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Was the Bicameral Legislature an American Invention?

Where did the Founders get the idea for a bicameral legislature? Professor Keith Whittington discusses their experience with the British Parliament and also with local colonial legislatures. This combined perspective gave the Founders a basic structure for Congress, and also helped them evaluate what types of power the legislature should or should not have. https://youtube.com/watch?v=LaCH5Y9Rif8


Article One of the U.S. Constitution sketches out what Congress is going to do with the legislative branch and what the national government's going to look like. The basic form of what a legislature was going to be was familiar to them. They had both the Parliamentary experience in England. And Parliament was an old institution, had gone through its own evolution, but they were familiar at least with the design of that kind of legislature. They also had legislatures in the colonial system which had been carried over into the states. In both Parliament and in those state legislatures, they were all bicameral for the most part so that they had two different chambers and so for them that was a natural feature of representative assemblies and how to design them in part because that kind of bicameral system could provide an internal check for the legislature itself. It also allowed you to complicate how you want to represent the people in a legislative assembly. So the basic design, and as well as the basic powers that they expected legislature to be exercising: powers to tax, powers to spend, powers to pass legislation and regulate the populace, are all things that are familiar to them from the parliamentary experience, from the state legislative experience and they're trying to carry over into thinking about the design of Congress. At least the basic structure, the basic framework is more or less in place. The question then is exactly what kind of powers are you going to give to Congress? Exactly how are you going to structure the representation of the Senate's going to represent, and the House of Representatives is going to represent? And there some choices have to be made, but the basic design at least of a bicameral legislature and the basic concept of what kind of legislative powers that's going to exercise, is something that they can largely draw upon their own experience, the English colonial and state legislative experience.

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