance to make life better for others and fail to do so, you are wasting your time on this earth.”

Service Record for Roberto Clemente Walker  National Archives Identifier: 7329767

Service Record for Roberto Clemente Walker
National Archives Identifier: 7329767

Most people do not know that not only was Clemente a baseball player, he was also a Marine. Instead of playing winter ball in Puerto Rico during the 1958-59 off season like the rest of the league, Clemente enlisted in the United States Marine Corps Reserve, spending six years of military commitment as an infantryman. The rigorous conditioning and military training kept him in shape throughout the winter. Clemente remained in the Marine Corps until 1964, but this did not slow down his game. When the Pittsburgh Pirates started spring training for the World Series in 1964, however, the schedule conflicted with Clemente’s military commitment. The Pirates, supported by former state Senator John M. Walker, asked U.S. Senator Hugh Scott to consider Clemente for an early discharge so he would be able to participate in the World Series.

During his career as a National League player, he won the award for Most Valuable Player once, and was an All-Star 12 times, batting champion four times, and a 12-time Golden Glove winner. In 1972, Clemente got his 3,000 major league hit.

Letter from Former State Senator John M. Walker to United States Senator Hugh Scott National Archives Identifier: 7329775

Letter from Former State Senator John M. Walker to United States Senator Hugh Scott
National Archives Identifier: 7329775

Clemente had shared with a former military training officer his three goals in life. The first goal was to be on a World Series Championship team. His second was to win a batting championship. And his third goal was to build a recreation center in San Juan, the capital of Puerto Rico. Apart from having achieved these three goals, months after his death Clemente was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. He was the first Latino so honored and joined Lou Gehrig as the only members not required to wait five years, after their playing days, to be considered for the Hall of Fame.

Honorable Discharge 09/11/1964  National Archives Identifier: 7329770

Honorable Discharge 09/11/1964
National Archives Identifier: 7329770

Clemente may not have been the best player to have played in the history of the game, but there is no doubt that there was no one like him on the field or off and that he is one of the greatest baseball players in history. No matter how long has passed since his death, time has not erased the legacy of this figure from the minds and hearts of not only Hispanics, but baseball lovers all around.

To honor his memory, The Roberto Clemente Award is given every year to the baseball player who displays humanitarian effort and truly understands the value of helping others just as much as Clemente did.

En español:

Hoy, los Archivos Nacionales, recuerdan a la superestrella del béisbol Roberto Clemente. Han pasado muchos años desde su muerte, pero aún hoy en día Clemente es recordado como uno de los mejores jugadores y humanistas de todos los tiempos. Clemente ha llegado a representar mucho más que el béisbol donde jugó “jardinero derecho” de los Piratas de Pittsburgh desde 1955 hasta 1972. Sus devotos seguidores se extienden por todo el mundo. Cuenta con más de 40 escuelas y 200 parques que en su honor llevan su nombre alrededor del mundo desde Puerto Rico a Alemania. La forma en la que murió este gran jugador del béisbol es parte de su legado.

Clemente viajaba desde San Juan, Puerto Rico, su tierra natal, a Managua, Nicaragua, y llevaba ayuda a los nicaragüenses que habían sido devastadas por un terremoto el 22 de diciembre de 1972. Ese viaje ejemplifico la forma en que Clemente había sido criado y había vivido, siempre ayudando a los demás. En los últimos años de su vida, su lema era: “Si usted tiene la oportunidad de mejorar la vida de los demás y no lo hace, usted está perdiendo su tiempo en esta tierra.”

Registro de servicio para Roberto Clemente Walker Identificador Nacional de Archivos: 7329767

Registro de servicio para Roberto Clemente Walker
Identificador Nacional de Archivos: 7329767

Mucha gente no sabe que Clemente no era sólo un jugador de béisbol sino que también formaba parte de la Infantería de la Reserva de la Marina. En vez de jugar pelota invernal en Puerto Rico durante la temporada de 1958-59 como lo hizo el resto de la liga, Clemente se alistó en la Infantería de la Reserva de la Marina de los Estados Unidos, pasando seis años de compromiso militar como soldado de la infantería. El riguroso acondicionamiento y entrenamiento militar lo mantuvo en forma durante todo el invierno. Clemente permaneció en la Infantería de la Marina hasta 1964, pero esto no redujo la velocidad de su juego. Cuando los Piratas de Pittsburgh comenzaron los entrenamientos en la primavera para la Serie Mundial de 1964 el programa entro en conflicto por el compromiso militar de Clemente. Los Piratas, apoyados por el ex senador estatal John M. Walker le pidieron al Senador de los Estados Unidos Hugh Scott que considerara a Clemente para un alta temprana por lo que sería capaz de participar en la Serie Mundial.

Durante su carrera como jugador de la Liga Nacional, ganó el premio al Jugador Más Valioso una vez y fue un “All-Star” 12 veces, campeón de bateo en cuatro ocasiones y ganador del Guante de Oro 12 veces. En 1972, Clemente consiguió su hit 3000 de las Grandes Ligas.

Carta del ex senador estatal John M. Walker a Senador de los Estados Unidos Hugh Scott Identificador Nacional de Archivos: 7329775

Carta del ex senador estatal John M. Walker a Senador de los Estados Unidos Hugh Scott
Identificador Nacional de Archivos: 7329775

Clemente había compartido con un ex oficial de la formación militar sus tres grandes metas en la vida. La primera meta era estar en un equipo campeón de la Serie Mundial. Su segundo era ganar un campeonato de bateo. Y su tercera meta era construir un centro de recreación en San Juan, la capital de Puerto Rico. Además de haber logrado estas tres metas, meses después de su muerte, Clemente fue exaltado al Salón de la Fama en 1973. Él fue el primer latino en recibir este honor,se unió a Lou Gehrig como los únicos miembros a quienes no se les requirió esperar cinco años, después de que sus días como jugador hayan acabado, para ser considerado al Salón de la Fama.

Licenciamiento honorable 11/09/1964  Identificador Nacional de Archivos: 7329770

Licenciamiento honorable 11/09/1964
Identificador Nacional de Archivos: 7329770

Clemente quizás no sea el mejor jugador en haber jugado en la historia del béisbol, pero no hay duda de que no había nadie como él en el campo o fuera del  mismo y que él es uno de los mejores jugadores de béisbol en la historia. No importa cuánto tiempo ha pasado desde su muerte, el tiempo no ha podido borrar el legado y recuerdo que esta figura ha dejado en  los corazones y las mentes, no sólo de los hispanos, pero de todos los amantes del béisbol alrededor de todo el mundo.

Para honrar su memoria, el Premio Roberto Clemente es entregado cada año al jugador de béisbol que muestra un esfuerzo humanitario y  demuestra verdaderamente entender el valor de ayudar a los demás como lo hizo Clemente.