CHAPTER 12 | Document 21


16 Feb. 1788Storing 5.13.7

It has been disputed whether one house, or rather power of legislature be more eligible, or rather to be chosen than two. I shall hazard a few random thoughts on that subject. And first, if an institution answers all the ends designed by the institution, as well as any other institution, or plan could have done, or can do, there remain no possibility of its doing more; it is therefore perfect, if anything is added it becomes a redundancy, consequently an imperfection. I hope twill not be denied, that a single legislative body, is capable of making laws, the perfection of those laws depend on the wisdom, virtue, and integrity of the legislature, but does it appear, that more wisdom, virtue, and integrity, will, or can possibly be found in two houses than in one, provided they consist of the same number, but more particularly of the same identical person? No man will affirm this. But it may be said that a second house or senate, being generally fewer in number, do by their separation acquire an influence which would have been lost, had the whole been incorporated in one house. I answer, perhaps it might not have been lost; it would no doubt sometimes so happen, that they, in conjunction with the minority in the other house would be able to set aside some bills, which for want of their assistance there, have passed, this would have been a shorter, and easier way; and attended besides, with much less expence of time and money; and excepting in some such instances, all such influence ought to be lost; for in no instance ought the minority to govern the majority. Again, it is more simple: and it is a well known maxim that the simpler a machine is, it is the more perfect; the reason on which it is grounded is obvious: viz. because it is the less liable to disorder, the disorder more easily discovered, and when discovered, more easily repaired and in no instance is this maxim more applicable than in the great machine of government. But say they there ought to be two houses because there are two separate interests. I answer by denying that any community can possibly have any but one common public interest, that is, the greatest good of the whole and of every individual as a part of that whole: but if it be private interest that is meant, I confess that there are not only two, but twenty and it may be more private interests in every government, and the same argument would prove that there ought to be twenty or indeed five hundred houses of legislature in each government: and by proving too much falls to the ground. But the grand argument of all, is that by being separate they have a power of checking some bills which would otherwise pass into laws and might be detrimental to society. Had not this argument been produced on the other side, I should certainly have produced it in favour of one house: however I ask is a minority in one house, properly entitled to over rule a majority in the other? Are they not as likely to check a good bill as a bad one? and has it not in fact often happened? Is it not as probable that the second house lay some[?] of their checks on a good bill which perhaps they had little considered as that the first, should pass a bad one, where it had originated and perhaps[?] thoroughly considered? But let us turn the argument over and take a view of the other side of it. The inconsistencies that attend the idea of two houses are innumerable. Take one, supposing them both our representatives (tho it will be hard to prove them so) it makes their constituents to say in many instances by their representatives in one house, "this shall be a law," by their representatives in the other with respect to the same bill; "This shall not be a law." It impowers one body of men to enact statutes; and another to forbid their being carried into execution. It resembles a man putting forth his right hand to do some important business and then stretching forth his left hand to prevent it; but supposing them not our representatives at all, they have no business there, and all their mighty power of checking, is a mere farce.

The Founders' Constitution
Volume 1, Chapter 12, Document 21
The University of Chicago Press

Storing, Herbert J., ed. The Complete Anti-Federalist. 7 vols. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981.

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