Creating a Legislature

“It is in the legislatures that the members of a commonwealth are united and combined together into one coherent, living body. This is the seal that gives form, life, and unity to the commonwealth.”

Providence [Rhode Island] Gazette, April 3, 1779

For the leaders of the American Revolution, legislatures were the most important part of any government. It was through legislatures that the people made their will known. When the Federal Convention met in Philadelphia in 1787 to amend the Articles of Confederation, most of the delegates agreed that the legislature should have two houses with greatly expanded powers. There was disagreement, however, over the type of representation. Heavily populated states supported James Madison's efforts to base representation on population alone. Delegates from smaller states supported William Paterson's "New Jersey Plan" that would have given states equal representation in the Congress. Eventually, delegates reached a compromise that provided for a two-house legislature: one with representation based on population elected directly by the people; the other chosen by state legislatures with equal representation for each state.