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“House of Delegates." Maryland followed Virginia in this. When the Carolina Legislature was permanently divided into two Houses, toward the end of the seventeenth century, the term "General Assembly" came into use. The North Carolina Constitution of 1776 named the lower branch the "House of Commons," and so it was called until the Constitution of 1868 substituted “House of Representatives." South Carolina first called its lower branch the "General Assembly," but made it “House of Representatives” in 1778. New Jersey also said “General Assembly.” Delaware and Georgia preferred “House of Assembly." New York was content with unadorned "Assembly.”
New Hampshire was the first to use "House of Representatives,” but coupled with it, "or Assembly.” Pennsylvania took it without alternative, as did Massachusetts, and now it is the usual name for the lower branch. “Legislature” appears in all the State Constitutions.
TWO CHAMBERS OR ONE
It has been said that more than half the American colonies began with uni-cameral Legislatures. If the statement is accurate, which is doubtful, it is but a half-truth. The one sitting of a powerless assembly in Georgia ought not to count; the Carolinas should really be put in the bi-cameral column; New Hampshire and Rhode Island had but the briefest acquaintance with the single chamber, before they got fairly under way. The fact is that the greater part of the colonies had no appreciable experience with the one-chamber system. Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maryland, and Virginia may be said to have given it a thorough trial before arriving at two chambers. Pennsylvania alone took the opposite course by changing in colonial times from two chambers to one.
When the Revolutionary crisis forced Americans to decide how to govern themselves, only those living in Pennsylvania and Delaware knew from personal experience anything about single-chambered Legislatures. Pennsylvania and her imitator, Vermont, alone saw fit to frame a State Constitution intrusting the making of laws to a single body uncontrolled. Frequently it is said that Georgia had only one chamber, but study of the Constitution of 1777 will disclose the fact that her Legislature was no more than technically uni-cameral. A Council there had an important part in lawmaking. This body was chosen by the Representatives from among their own number, two for each of the sizable counties. After the second reading of every bill, it had to be sent to the Council, "for their perusal and advice." To be sure, this
the Councilors no power of direct veto, but the moral effect of their advice must have been considerable. Their right to propose amendments was recognized, for the Constitution said that when a committee from the Council came to the House with proposed amendments, its members should, while sitting and covered, deliver their reasons, the whole House at that time, except the Speaker, uncovered. A Senate was definitely created by the Constitution of 1789.
The Georgia plan of 1777 was not a long step from that of South Carolina, devised early in the year before. The “Congress" framing the South Carolina Constitution turned itself into a lower branch, the General Assembly, which was to elect out of its own number an upper branch, the Legislative Council.
Natural as it was that the newborn States should for the most part continue accustomed methods of lawmaking, this was not done without earnest discussion and much difference of opinion. Appointed upper Houses had everywhere brought friction. In Massachusetts the episode of the Mandamus Councilors bred bitterness. The temper of the people may be judged by the action of the town of Ashfield, which voted, October 4, 1774, "That the Assembly of this state consist of one Elective body, the members of which body shall be Annually elected." Massachusetts lived for nearly five years after Lexington and Concord with but one lawmaking body. Yet her leaders felt it was not wise for a permanent policy. John Adams, whose views on constitutional questions dominated in the end, set down those pertaining to this particular matter in 1776, in his “Thoughts on Government.” i As a comprehensive statement of the arguments that decided our fathers, they are worth quoting, "I think,” he said, "a people cannot be long free, nor ever happy, whose government is in one assembly. My reasons for this opinion are as follows:
“1. A single assembly is liable to all the vices, follies, and frailties of an individual; subject to fits of humor, starts of passion, ilights of enthusiasm, partialities, or prejudice, and consequently productive of hasty results and absurd judgments. And all these errors ought to be corrected and defects supplied by some controlling power.
"2. A single assembly is apt to be avaricious, and in time will not scruple to exempt itself from burdens, which it will lay, without compunction, upon its constituents.
