2 Replies Latest reply on Dec 16, 2019 11:34 AM by Legislative Archives

    Church services held in House Chambers


      On December 4, 1800, the Speaker of the House informed Congress that, on suggestion of the Chaplain, "divine services" would be held on Sundays in the House Chambers. I am trying to find more information about this subject, but am struggling to do so

        • Re: Church services held in House Chambers
          LOC Manuscript Division Tracker

          Hello Mr.Goodman:


          A discussion of early church services in the House of Representatives appears on pages 84-97 of  Religion and the Founding of the American Republic by James H. Hutson (Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 1998).  The book is a catalog for an exhibition of the same title that was shown at the Library in the summer of 1998.  An electronic copy of the book is available through the HathiTrust website at  http://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/003263301 , and an online version of the exhibit is at  http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/religion/ .


          The catalog cites a February 1801 letter from Senate Chaplain Thomas Claggett as a source for dating House services in the fall of 1800 (Claggett to James Kemp, 18 February 1801, Maryland Diocesan Archives).


          The journals of the House and Senate can be read through the Library’s American Memory presentation “A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation” website at http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/amlaw/lawhome.html .  I note that Thomas Claggett was appointed “Chaplain to Congress” on November 27, 1800.  In a brief look I didn’t see any references to Sunday services, but such events may not have been recorded as official legislative business.


          References to Sunday services in the Capitol might be found in local DC newspapers such as The National Intelligencer and Washington Advertiser, which began publication on 31 October 1800.  An online version can be viewed through the Library’s “Chronicling America” website at https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045242/ .


          We hope that this information is useful.


          Reference Staff

          Manuscript Division

          Library of Congress

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          • Re: Church services held in House Chambers
            Legislative Archives Scout

            Hi Calvin -- thank you for posting to History Hub!


            The Center for Legislative Archives, a unit within the National Archives, holds the official records of congressional committees, and the records of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate as a whole. It does not look like we have anything in our holdings from the sixth Congress on divine services in the House chambers.


            Via Congress.gov, the official source for U.S. federal legislative information, I found three resolutions introduced in the House in the 110th (H.Res.888), 111th (H.Res.397), and 112th (H.Res.253) Congresses to designate an "America's Spiritual Heritage Week." In the text of the resolution, one of the statements reads: "Whereas in 1800, Congress approved the use of the just-completed Capitol structure as a church building, with Divine Services to be held each Sunday in the Hall of the House, alternatively administered by the House and Senate chaplains."


            The Journals of Congress and the Debates of Congress are freely available online through A Century of Lawmaking. The only reference I can find to this topic is in the Annals of Congress on Dec. 4, 1800, (page 797) when "The Speaker informed the House that the Chaplains had proposed, if agreeable to the House, to hold Divine service every Sunday in their Chamber." In the House Journal on that same date there's no further reference.


            I hope this information is helpful.




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