PARTY GROWTH IN THE PENNSYLVANIA HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, 1795-1798
IN EXAMINING partisan trends in the legislature, special emphasis will be placed on the House of Representatives because the whole membership was subject to annual change. The votes herein listed as indicative of group formations and opinion alignments have not been selected from a wide variety for the simple reason that clear party divisions were few in number. Indeed, those presented are the only ones which show real signs of cohesiveness. The striking aspect of these groupings is that they occur rarely on questions of local interest. With few exceptions the issues which produced sharp divisions were of national or international significance.
As already indicated, Jay's Treaty was one of the most effective crystallizing agents to appear in the evolution of Pennsylvania's political formations. The State's reaction at the polls was somewhat inconclusive, but the response made to it by the legislators, both local and national, is more adaptable to concrete analysis. The national House of Representatives, to advert momentarily to that body for purposes of comparison, had no opportunity to vote on the acceptance or rejection of the controversial document. But it did put its opinions on record, if somewhat indirectly, when it passed a resolution on March 24, 1796, requesting Washington to provide the House with papers relating to the treaty. The Pennsylvania members favored the resolution by eight to four.1 Although such action could hardly be interpreted as a blanket vote of disapproval, it did indicate that the Treaty was considered so questionable that it should be brought under review in the House.
The lower house of the Pennsylvania legislature also had an opportunity to express itself on the Treaty. In February, 1796, it received four proposed amendments to the United States Constitution which had been voted by the Virginia legislature in December of the preceding year. The Virginia Resolutions requested the following constitutional changes: all treaties would be submitted to the House of Representatives before ratification, and all those involving the Con