The House

The People's Chamber

The founders expected the House of Representatives to take center stage in the new American government. They felt that its status as the only national institution with members elected directly by the people made the House uniquely important—and posed special dangers. "The evils we experience flow from the excess of democracy," warned Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts at the Constitutional Convention.

Through much of this early period, the House was indeed the nation's driving political force. It proposed the Bill of Rights, drafted legislation to create government agencies, carried out investigations, and shaped an aggressive policy toward Great Britain.

Getting Organized

The House of Representatives was new, yet rested on familiar foundations. The individual states had long experience with popularly elected legislatures. Representatives also looked to Britain's House of Commons, adopting ideas such as a presiding Speaker and basic parliamentary procedures. Its launch went smoothly.

1877-1913 - The House

Wed, 2013-04-17 20:34 -- administrator

The People's Platform

In the late 19th century, industrialization and migration from countryside to cities created new groups of Americans, new constituencies. The House gave them a forum. Frequent elections and small districts made the House a place where marginal or regional interests could gain seats and make their voices heard.

House Journal, 1789-1791

Wed, 2013-04-17 15:02 -- administrator

The Constitution requires that each chamber compile an official journal, summarizing the record of each legislative day.  The Clerk of the House maintains the House Journal, which chronicles matters considered by the House, votes, and other procedural actions.

Records of the U.S. House of Representatives, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.

1789-1815 - The House

Wed, 2013-04-17 13:27 -- administrator

The People's Chamber

The founders expected the House of Representatives to take center stage in the new American government. They felt that its status as the only national institution with members elected directly by the people made the House uniquely important - and posed special dangers.

John Randolph 1773–1833, Virginia

Tue, 2013-04-16 15:41 -- administrator

Randolph was impossible to ignore, appearing on the House floor with riding whip and hunting dogs. Brutal in debate, Randolph championed agrarian interests and limited government. "I am an aristocrat," he proclaimed, "I love liberty, I hate equality." But the country soon passed Randolph by as manufacturing interests grew, and politics became more democratic.

Reforming the House, Shifting Power, 1970s

The shocks and turmoil of the Vietnam War and Watergate scandal brought major government reforms. These changes forged much of the character that defines the House today.

Demands for greater openness in government meant fewer closed committee meetings. The House installed electronic voting systems in 1973, and in 1979 began televising its debates. Committees continued to do important work behind the scenes, but the televised proceedings became increasingly important.

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