The Senate

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Setting Up Shop

The Senate began work on April 6, 1789, when a majority of senators arrived, establishing a quorum, or the minimum number required to conduct business. Since they met behind closed doors, the senators needed a doorkeeper to guard their privacy. They chose James Mathers for this job on April 7 (later expanding his position to Doorkeeper and Sergeant at Arms).

Defining the Senate's Role

How would senators represent the citizens of their states? Under the Constitution, state legislatures (not voters) chose senators, who served longer terms than House members. The Senate gave each state an equal voice in Congress—regardless of its population. Critics of this system warned that the Senate might be too “aristocratic.” Would senators be accountable? they asked. Would they fairly reflect public opinion?

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