With an equal number of senators representing slave and free states, the Senate became the setting for explosive issues that increasingly divided the industrialized North, the agricultural South, and the rapidly expanding West.
Emerging from the shadow of the House of Representatives, the Senate matured into a creative and active lawmaking body. By 1850, it had grown to 62 members. Yet, unlike the far larger, more crowded House Chamber, the Senate still offered a relatively intimate setting that encouraged extended debate.
A Forum for Orators
The Senate's tradition of letting senators debate without time limits, and its relatively small size, encouraged great speakers. The even split between North and South inspired the orators. Daniel Webster of Massachusetts delivered two of the most significant speeches in American political history on the Senate floor: his “Second Reply to Hayne” (1830) and the “Seventh of March 1850” address.
Passionate words reflected senators' determination to exercise their power. Bitter struggles with President Andrew Jackson and his successors over the economy tested and reinforced the Senate's power, allowing the chamber to evolve into its modern role as a leading forum for setting national policies.