During the Constitutional Convention, James Madison described the Senate as “a necessary fence” which would protect “the people against their rulers” and from “the transient impressions into which they themselves might be led.” Over the course of more than two hundred years, the Senate has expanded and evolved into a complex legislative body while remaining consistent with Madison’s vision, fulfilling the needs of a growing and increasingly diverse nation.
As outlined in the Constitution, the House represents citizens based on district populations, while the Senate represents citizens on an equal state basis. This agreement was part of what is called The Great Compromise which, in turn, led to the Permanent Seat of Government Act establishing the nation’s federal capital in Washington, DC. In 1789, the House assembled for the first time in New York. It moved to Philadelphia in 1790 and then to Washington, DC, in 1800.
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