Congress History

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Congress History

Congress: Congress Through History

During the 17th century and most of the 18th century, representative assemblies in Great Britain's American colonies wielded broad powers of taxing, spending, and public policy. Assemblies operating under written charters governed local governments, companies, and even churches. When conflicts arose with Britain, the colonial assemblies and legislatures – and later the Continental Congresses – supported the rebels' cause and eventually approved Thomas Jefferson's Declaration of Independence.

The Congress that emerged from these colonial legislatures was the sole organ of government under the nation's first charter, the Articles of Confederation, which governed the country from 1781 to 1788. Eventually the Articles proved too weak to enable Congress to direct the economy, deal with foreign powers, and put down civil unrest. In 1787 the Constitutional Convention gathered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to revise the Articles of Confederation, but it quickly concluded that the document was too flawed to repair. Instead, the convention debated and wrote a new constitution with strong executive authority, but balanced by a strong, autonomous Congress. “In republican government,” wrote statesman James Madison in The Federalist Papers (1787), “the legislative authority necessarily predominates.” The states ratified the new charter – the Constitution – in 1788. (1)


Notes and References

  1. Encarta Online Encyclopedia

See Also

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