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Commemorating The 200Th Anniversary Of Congressional Cemetery

Rep. Nick J. Rahall II

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Mr. Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and agree to the resolution (H. Res. 698) commemorating the 200th anniversary of Congressional Cemetery.

The Clerk read the title of the resolution.

The text of the resolution is as follows:

Whereas 2007 is the 200th anniversary of the founding of Congressional Cemetery; Whereas Congressional Cemetery, first called the Washington Parish Burial Ground, was founded in 1807 near the banks of the Anacostia River in the District of Columbia and served the new federal city and a young America as its first unofficial national cemetery, predating Arlington National Cemetery by 70 years; Whereas Congress was the primary developer of the cemetery through appropriations for road grading, fencing, building of the Public Vault and its Slate Path, and construction of the original Gatehouse, and Congress ultimately attached its name to the burial ground as early as the 1830's, referring to it as Congressional Cemetery; Whereas within months of the establishment of the cemetery, the first burial of a Member of Congress took place when Senator Uriah Tracey (CT) died in Washington on July 19, 1807, and was interred the following day; Whereas there are 19 Senators and 71 Representatives interred at Congressional Cemetery, and its cenotaphs, designed by second Architect of the Capitol Benjamin Latrobe, mark 165 sites to honor Members of Congress who died in office; Whereas Congressional Cemetery holds more than 55,000 individuals in 30,000 burial sites marked by 14,000 headstones; Whereas among those who have been buried at Congressional Cemetery are Vice Presidents George Clinton and Elbridge Gerry; Tobias Lear, personal secretary to George Washington; Commodore Thomas Tingey, first commandant of the Washington Navy Yard; William Wirt and William Pinckney, Attorneys General of the United States; Generals Jacob J. Brown and Alexander Macomb of the U.S. Army; General Archibald Henderson, longest-serving Commandant of the Marine Corps; Dr. William Thornton, who originally designed the United States Capitol and was the first Architect of the Capitol; George Watterston, third Librarian of Congress; Robert Mills, architect of the Washington Monument, the Department of Treasury Building, the Old Post Office, and the original U.S. Patent Office Building (current home of the National Museum of American Art and National Portrait Gallery); Philip P. Barbour, Speaker of the House of Representatives and Associate Justice of the Supreme Court; and 10 mayors of the City of Washington; Whereas several prominent Native Americans who died while in Washington were buried at Congressional Cemetery, including Push-Ma-Ta-Ha, Chief of the Choctaws and a Brigadier General of the U.S. Army, and Kan Ya Tu Duta (or Scarlet Crow), a delegate of the Dakota Sioux; Whereas among other significant figures in American history who are interred at Congressional Cemetery are Belva Lockwood, the first woman to practice law before the Supreme Court; conductor and composer John Philip Sousa; Adelaide Johnson, suffragette and sculptor of the ``Portrait Monument'' to Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Susan B. Anthony in the Rotunda of the Capitol; Civil War photographer Matthew Brady; silent film star Mary Fuller; and FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover; Whereas the Congressional Cemetery was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on June 23, 1969; Whereas the National Trust for Historic Preservation named Congressional Cemetery one of the 11 most endangered historical sites in America on June 16, 1997; Whereas for over 30 years the cemetery has been managed by the nonprofit Association for the Preservation of Historic Congressional Cemetery, whose mission is to preserve, interpret, and honor this national treasure, significant District of Columbia landmark, and unique Capitol Hill asset; and Whereas by working with community volunteers such as the Congressional Cemetery Dogwalkers Club, as well as with the Department of Veterans Affairs, the National Park Service, the Navy, and the Joint Military District of Washington, the Association for the Preservation of Historic Congressional Cemetery has made significant improvements to the cemetery: Now, therefore, be it Resolved, That on the 200th anniversary of the founding of Congressional Cemetery, the House of Representatives recognizes and honors the cultural and historical importance of Congressional Cemetery and the value of protecting and restoring this national treasure.

Pursuant to the rule, the gentleman from West Virginia (Mr. Rahall) and the gentleman from Utah (Mr. Bishop) each will control 20 minutes.

The Chair recognizes the gentleman from West Virginia.

Rep. Nick J. Rahall II

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Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all Members may have 5 legislative days in which to revise and extend their remarks and include extraneous material on the resolution under consideration.

Is there objection to the gentleman from West Virginia?

There was no objection.

Rep. Nick J. Rahall II

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The pending resolution, introduced by our colleague from New York, Representative James Walsh, and cosponsored by Representative Farr of California, recognizes and honors the cultural and historical importance of Congressional Cemetery here in Washington, DC, on the occasion of its 200th anniversary.

Established on the banks of the Anacostia River, Congressional Cemetery started as a neighborhood burial ground. But with the death and interment of Connecticut Senator Uriah Tracy in 1807, it became the favored place for burial for Members of Congress who passed away while Congress was in session. Seventy-one representatives and 19 Senators are buried at Congressional Cemetery. Other prominent citizens were buried there as well, including members of the Armed Forces, Mayors of Washington, DC, well-known Native Americans, architects, and artists.

