Pre-University (CIE) Comparative Government: Specimen Questions with Answers 6 - 6 of 53

Question 6

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What were the factors that led framers of American constitution to opt for a two chamber legislative body?

Explanation

The Congress which functioned during the Revolutionary War and thereafter the Congress of Confederation consisted of only one chamber, it was not considered worthy of emulation by the framers of the Constitution. They decided to have a legislative body of two chambers and there was a little disagreement over the decision. The following factors influenced this decision:

  • Their familiarity: The framers of the constitution were more familiar with the bicameral legislatures than with those of a unicameral legislature. Most of the states which the delegates represented had a bicameral system. They also knew that the mother country from which they had recently separated had a bicameral Parliament.

  • To guard against despotism: One of the usual arguments in favor of the bicameral system is that a second chamber checks the despotism of the lower House. The framers of the Constitution apprehended that a single house legislature might usurp the powers and they accordingly provided for a two- chambered legislature to act, in Hamilton’s words, as an “impediment-against improper acts of legislation”.

  • To ensure conservatism: the preference for a bicameral system at the Philadelphia Convention was also influenced by the desire to provide stability in the government. The country had just passed through a period of strife, turmoil and uncertainty. The Fathers of the Constitution wanted a Government which would be able to maintain peace in the country.

  • Necessity to compromise: a strong determinant of a bicameral legislature in USA was a dire necessity to compromise the differences between large and small states. In the Congress which operated under the articles of Confederation, each state had equal voting power irrespective of its population.

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