Amid the turbulent swirl of foreign intrigue, external and internal threats to the young nation’s existence, and the domestic partisan wrangling of the 1790s, the United States Congress solidified its role as the national legislature. The ten essays in The House and Senate in the 1790s demonstrate the mechanisms by which this bicameral legislature developed its institutional identity. The first essay sets the scene for the institutional development of Congress by examining its constitutional origins and the efforts of the Founders to empower the new national legislature. The five following essays focus on two related mechanisms—petitioning and lobbying—by which citizens and private interests communicated with national lawmakers.
Although scholars tend to see lobbying as a later nineteenth-century development, the papers presented here clearly demonstrate the existence of lobbyists and lobbying in the 1790s. The final four papers examine other aspects of the institutional development of the House and the Senate, including the evolution of political parties and congressional leadership.
The essays in this collection, the third volume in the series Perspectives on the History of Congress, 1789-1801, originated in a series of conferences held by the United States Capitol Historical Society from 1994 to 2001.