History of the House of Representatives

History of the House of Representatives

History of the House of Representatives

History of the House of Representatives

Excerpt

Strange as it may seem, the role of Congress in the American system of government has been largely neglected by American historians. In their Basic History of the United States the Beards devoted only six pages to the subject, and that only to the powers conferred on the national legislature by the Constitution of 1787, while discussion of Congress is largely omitted by Morison and Commager in their two-volume work, The Growth of the American Republic. In his Democracy in America (Bradley edition), de Tocqueville gave only five pages to Congress out of 434 pages of text.

The purpose of this book is to promote understanding of our national House of Representatives, where the public's business is performed. The American people have been legislation-minded for more than three centuries and the legislature has long been the central institution of our democratic way of life. Despite its defects, the legislative process is vastly preferable to the way of dictators by whom we are now challenged. Upon this process depend the adjustment of our social disputes, the preservation of our individual liberties, and the peaceable solution of our public problems. Law-making involves the representation of all the various interests of the nation and the tolerance of many different points of view.

A former Congressman, who was also a philosopher, once said the legislature is a place where one learns that "all major interests in society are equally legitimate," that the "representatives of the great legitimate interests are equally honest," and that no man or group has a monopoly on justice or virtue. Although laws are seldom universally popular, "the legislature is, for all that, the only institution developed by man through the centuries which preserves individuals against gross invasion of their private rights and guarantees some minimum of benefits to all groups alike in their struggle for survival and supremacy...It should be to us, therefore, a matter of great meaning and high hope that no modern nation long seasoned in our legislative way of handling common problems has yet voluntarily given it up. . . ."

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