History of the House of Representatives

By George B. Galloway | Go to book overview

Chapter One
PLANNING THE HOUSE IN THE CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION

DURING THE DEBATES on the framing of the Constitution in the Federal Convention of 1787 a score of questions about the first branch of the national legislature were discussed and decided. These decisions were derived in large part from the constitutions of the individual states, from the experience of the colonial assemblies, and from the practice of the Continental Congresses and the Congress of the Confederation. According to Farrand, "every provision of the federal constitution can be accounted for in American experience between 1776 and 1787."1*"Their experience with state legislatures," writes Binkley, "quite naturally led the framers of the Constitution to believe that the House of Representatives would possess a tremendous vitality as the immediate representative of the people. It would require no such special safeguards for its protection, as the other coordinate branches of the government."2

After deciding that a National Government ought to be established consisting of a supreme Legislative, Executive, and Judiciary, the Federal Convention took up the question: Should the national legislature be unicameral or bicameral? It was decided, apparently without debate, that it should consist of two branches. Benjamin Franklin, a member of the Convention, preferred a single house, but he did not speak on this question. Although the Continental Congresses and the Congress of the Confederation had been unicameral, and likewise three state legislatures -- Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Vermont -- bicameralism was the prevailing form in most of the separate states and in the British Parliament from

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Notes are at the back of the book.

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