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STATUTES 1-20, FISCAL YEARS 1789-1879 This report is a chronological history of laws and resolutions en

a acted through the 98th Congress, 1st Session that have concerned the police force of the Capitol buildings and grounds.

In all surveyed accounts of the actions of the American national authorities between the meeting of the First Continental Congress in 1774 and the election of Thomas Jefferson in 1800, there is no mention of a Capitol Police Force.

The apparent non-existence of such a force continued despite a protest demonstration by Pennsylvania troops at the Pennsylvania Statehouse, where Congress was meeting in June 1783. At issue in the protest was the anger of troops over failure by Congress to pay for certain military services rendered in the Revolutionary War. Since no Congressman was injured in the flare-up at Philadelphia, no move was made at that time either to protect Members of Congress or to protect the buildings housing Congress through the establishment of a special police force for that purpose.

In an Act of February 27, 1801, after the removal of the seat of government to Washington in the latter part of 1800, Congress provided for a Marshal for the District to have custody of the jails and the safe keeping of prisoners. The Act also provided for the appointment of Justices of the Peace for "the conservation of the peace .

The first person reported to be employed at the Capitol was John Golding who took up his duties in 1801 at a salary of $371.75 a year. His purpose: “to take as much care as possible of the property of the United States.” Mr. Golding was granted no legal authority. His sole power was in his right, as a citizen, to temporarily detain anyone suspected of damaging or threatening to damage the

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Other than the U.S. Public Statutes At Large, the sources used in tracing the history were: Annals of Congress, 1790-1824; Register of Debates in Congress, 1824-1837; Congressional Globe, 1833-1874; the Revised Statutes, 1873-1874; the Congressional Record, 1874 to the present time; and committee hearings, prints and reports.

Terms used in searching these sources were: Appropriations, Deficiency Appropriations, Legislative and Executive Appropriations, Capitol Buildings and Grounds, Capitol Police, Commissioner of Public Buildings, Guard(s), Police, Militia, Sergeant at Arms, Washington City, and Watchmen.

Although the United States Code and U.S. Code Annotated were also used in preparing this report the Code is presumed to be the codification of the Federal statutes and the official restatement of the law in force, it has been noted that this "presumption is rebuttable if the Code is at variance with the law as given in the Statutes at Large, inasmuch as many of the general and permanent laws which are required to be incorporated in the Code are redundant, archaic, and obsolete ..." (Harold C. Relyea. Title 44, United States Code-Public Printing and Documents. Congressional Research Report No. 79-3 Gov. February 23, 1979, p. 1) 2 “An Act concerning the District of Columbia," 2 Stat. 103.

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property of the United States. To see to the sustained detention of a suspect, Mr. Golding was required to seek the assistance of the Marshal of the District of Columbia. 3

In March 1802, shortly before the incorporation of the City of Washington, Representative Samuel Smith of Maryland presented a petition to the House, from the citizens of Washington praying that "such a system of internal government, or police, may be adopted as Congress shall see fit . . ."4

On May 3, 1802, the President signed into law, "An Act to incorporate the inhabitants of the City of Washington, in the District of Columbia.” The Act gave the Corporation - the authority to establish "night watches or patroles.” At that time, the Marshal, the Justices of the Peace, and the night watches or patroles constituted the law enforcement contingent of the District of Columbia. 6

In 1807 the Surveyor of Public Buildings reported to the House of Representatives that because 400 to 500 people per year were visiting the Congress, it had become difficult to differentiate be. tween those who were there on business and those “idle and dissolute persons who roamed the whole building.” He also reported that the walls had been defaced and the furniture had been objects of depredation. Consequently, he recommended that provision be made for an “officer” to be stationed at the foot of the stairs at the east entrance of the south wing to regulate the admission of all persons.?

On August 24, 1814, during the War of 1812, a British force entered Washington, D.C., and set fire to several Federal facilities, including the Capitol. Reconstruction work on the Capitol was begun in 1815 and completed in 1827. From 1815 to 1823 the Capitol guard continued to consist of one watchman, but in 1823, at the order of President Monroe, the watchman was reinforced with a detachment of U.S. Marines. The Marines also were required to rely upon the District of Columbia law enforcement officers in the matter of detaining persons accused of criminal activity on Federal property

On February 28, 1824 an attempt was made by some Members of Congress to establish a police force for the Capitol, when the following Joint Resolution was presented to the House:

Mr. Van Rensselaer, of New York, from a select committee, to whom was referred an inquiry into the expediency of establishing a police for the Capitol, reported the following joint resolution:

Resolved, That the police regulations of the Corporation of the City of Washington be construed to extend to the public grounds, so far as relates to the preservation of the public order.

2. That no spirituous liquors be retailed any where in the Capitol, or on the public grounds near the same, with or without license.

3. That the Doorkeeper of the House of Representatives be charged with the preservation of the floor and walls of all the apartments of the Capitol, not under the care of the Sergeant-at-Arms of the Senate, under the direction of the Speaker of the House of Representatives.


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3 Letters of the Commissioner of Public Buildings, Records of the National Archives. Letter dated November 6, 1801. 4 Annals of Congress. 7th Cong., 1st Sess., v. 11, p. 1087.

Consisting of a Mayor and a twelve-member Council appointed by the President. 6 2 Stat. 195, 197.

? U.S. Congress. House. Documentary History of the U.S. Capitol Building and Grounds. House Report No. 646, 58th Cong., 2d Šess. Washington, U.S. Govt. Print. Off. 1904: 129, 130.


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