I fully support passage of H. Res. 698 and urge its adoption.

Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

Rep. Rob Bishop

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Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak on House Resolution 698 and will again yield myself such time as I may consume.

This bill has been very well explained by the chairman. Congressman Walsh, as well as the cosponsor, the gentleman from California, should be commended for their work on this particular bill. I urge its adoption.

At this time, I would like to yield such time as he may consume to the author of the bill, the gentleman from New York (Mr. Walsh).

Rep. James T. Walsh

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Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my distinguished friend from Utah (Mr. Bishop) for yielding me time, and to the chairman of the committee, Mr. Rahall, for the courtesy of bringing this bill up on suspension, and also my colleague and good friend from California, Sam Farr, for cosponsoring this bill.

I rise today in support of House Resolution 698, a resolution commemorating the 200th anniversary of the Congressional Cemetery. Nineteen Senators and 71 Representatives are interred at the cemetery, located at the corner of 18th Street and E in southwest Washington, as well as monuments to 120 Members of Congress who died while in office.

Congressional Cemetery, older than the more well-known Arlington National Cemetery, served as our Nation's first unofficial national burial ground. In 1997, my good friend, Jim Oliver, who worked for many, many years in the Republican cloakroom and provided great service to this institution, brought the cemetery's poor condition to my attention, and at the same time, the National Trust for Historic Preservation named this cemetery one of America's most endangered places.

After personally visiting the cemetery back then, I understood why. Headstones were turned over, grass was 2 feet tall, trees had fallen onto buildings, and headstones had damaged the integrity of this sacred place. As chairman of the Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee, I was in a position at the time to do something to save this piece of history from becoming history.

In fiscal year 1999 appropriations, the Congress appropriated $1 million for the creation of a special Congressional Cemetery trust fund to restore and sustain this treasured landmark. Money was raised to match these funds in the private sector, and that fund now pays for the constant maintenance in perpetuity for this cemetery.

Some of America's great historic figures are buried in Congressional Cemetery, including Vice President and Declaration of Independence signer Elbridge Gerry, whose name is carried into my home district of Elbridge, New York; civil war photographer Matthew Brady; composer John Philip Sousa; and perhaps the most famous, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover is also buried there.

This legislation recognizes the work of the Association for the Preservation of Historic Congressional Cemetery, charged with management and preservation of this historic site, and pledges that this body will never again forget the cemetery's important role in the development of our Nation's government and cultural foundations. I urge its adoption, and I thank the Chair and the ranking member for their courtesy.

Rep. Sam Farr

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Mr. Speaker, I rise today to commend my colleague, Mr. Walsh, for his efforts in bringing attention to a marvelous memorial and historical site at the other end of the Capitol venue. I speak of the Congressional Cemetery and the resolution we consider today, H. Res. 698, to commemorate the cemetery's 200th anniversary.

Many people think of cemeteries as dreary places. But I see them differently. Cemeteries are the great repositories of more than just the long dead. They are centers of civilization.

They teach us about our heroes.

They teach us about our faith.

They give us clues about our culture and architecture and art.

They are our history all wrapped up in one place. Places like this deserve to be preserved and appreciated.

The Congressional Cemetery was first established to accommodate the repose of our predecessors who met their end while in Washington. Back in those days refrigeration was not available and the deceased had to be dealt with quickly. Many members, so far from home, needed a resting place of some dignity. The Congressional Cemetery became that place.

The cemetery passed out of congressional control and unfortunately later fell into neglect and disarray. More recently a local effort by neighbors and community renewed interest in the history of the cemetery and that, I believe, is evidence of a reinvigorated dedication to what ultimately unites us all: our humanity, our mortality.

And what a wonderful thing that it can be manifested in such a magnificent surrounding! This cemetery has many famous residents, not the least of whom is John Phillip Sousa. I can think of no other artist who knew that to feel most alive, you need music. I am tickled to know that every year on Sousa's birthday there is a musical celebration at his gravesite honoring him and the very American music he gave to our country.

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to be a cosponsor of H. Res. 698 and commend it to my colleagues with gusto. I hope each of you will take a walk down to the cemetery, visit our forbears and revel in the history of this site with quiet reflection. Take your time, too: there's 200 years of history to catch up on.

Rep. Rob Bishop

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I yield back the balance of my time.

Rep. Nick J. Rahall II

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I yield back the balance of my time.

The question is on the motion offered by the gentleman from West Virginia (Mr. Rahall) that the House suspend the rules and agree to the resolution, H. Res. 698.

The question was taken; and (two-thirds being in the affirmative) the rules were suspended and the resolution was agreed to.

A motion to reconsider was laid on the table.