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Constitutional Revision Study Documents of the Constitutional Convention Commission, 1968
Volume 138, Page 108   View pdf image (33K)
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LEGISLATIVE BRANCH

 
 

ing formed different estates. When
necessary, each class met as a separate
"estate" in a "states general." In Eng-
land, the various estates came to sit in
two houses. In France, there were three
estates, which last met in 1789. Four
estates met in Sweden until 1866.5
Though it was an accident of English
history that there were two chambers in
the legislature rather than three or four,
it was not an accident that there were
two chambers rather than one. Simi-
larly, it was no accident that a bicam-
eral system developed in Maryland. The
first assemblies in Maryland had but a
single house. This house, it was charged,
was controlled ".by the governor through
his power to summon attendance of
individual citizens in the assembly on a
selective basis and to use proxies held
by himself and the secretary of the
colony.6 In order to prevent this sub-
jection, the burgesses elected by the
freemen requested in 1642 that they be
allowed to meet in a separate house.
Although this request was refused then,
a bicameral legislature was adopted in
1650.7 Thereafter, Maryland had a bi-
cameral legislature, except for a brief
reversion to unicameralism during the
period of Puritan ascendancy from 1654
to 1657.8 Bicameralism thus came to
Maryland as a means of increasing the
responsiveness of the legislature to the
electorate and not as a check on popular
wishes.
ARGVMENTS FOR RETAINING
THE BICAMERAL SYSTEM

Forces leading to creation of the bi-
cameral system are not the same as
s Id. at 534.
6 Michener, The History of Legislative Ap-
portionment in Maryland,
25 md. L. rev.
2 (1965). See p. 131 infra.
7 Id. at 5.
8 Ibid.
108

forces leading to its retention. Reten-
tion of the bicameral system has been
urged on the following grounds:
1. The upper house provides a pro-
tection for propertied classes.
With abolition of property re-
quirements for voting, particu-
larly for voting for the upper
house, this justification lost its
compelling force. Moreover,
most observers believe that fed-
eral and state constitutional pro-
tections for property have proved
adequate. The argument is no
longer made today.
2. Two houses permit representa-
tion of different interests. With
the lower house based on popu-
lation, the upper house can be
constituted on another basis,
such as representation of area.
This argument has not been
viable since 1964 when the
Supreme Court held that both
houses of state legislatures must
be apportioned on the basis of
population.9
3. The second chamber provides a
check on "popular passions."
In the words of Justice Story, a
second chamber "forms a great
check upon undue, hasty, and
oppressive legislation."10
4. A second chamber can give an
independent and thorough re-
view to the need for the char-
acter of proposed legislation and
so detect and avoid unnecessary
or faultily drafted legislation.
5. A bicameral system permits the
defeat of undesirable but popu-
9
Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533 (1964);
Md. Comm. v. Tawes, 377 U.S. 656 (1964).
10 1 J. story, commentaries on the con-
stitution of the united states 550, at
409 (5th ed. 1891).

 

 
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Constitutional Revision Study Documents of the Constitutional Convention Commission, 1968
Volume 138, Page 108   View pdf image (33K)
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