• Exploring American History

Mace of the Republic

One of the oldest symbols of the government of the United States is the Mace of the Republic. It has represented the governmental authority of the United States, specifically the House of Representatives, since 1789.

A ceremonial staff of office, the Mace of the Republic symbolizes the authority of the Sergeant at Arms representing strength and unity. On April 14, 1789, one of the first congresses established the office of ‘Sergeant at Arms’. This individual is an officer of the House, whose duties involve protocol, administrative responsibilities and law enforcement. The sergeant is elected by House members every two years at the beginning of each new congress.

Constructed of silver and ebony, the mace is carried by the Sergeant at Arms as the Speaker of the House is led into the chamber for daily sessions of the House. Throughout the session, the mace rests on a pedestal near the Speaker. The mace currently in use was created by William Adams, a silversmith from New York. It replaced the original mace which was destroyed by fire on August 24, 1814, when the British set fire to the Capitol during the War of 1812 (referred to by some as the Second American Revolution.)

The Mace of the Republic is designed along the line of an ancient battle weapon used in ancient Rome. The fasces (bundle) is composed of 13 rods of ebony, symbolizing the original colonies, along with jurisdiction and power. In Roman times, an ax was secured within the bundle’s fasces.

The rods are bound by four crisscrossed silver ribbons, decorated with floral borders. Above these rods is a silver globe, 4.5” in diameter, on which is engraved the seven continents of the world, along with latitude and longitude lines. The Western Hemisphere is shown on the forward-facing portion of the globe. A silver rim encircles the globe and perched on top is a silver eagle with an outstretched wingspan of approximately fifteen inches. The full weight of the mace is approximately 10 pounds.

Daily sessions of the House begin with the Sergeant carrying the mace into the House chamber, followed by the Speaker. Once they reach the rostrum, the mace is set on a green marble cylindrical pedestal, to the right of the Speaker. (If the House is in committee, the mace is displayed next to the Sergeant’s desk.) In the event the representatives meet outside the House Chamber, such as when the facility is being repaired, the mace goes with them.

On six different occasions, the mace has been presented in front of offenders to restore order. The first occurred on January 30, 1798 in Philadelphia when a fight broke out between Roger Griswold of Connecticut and Matthew Lyon of Vermont. The most recent event involved Maxine Waters on July 29, 1994 when she refused to stop speaking.

In 2019, Speaker Nancy Pelosi displayed a brooch in the design of the mace on her outfit during the State of the Union address. It is presumed her reason for doing this was to call attention to her authority as Speaker of the House. She has since displayed the pin on several other occasions since.

On occasion, the mace has been carried by the Sergeant at Arms to collect House members from various social events in order to return them to the House chamber to conduct business.

It has also been a silent witness to numerous events of historic significance. For example, on December 8, 1941, the mace was seen behind President Franklin D. Roosevelt when he addressed a joint session of Congress to request a declaration of war against Japan following the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

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