Provision #9 of the Constitution from the Making of America


PROVISION 9 (From Article I, Section 1, Paragraph 1) – The Congress shall consist of two separate legislative bodies – one to be called a Senate and the other to be called a House of Representatives. This provision gives the people the right to NOT be subject to any federal law unless it had been approved by both houses of Congress.

Despite the raging debate at the Constitutional Convention as to how the representation in these two houses was to be elected, it was the historic compromise that decided to have population represented in the lower house and each State equally represented in the upper house that was a new idea. Senators, therefore, were to be appointed by their State legislatures and represent the States in the federal government. This role was changed in 1913 when the 17th Amendment was adopted, providing that Senators must be elected by the population like the Representatives. No one watches over States’ rights and interests in the federal government now with a serious deterioration of State sovereignty as a result.

The genius of the original formula was that it invented something political scientists had been seeking to accomplish for centuries … the combining of “the one, the few and the many” in representation. Polybius, Locke and Montesquieu all advocated inventing a system which would combine all three of these groups so that the advantage of “the one” could be exercised in administering the law and taking over in wartime, “the few” could participate as the guardians of property, wealth and the “established order” of things and “the many” could be represented so that the will and approval of the people as a whole would be considered before laws were passed or taxes assessed. The founders invented this system on that basis and “the one” became the President, “the few” became the Senate and “the many” became the House of Representatives.

Some questions that should be asked are:

What are the purpose and structural characteristics of a sound “upper chamber” such as the Senate?

There should be, in every republic, some permanent body to correct the prejudices, check the intemperate passions and regulate the fluctuations of a popular assembly. It is evident that a body instituted for these purposes must be so formed as to exclude, as much as possible, from its own character, those infirmities … . It is, therefore, necessary that it should be small … . It should be so formed as to be the centre of political knowledge, to pursue always a steady line of conduct, and to reduce every irregular propensity to system. It is an unquestionable truth, that the body of people … desire sincerely its prosperity; but it is equally unquestionable, that they do not possess the discernment and stability necessary for systematic government. … From these principles it follows that there ought to be two distinct bodies … one which shall be immediately constituted by … the people … ; another formed upon the principle and for the purposes explained. … The history of ancient and modern republics had taught [us] that many of the evils which these republics suffered arose from the want of a certain balance and mutual control … ; [we] were convinced that popular assemblies were frequently misguided by ignorance, sudden impulse and the intrigues of ambitious men, and that some firm barrier against these operations was necessary. – Hamilton

[In regards to the Senate being there as a second branch of the legislature …] The people might have a double security. It will often happen that, in a single body, a bare minority will carry exceptionable and pernicious measures. The violent faction of a party may often form such a majority in a single body, and by that means the particular views or interests of a part of the community may be consulted, and those of the rest neglected or injured. … If a measure be right, which has been approved by one branch, the other will probably confirm it; if it be wrong, it is fortunate that there is another branch to oppose or amend it. – Iredell

As originally designed, whom did the Senate represent?

The people will be represented in one house, the state legislatures in the other. – Iredell

The Senate will be elected by the state legislatures, and represent the states in their political capacity; and thus each branch will form a proper and independent check on the other, and the legislative powers will be advantageously balanced. – Pinckney

The Constitution effectually secures the states in their several rights … for they are the pillars which uphold the general systems. The Senate, … are appointed by the states, and will secure the rights of the several states. – Wolcott

Why was the Senate designed to slow down the legislative process?

In the legislature, promptitude of decision is oftener an evil than a benefit. The differences of opinion, and the jarring of parties …, though they may sometimes obstruct salutary plans, yet often promote deliberation and circumspection, and serve to check excesses in the majority. – Hamilton