Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

CHAPTER IV

THE FEDERAL LEGISLATURE

28. Congress.-Congress is composed of two houses, the Senate and the House of Representatives. This is in accordance with the provision of the first section of Article 1 of the Constitution, which affirms that "all legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and a House of Representatives." The President coöperates with the two houses of Congress in making laws. He is required to express his approval or disapproval of "every order, resolution, or vote to which the concurrence of the Senate and House of Representatives may be necessary," except votes on the question of adjournment. An additional exception is that resolutions proposing amendments of the Constitution, passed by both houses of Congress, do not require the assent of the President. Composed of two houses, the Congress has the form generally assumed by the legislatures of modern States.

The bicameral organization of the Legislature is thought to be attended by certain advantages: (1) It prevents hasty, rash, and dangerous legislation by extending the period of deliberation, and by causing bills to be considered from the different points of view of two houses differently constituted. (2) It tends to check attempts to use the authority of the Legislature for personal or private ends. (3) It gives opportunity for a new and independent review

of all projected measures. (4) It allows a bill that has been passed in the heat of passion in one house, to be submitted to the cool judgment of another body. Washington is said to have replied to Jefferson's attack on the system of two houses by saying to Jefferson, as they sat at table, "You yourself have proved the excellence of two houses this very moment." "I?" said Jefferson; "how is that, General?" "You have," replied Washington, "turned your hot tea from the cup into the saucer, to get it cool. It is the same thing we desire of the two houses."

The two houses of Congress are representative bodies. This means that the members are chosen under a system of representation. Under this system the following conditions are observed: (1) The power of the voters is transferred to the representative; (2) the power is transferred for a definite period; (3) the electors or voters must not only give over the power, but they must also select the person to be the representative.

The representative is not required to obey instructions. given him by his constituents or to pledge himself to vote in accordance with their demands. The plan to instruct or pledge representatives, if carried out, would remove the decision on questions of legislation from the representative body to the voters; and this would deprive the legislative assembly of its quality as a deliberative body and make it simply a means for registering decisions determined. by the great body of the people having the right to vote.

If one were to inquire into the origin of the bicameral system which is illustrated in Congress and in the State legislatures, he would be led back to the early history of our race for the type-to the time when there was a king or chief with limited power, a small council of nobles or of old men, and a general assembly of the whole people. This type has perpetuated itself in the later history of the race. The council survives in the modern House of Lords, or house

of nobles, or Senate; and the assembly survives in the lower house, under whatever name it may appear. In the course of history there have been temporary variations from this type. In Sweden, for a long time, there were four houses that made up the national legislature. These four legislative bodies represented four classes: the nobles, the clergy, the burgesses or the inhabitants of cities, and the peasants or persons living in the country. In England all of these classes existed; but the nobles and the clergy were represented in the House of Lords, and the other two classes were represented in the House of Commons. Under Cromwell, England had for a short time a single house; France began her several republican governments in each case with only one national legislative body. Congress consisted of only one body under the Articles of Confederation. But everywhere there has been a tendency to the bicameral system, realizing the original type. In the persistence of the political instinct of our race is the fundamental ground for the similarities discovered among modern governments, and for the appearance of the bicameral legislature in practically all of them.

Topics.-Form of congressional organization.—Legislative power of the President.-Advantages of bicameral system.— Washington's illustration.-Character of a representative.—Instructing representatives.-The political instinct.

References.-Dawes, How We Are Governed, 73; Ford, American Citizen's Manual, Part I, 10; Hinsdale, American Government, 144-147; Lalor, Cyclopædia, i, 587; Freeman, General Sketch of History, 6; Crane and Moses, Politics, 68–81.

29. The House of Representatives.-The House of Representatives is "composed of members chosen every second year by the people of the several States." The members of this body are said to represent the people; yet in their election the individuality of the States is recognized, since

every congressional district is a subdivision of a State. The electors in each State are required to have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the State legislature. Members from different States are, therefore, elected under different rules of suffrage. In Rhode Island a property qualification is required. In Massachusetts, Connecticut, and California it is required that the elector shall be able to read the Constitution or other laws. The only limitation on the power of the State to determine who shall be an elector is that contained in the fifteenth amendment of the Constitution, which provides that "the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States, or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude."

Topics.-Time of election.-Representation of the people.Qualifications of representatives.-Qualifications of electors.Fifteenth amendment.

References.-Dawes, How We Are Governed, 74; Fiske, Civil Government, 220-232; Hinsdale, American Government, 147, 148, 151; Lalor, Cyclopædia, ii, 474; Macy, Our Government, 183.

30. The Number and Apportionment of Representatives. -The number of members of the House of Representatives in the United States at its first meeting was fixed by the Constitution. It was provided that this number should not exceed one for every 30,000 inhabitants; and that, awaiting the first enumeration, which was required to be made "within three years after the first meeting of the Congress," the States might elect sixty-five members, distributed as follows: New Hampshire, three; Massachusetts, eight; Rhode Island, one; Connecticut, five; New York, six; New Jersey, four; Pennsylvania, eight; Delaware, one; Maryland, six; Virginia, ten; North Carolina, five; South Carolina, five; and Georgia, three. With each successive

census a new ratio of representation has been adopted. The following tabular statement gives the different periods, the census on which the ratio of that period is based, the ratio, and the number of members:

[blocks in formation]

It is to be observed here that not only has the ratio increased from decade to decade, but the number of members also has greatly increased. The first five apportionments were made according to the population of the States, but no account was taken of the fractional remainders. Under the rule adopted in 1843, each State had as many representatives as the basis of the ratio, 70,680, was contained times in the population of the State, and one representative for the remainder over one-half of this number. Each State, whatever its population, should have at least one representative. But for this provision Delaware, Nebraska, Nevada, and Oregon would have had no representation in the House in 1873, since the population of each of those States was below the number fixed as the basis of the ratio. Any State coming into the Union after the number and apportionment of representatives has been determined shall be represented in accordance with the fixed ratio, but the representatives shall be in addition to the specified number. Numerous later changes have been

« AnteriorContinuar »