I write a lot of articles, and this post should probably be a list of them (I try to do that monthly, but life). Instead, I’m continuing my exploration of the U.S. Constitution. The Constitution comprises seven articles. I read the Preamble last week, and now I’m going to start the main text. Article 1, Section 1. Let’s roll!
The first Article of the Constitution deals with the Legislative branch of government. If you’re a kid, or your government skills are rusty, or the current administration’s complete disregard for protocol has got you confused, here is a quick recap on the branches of government.
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The Founding Fathers were all about checks and balances, because their main beef with England was the overreach of government power (Disagree? Discuss in the comments). So, Article 1 delineates the powers of the legislature. And that begins with Section 1:
All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.
You can’t limit the power of a legislature until you have a legislature to limit. So the first article establishes a bicameral legislature. Boom! Done. Class dismissed.
Oh, okay, it is pretty significant that they decided to make it a two-part legislature instead of a single body. It’s almost impossible to overstate the Founding Fathers’ obsession with balance of power (and probably a good thing, too) and the decision to have two chambers was called “the Great Compromise” at the time, because there was such friction between large colonies and small colonies about representation. Ballotpedia has a nice little article on it, but basically, the small colonies were afraid they would be steamrolled by the big ones, while the big colonies didn’t want to give disproportionate power to the smaller populations of the small colonies. The bicameral solution was also familiar from English law, where one house represented the elite and the other represented everyone else. Further, as James Madison pointed out in the Federal Papers, one group of men can fuck up, but two different groups are unlikely to make the same mistake.
So remember. Bicameral. The power swings both ways.
Ready for Section 2?