"3. A single assembly is apt to grow ambitious, and after a time will not hesitate to vote itself perpetual. This was one fault of the Long Parliament; but more remarkably of Holland, whose assembly first voted themselves from annual to septennial, and after a course of years, that all vacancies happening by death or otherwise, should be filled by themselves, without any application to constituents at all."
1 Works, iv, 195.
Theophilus Parsons rewrote and strengthened this in the pamphlet known as “The Essex Result,” which contained a report of the reasons for the rejection of the Constitution of 1778 by a convention of a dozen Essex County towns. Не. added: “The result of a single assembly will be hasty and indigested, and their judgments frequently absurd and inconsistent. There must be a second body to revise with coolness and wisdom and to control with firmness, independent upon the first, either for their creation, or existence. Yet the first must retain a right to a similar revision and controul over the second.”
Over against the ideas of John Adams are to be set those of Benjamin Franklin. Adams wrote to Francis Dana, August 16, 1776:1 “The Convention of Pennsylvania has voted for a single Assembly. Such is the force of habit; and what surprises me not a little is, that the American philosopher should have so far accommodated himself to the customs of his countrymen as to be a zealous advocate for it. No country ever will be long happy, or ever entirely safe and free, which is thus governed. The curse of a jus vagum will be their portion.” None of Franklin's arguments in the debate on the question at that time have been preserved, unless we credit the common understanding that he then likened a legislative body having two branches to a cart with a pair of cattle hitched to each end, pulling in opposite directions. Of course it is possible that Adams erred in deducing Franklin's views from the action of the Convention, on the supposition that it was strongly influenced by “the American philosopher.” Indeed, Burton Alva Konkle, in his elaborate book on "George Bryan and the Constitution of Pennsylvania,” gives no part to Franklin in the saving of the single chamber, but credits it all to Bryan, a great champion of popular freedom, which the single chamber was supposed to encourage. Furthermore, Edward Channing, in his "History of the United States” (II1, 439), seems to accept without question the opinion of Benjamin Rush 2 that Franklin was opposed to the single chamber. Rush said there was a pamphlet of the Doctor's printed in 1763 in which he supposed three branches preferable to two. Ford's bibliography of Franklin fails to note any such publication, there is no reference to it in any of the editions of his works, and search fails to pro1 Works, ix, 429.
2 Pa. Mag. of History, XXIX, 29.
duce any evidence corroborating Rush's statement. On the other hand, there is at any rate not the slightest question of Franklin's views thirteen years later when somebody published in the "Federal Gazette" (November 3, 1789), “Hints for the Members" of a Pennsylvania Convention. The giver of hints had argued: “A plural legislature is as necessary to good government as a single executive. It is not enough that your legislature should be numerous; it should also be divideds Numbers alone are not a sufficient barrier against the impulses of passion, the combination of interest, the intrigues of faction, the haste of folly, or the spirit of encroachment. One division should watch over and control the other, supply its wants, correct its blunders, and cross its designs, should they be criminal or erroneous. Wisdom is the specific quality of the legislature, grows out of the number of the body, and is made up of the portions of sense and knowledge which each member brings to it."
Franklin replied: "On this it may be asked : May not the wisdom brought to the legislature by each member be as effectual a barrier against the impulses of passion, etc., when the 'members are united in one body, as when they are divided ? If one part of the legislature may control the operations of the other, may not the impulses of passion, the combinations of interest, the intrigues of faction, the haste of folly, or the spirit of encroachment in one of those bodies obstruct the good proposed by the other, and frustrate its advantages to the public? Have we not experienced in this State, when a province under the government of the proprietaries, the mischiefs of a second branch existing in the proprietary family, countenanced and aided by an aristocratic council? How many delays and what great expenses were occasioned in carrying on the public business; and what a train of mischiefs, even to the preventing of the defence of the province during several years, when distressed by an Indian war, by the iniquitous demand that the proprietary property should be exempt from taxation? The wisdom of a few members in one single legislative body, may it not frequently atifle bad motions in their infancy, and so prevent their being adopted? whereas, if those wise men, in case of a double legislature, should happen to be in that branch wherein the motion did not arise, may it not, after being adopted by the other, 'occasion long disputes and contentions between the two bodies,