The Readings for Democracy in America unit
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Unit 6 Readings, Legislatures: Laying Down the Law
- IntroductionLegislatures: Laying Down the Law
- Tocqueville, Democracy in America: Legislative Powers
of the Federal Government
- Locke, Legislatures
- Federalist Papers: Federalist No. 26
- Beveridge, Remarks Before the Senate Concerning the U.S.
Occupation of the Philippines
Why did Tocqueville write that only young countries have
What did Locke believe was the most significant reason
that people joined society?
According to Federalist No. 26, why were Americans
generally against a standing army during times of peace?
Why did Senator Beveridge believe that America should colonize
IntroductionLegislatures: Laying Down the Law
In the United States, then, that numerous and turbulent multitude
does not exist who, regarding the law as their natural enemy, look
upon it with fear and distrust, Tocqueville reported. It
is impossible, on the contrary, not to perceive that all classes display
the utmost reliance upon the legislation of their country and are
attached to it by a kind of parental affection (257). This chapter
presents writings by legislatures and about legislatures. A legislaturewhether
local, state, or nationalis a representative assembly with the
power to create law for the society represented in the assembly and
is typically the central and most powerful institution within representative
In spite of their appearance of great age, legislatures are a surprisingly
recent development. The assemblies of Greece and Rome, though in many
ways the models of contemporary legislatures, were not themselves,
properly speaking, legislatures since citizens, instead of representatives,
sat in person in the assembly. Such assemblies still exist, to some
degree, in Switzerland (Landsgemeinded). The British Parliament was
the first legislature to become prominent. Originally, members were
not elected to seats but instead they were selected members of groupings,
or estates, with political powerclergy, nobility, and the bourgeoisie.
The French States-General was similar and had a separate body for
each estate. The typical contemporary bicameral system arose from
these systems in which estates were represented in different legislative
bodies, with the nobility and clergy typically positioned in the upper
house and the bourgeoisies in the lower. The Congress of the United
States and the American state legislatures (except, since 1937, Nebraska)
are bicameral. Currently, however, the two houses do not reflect difference
of social estate and citizens elect members of both houses.
The readings collected here explore the intellectual foundations of
legislative power as offered by John Locke, Alexis de Tocqueville,
and Federalist No. 26. Senator Beveridges speech
before the Senate illustrates the ways and means of American involvement
in the Philippines, which further illustrates some of the issues of
race, equality, and American foreign policy dealt with in other chapters.
Do Americans continue to show affection for these institutions, as
Tocqueville saw, and have these institutions shown great affection