At the time the Constitution was written the Americans who wrote it (and also the state
constitutions) were often criticized by political theorists in Europe for creating a bicameral
legislature (one with two houses.) These European theorists thought that a democracy did not
have an aristocracy that needed to have its own legislative body, and that the people could
simply make their own rules in a single assembly that would embody government by the

But Lincoln reminds us that the goal was not simply government “by the people” but also “of”
and “for” the people. Madison agrees, it seems, in defending a legislature with two houses as
essential for making good decisions and maintaining separation of powers.

Madison writes in Federalist 51 that the key lies in the structure of the two bodies, the House of
Representatives and the Senate. The aim, he says,
“to render them, by different modes of election and different principles of action, as
little connected with each other as the nature of their common functions and their
common dependence on the society will admit.”

ESSAY: Explain what this means and how it works.
1) Compare the key structural elements of the House of Representatives and
the Senate under the Constitution.
2) Using material from the Major Themes and especially from The Federalist
Papers, explain which of these differences seem the most important.
3) Explain how they would create “different principles of action” to make the
House and the Senate check one another so as to create a more fair and
effective legislative body.

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