How Do You Implement a New Government When Nobody Shows Up to Govern?

Federal HallAt first glance you may have thought that this post had something to do with the habits of some of our current members of Congress.  Nope.  The title of the post is referencing the first meeting of the United States Congress in 1789.

Here is a taste of Erick Trickey‘s piece at Smithsonian.com:

Cannons fired 11 shots at sunrise, one for each state that had ratified the Constitution. At noon, they fired again, to announce the opening of Congress. It was March 4, 1789, and a new federal government had dawned. But awkwardly, no one was ready. Only eight senators and 13 representatives showed up at New York’s newly renovated Federal Hall for the festivities. Where was everyone?

The excuses were various: The members of the new government were sick, late, slowed by weather, not even elected yet. Others simply didn’t bother to attend. The new republic had a new congress—but it was off to an embarrassing start.

Pennsylvania senator Robert Morris was just across the Hudson River in New Jersey, writing to his wife that “the wind blew so hard, the Evening so dark & Fogg so Thick,” he didn’t dare get on a boat. Congressman Theodorick Bland of Virginia was still in his home state, “shipwrecked & landwrecked, mired, fatigued with walking.” New York’s legislature, split between Federalists and Antifederalists, hadn’t yet chosen its U.S. senators.

Even new congressman James Madison, who had done so much to draft the new Constitution and argue for its ratification, got to New York late. Fresh off a victory over his friend James Monroe in Virginia’s congressional election, he’d stopped by Mount Vernon on the way north to help George Washington draft his inaugural address. Then he got caught on muddy roads.

Read the entire piece here.