In an answer to a recent question, it was said:

The Sergeant at Arms, upon instructions from the speaker "presents" the mace to the unruly party.. to restore order.

Which agrees with the Wikipedia article on the mace. The Wikipedia article describes the occasions where the mace has been presented but not how it was presented.

i.e. was the unruly party presented with the business end of the mace as if it might be used upon them, or were they presented with the hilt as if challenging them to take the mace? Or some other way such as simply standing in front of them while generally holding the mace?

How was the mace presented on the occasions it was used?

  • 2
    Ceremoniously!? ;)
    – Steve Bird
    Commented Nov 26, 2019 at 15:02
  • @SteveBird [citation needed] :)
    – Notts90
    Commented Nov 26, 2019 at 15:02
  • Hmmm. Looks to me like that link does in fact describe how it was used. It seems to be saying that failing to pipe down when its presented is grounds for arrest, so that's probably the expected next step. However, the only time merely presenting it wasn't effective, it appears The House was adjourned, rather than have the SaA go around and arrest the multiple offending parties. I could write up an answer saying that, I suppose, but it would just be rephrasing the content of the linked WP page.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Nov 26, 2019 at 16:11
  • @T.E.D. I'd say that's how it fits into the procedure, however I'm interested in the actual "presenting". Like if you described someone being knighted, you'd say the monarch held the hilt of the sword and tapped the candidate on the shoulder with the blade. In the same fashion, how the the mace presented? The closest I've read was the occasion where the SaA walked up and down around the whole house while carrying the mace, but that doesn't sound like it was presented per se to me.
    – Notts90
    Commented Nov 26, 2019 at 16:20

1 Answer 1


How this is done exactly may depend on the circumstances but

Pursuant to House Rules, the Sergeant at Arms (or his assistant) attends all floor sessions. Additionally, the Sergeant at Arms is authorized to hold up the mace, the symbol of the Sergeant at Arms' authority to enforce order within the chamber.

Source: House Sergeant at Arms: Legislative and Administrative Duties

From the examples below, there is no evidence that the Sergeant at Arms points the mace at the offending party / parties (never mind hits, though some might think it a good idea). Rather, it is a symbol of his authority and, as T.E.D. noted in his comment below, he uses a two handed grip with the mace most likely held in an upright position.

enter image description here

John G. Thompson, sergeant at arms from Dec. 1875 to Dec 1881, holding the mace. Image source

Thus, by 'present', it would appear that this simply means the Sergeant at Arms holds the mace in front of the offending members so 'presents' can be interpreted to mean 'shows' by holding it up and facing the errant member or members.

In 1858, there was

The most infamous floor brawl in the history of the U.S. House of Representatives erupted as Members debated the Kansas Territory’s pro-slavery Lecompton Constitution late into the night of February 5-6. Shortly before 2 a.m., Pennsylvania Republican Galusha Grow and South Carolina Democrat Laurence Keitt exchanged insults, then blows. “In an instant the House was in the greatest possible confusion,” the Congressional Globe reported. More than 30 Members joined the melee....Speaker James Orr, a South Carolina Democrat, gaveled furiously for order and then instructed Sergeant-at-Arms Adam J. Glossbrenner to arrest noncompliant Members. Wading into the “combatants,” Glossbrenner held the House Mace high to restore order.

The pro-slavery Keitt was a controversial figure who, two years earlier, had brandished a pistol in a near-empty senate while a colleague beat an abolitionist senator with a cane (see the Caning of Charles Sumner).

The Mace of the House of Representatives of the United States has several examples of when the mace was used. For example, in 1880, two members resorted to "menacing words and threatening actions." Other members then tried to separate them, "whereupon the Sergeant at Arms moved about the House with mace and order was restored."

In 1885, Rep. John D. White of Kentucky, when "confronted by the Sergeant at Arms bearing the mace" after using abusive language, "promptly took his seat."

During World War I, two members confronted each other, whereupon "the Sergeant at Arms came between them with the mace". The same source also notes that

There were, formerly, a good many instances of disorder on the floor of the House when, by direction of the Speaker, the Sergeant at Arms passed up and down the aisles, mace in hand."

enter image description here

"Newspapers of this period inform us that a scene such as this was not uncommon during night sessions of the House. “However faithful members may be in the performance of their duties during the day sessions, they are very apt to recognize the claims of “society” in the evening.” Here, the Sergeant at Arms, with the House Mace held aloft, led Members retrieved from dinners, receptions, and other social events back to the Chamber in order for the House to achieve a quorum." Image from 1881

  • 1
    I'm upvoting this, mostly for the picture, since the mechanics of "presentation" seem to be what the OQ was after. I've dug up some other pictures of the mace in use, but they all seem to be of this form. Its big (and likely top-heavy) enough that a staggered two-handed grip like this seems to be required.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Nov 26, 2019 at 16:31

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