CONGRESS (Lat. eongressus, conference, from congrefli, to meet together, from can-, to gether + wadi, to step). In international affairs. an assembly either of sovereign princes or of delegates of sovereign States for the purpose of considering matters of common interest. In the United States, where the term has now a specific meaning as applied to the National Legislature (see UNITED STATES), it had a similar origin, the first Congress being that of the delegates from the various British colonies, who met on October 7, 1765, for the purpose of considering their grievances. Previous to signing a treaty of peace, a meeting of plenipo tentiaries usually takes place, to which the name of a congress is sometimes applied, though the term seems more properly to be reserved for those more important meetings at which exten sive schemes of future policy are determined.
The period of secular diplomatic congresses opened with the Congress of Miinster and Os nahritck. which closed the Thirty Years' War by the Peace of Westphalia in (q.v.). Since then, omitting those diplomatic bodies whose ob •ject was simply to arrange terms of peace at the close of a war, the most important European con gresses have been those of Vienna (1514-15), Paris 118561. Berlin (15781. and the Interim lion Peace Conference at The Hague (1S991. An international 'Pan-American' congress, to dis cuss industrial and commercial questions, was held at Washington, from October, 1888, to April. 1890. In the winter of 1901-02 a similar congress assembled at Mexico and discussed at great length the question of international arbi tration. See VIENNA, PARIS, BERLIN, CONGRESS OF.