Scholars today take for granted the existence of a “wall of separation” dividing the three branches of the federal government. Neither Separate nor Equal: Congress in the 1790s demonstrates that such lines of separation among the legislative, executive, and judicial branches, however, were neither so clearly delineated nor observed in the first decade of the federal government’s history.
The first two essays describe the social and cultural milieu attending the movement of the republican court from New York to Philadelphia and the physical and social environment of Philadelphia in the 1790s. The following section examines the congressional career of New York’s Egbert Benson, the senatorial career of Robert Morris as an expression of his economic interests, the vigorous opposition of Rep. William Branch Giles to the Federalist policies of the Washington administration, and finally the underappreciated role of congressional spouses.
The last five essays concentrate on areas of interbranch cooperation and conflict. In particular, they discuss the meaning of separation of powers in the 1790s, Washington as an active president with Congress, the contrast between Hamilton’s and Jefferson’s exercise of political influence with Congress, and John Adams’s relationship with Congress during the Quasi-War crisis.
The essays in this collection, the second volume of the series Perspectives on the History of Congress, 1789-1801, originated in two conferences held in 1995 and 1996 by the United States Capitol Historical Society.
Kenneth R. Bowling is coeditor of The Documentary History of the First Federal Congress, 1789–1791, and the author of The Creation of Washington, D.C.: The Idea and Location of the American Capital. More info →
Donald R. Kennon is the former chief historian and vice president of the United States Capitol Historical Society. He is editor of the Ohio University Press series Perspectives on the History of Congress, 1789–1801. More info →
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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.
On March 4, 1789, New York City’s church bells pealed, cannons fired, and flags snapped in the wind to celebrate the date set for the opening of the First Federal Congress. In many ways the establishment of Congress marked the culmination of the American Revolution as the ship of state was launched from the foundation of the legislative system outlined in Article I of the Constitution.Inventing
Establishing Congress: The Removal to Washington, D.C., and the Election of 1800 focuses on the end of the 1790s, when, in rapid succession, George Washington died, the federal government moved to Washington, D.C., and the election of 1800 put Thomas Jefferson and the Democratic-Republican Party in charge of the federal government.Establishing
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