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The Mace of the House of Representatives

by Tom Carrier (02/19/08).
The Mace of the House of Representatives
The Mace of the House of Representatives as held by former Sergeant at Arms Zeake W.  Johnson of Tennessee

One of the oldest symbols of the United States, the Mace is the symbol of one of the first officers of the United States House of Representatives, the Sergeant at Arms, the chief enforcement officer of the House.

It has two purposes in the U.S. House of Representatives, the first is to restore order (its main function), and second, to tell the Members if the House is in full session or in committee.

The Mace in this official portrait is being held by Sergeant at Arms Zeake W. Johnson, Jr. of Tennessee who served from 1955 until 1972 when this photo was taken.

He is holding the official Mace of the House produced in 1842 after the original Mace was lost in 1814 when the U.S. Capitol, the White House and other public buildings were burned by invading British during the War of 1812. From 1812 until 1842, a wooden Mace substituted.

Created by silversmith William Adams in 1842, the official Mace is actually 13 ebony rods representing the 13 original colonies bound by a criss cross of silver. It is 46 inches tall, topped by a solid silver globe and a solid silver eagle with outstretched wings.

On the right of the Speaker stands a tall green marble pedestal. When the Mace is placed atop this pedestal, the House of Representatives is in full session; when placed next to the Sergeant at Arms desk, the House is sitting as a Committee. Both are sessions when all members are present and vote, however, the key difference is that when sitting as a Committee of the Whole House, a vote taken can always be changed when the House sits as itself.

If you are a Member of the House of Representatives and you become ‘unruly’ in the eyes of the Speaker or the President pro tem and you refuse to yield to the power of the chair, the Mace is placed before you by the Sergeant at Arms signalling that you are out of order. That is a very strong signal and not to be taken lightly. Order is usually restored when the Mace is brandished.

And a Republic continues on the road of freedom.

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