"The House of Representatives shall chuse their Speaker and other Officers..."
The Constitution of the United States, Article I, Section 2
On April 1, 1789, the House of Representatives convened with its first
quorum. Its initial order of business was the election of the Speaker,
Augustus Conrad Muhlenberg, a Representative from Pennsylvania. The
next order of business was the election of the Clerk, John Beckley, Esquire,
a citizen of Virginia. Although the Clerk's title is derived from that
of the Clerk of the British House of Commons, the duties are similar to
those prescribed for the Secretary of the Continental
Congress in March 1785.
In addition to the
duties involved in organizing the House and presiding over its activities
at the commencement of each Congress, the Clerk is charged with a number
of legislative functions; some of these, such as the constitutional
requirement of maintaining the House Journal, have been in existence from
the time of the first Congress, whereas others have been added over the
years because of changes in procedure and organization.
Along with the other
House officers, the Clerk is elected every 2 years when the House organizes
for a new Congress. The majority and minority caucuses nominate candidates
for the House officer positions after the election of the Speaker. The
full House adopts a resolution to elect the officers, who will begin serving
the Membership after they have taken the oath of office.