United States Congresses - History

History

The First Continental Congress was a gathering of representatives from twelve of the thirteen British Colonies in North America. On July 4, 1776, the Second Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence, referring to the new nation as the "United States of America". The Articles of Confederation in 1781 created a unicameral body with equal representation among the states in which each state had a veto over most decisions. With no executive or judiciary, and minimal authority, this government was weak and lacked authority to collect taxes, regulate commerce, or enforce laws.

Government powerlessness led to the Convention of 1787 which proposed a revised constitution with a two–chamber or bicameral congress. Smaller states argued for equal representation for each state. The two-chamber structure had functioned well in state governments. A compromise plan was adopted with representatives chosen by population (benefitting larger states) and exactly two senators chosen by state governments (benefitting smaller states). The ratified constitution created a federal structure with two overlapping power centers so that each citizen as an individual was subjected to both the power of state government and the national government. To protect against abuse of power, each branch of government—executive, legislative, and judicial—had a separate sphere of authority and could check other branches according to the principle of the separation of powers. Furthermore, there were checks and balances within the legislature since there were two separate chambers. The new government became active in 1789.

Political scientist Julian E. Zelizer suggested there were four main congressional eras, with considerable overlap, and included the formative era (1780s–1820s), the partisan era (1830s–1900s), the committee era (1910s–1960s), and the contemporary era (1970s–today).

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Famous quotes containing the word history:

    History, as an entirety, could only exist in the eyes of an observer outside it and outside the world. History only exists, in the final analysis, for God.
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