The Mace of the United States House of Representativesalso called the Mace of the Republic, is a ceremonial mace and one of the oldest symbols of the United States government. It symbolizes the governmental authority of the United States, and more specifically, the legislative authority of the House of Representatives.
In one of its first resolutions, the U.S. House of Representatives of the 1st Federal Congress (April 14, 1789) established the Office of the Sergeant at Arms. The resolution stated "a proper symbol of office shall be provided for the Sergeant at Arms, of such form and device as the Speaker shall direct." The first Speaker of the House, Frederick Muhlenberg of Pennsylvania, approved the mace as the proper symbol of the Sergeant at Arms in carrying out the duties of this office.
The current mace has been in use since December 1, 1842. It was created by New York silversmith William Adams, at a cost of $400 (equivalent to $10,000 in 2019 ), to replace the first one that was destroyed when the Capitol Building was burned on August 24, 1814, during the War of 1812. A simple wooden mace was used in the interim.
The design of the mace is derived from an ancient battle weapon and the Roman fasces. The ceremonial mace is 46 inches (120 cm) high and consists of 13 ebony rods—representing the original 13 states of the Union—bound together by silver strands criss-crossed over the length of the pole. The rods are bound together by four crossing ribbons of silver, pinned together and held at the bottom and at the top by silver bands. The bands are decorated with floral borders and a repoussé design. The name “Wm. Adams/Manufacturer/New York/1841.” is engraved in the cartouche, located in the front center of the bottom band. This shaft is topped by a silver globe 4-1/2 inches in diameter and engraved with the seven continents, the names of the oceans, lines of longitude, and the major lines of latitude. The Western Hemisphere faces the front. The globe is encircled with a silver rim marked with the degrees of latitude, on which is perched an engraved solid silver eagle with a wingspan of 15 inches. The total weight of the mace is 10 pounds.
For daily sessions of the House, the Sergeant carries the silver and ebony mace of the House in front of the Speaker, in procession to the rostrum. When the House is in session, the mace stands on a cylindrical pedestal of green marble to the Speaker's right. When the House is in committee, it is moved to a lowered position on a pedestal next to the Sergeant at Arms' desk, more or less out of sight.Thus, members entering the chamber know immediately whether the House is in session or in committee.
In accordance with the House Rules, on the rare occasion that a member becomes unruly, the Sergeant at Arms, upon order of the Speaker, lifts the mace from its pedestal and presents it before the offenders, thereby restoring order.
There have been at least six instances where the Mace was used to quell disorder. The first known usage of the original mace occurred at the Congress Hall in Philadelphia on January 30, 1798, during a fight between Matthew Lyon of Vermont and Roger Griswold of Connecticut, after which Lyon faced an unsuccessful expulsion vote.
The mace was used to restore order on the House floor on the evening of January 31, 1877, during a special session regarding the election in Florida. Tensions flared and Speaker Samuel Randall "was unable to stop the Members from running from desk to desk, while conducting loud conversations." The Sergeant at Arms presented the Mace, but to little effect. House rules state that Members should be arrested when ignoring the authority of the Mace, but in this case since there were so many members involved, the Speaker adjourned the session.
In 1880, as the House met to discuss a funding bill as the Committee of the Whole, James B. Weaver of Iowa and William A.J. Sparks of Illinois became involved in a heated discussion, with members attempting to keep them apart. The Speaker ordered the Sergeant at Arms to walk about the floor of the House with the Mace, and order was restored. It was used twice in the 1890s in incidents involving Representative Charles L. Bartlett, a fiery Georgia Democrat who hurled a volume of laws at one colleague and brandished a knife at another.
House records indicate that the mace was last used to restore order during World War I when Representative J. Thomas (Cotton Tom) Heflin of Alabama suggested that some of his colleagues had been unpatriotic in voting against a resolution to enter the war.
A threat to present the mace was made on July 29, 1994, when Rep. Maxine Waters declined to stop speaking. The Speaker Pro Tem, Rep. Carrie Meek, threatened "to present the mace"; Waters left the floor shortly thereafter, and Meek said that she had been about to order the sergeant-at-arms to present it.
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In 1789, the House of Representatives passed a resolution that established the role of the Sergeant at Arms. The resolution stipulated that “a proper symbol of office shall be provided for the Sergeant at Arms, of such form and device as the Speaker shall direct.” The first Speaker of the House, Frederick Augustus Conrad Muhlenberg, chose a symbol with a long legislative tradition and an even longer tradition as an implement of war. In the Middle Ages, the mace was widely used in Europe as a weapon. However, by 1789, the mace was commonly used as a ceremonial symbol of legislative power. For example, maces were used in the Houses of Parliament of the United Kingdom and the general assembly in colonial Virginia.
The present mace, in use since 1842, was made by William Adams of New York. It is 46 inches tall and consists of 13 thin ebony rods, representing the 13 original states, bound together by bands of silver and topped with a silver globe bearing an eagle. The mace was originally used as a war club, primarily in Europe as late as the 16th century. It also was used by medieval bishops, by consuls of the Roman Republic and by provincial magistrates; eventually, it became a symbol of authority in the British House of Commons and the House of Lords.