The Legislature; The History, its Powers and Effects

When the founders founded the constitution, they created a federal government that has more powers than the previous government under the Articles of Confederation but that power was specifically curtailed by the constitution itself. However, despite these limitations the national government has greatly expanded its power over the last two centuries. When the US was declared independent from the hand of Great Britain in 1776, it did no have a written constitution.

Instead the thirteen state of the US used their own sovereignty and independent bodies of law. The first attempt at drafting a constitution was done in 1781 by the continental congress, the first constitution was referred to as the Articles of Confederation, and the Article however was not effective as a national constitution as each state still operated by its own laws. The harmful economic warfare’s led to the Continental Congress meeting once again so as to come up with better basis for the union of the state.

At the end of the meeting the delegates who comprised of Alexander Hamilton and James Madison ended up drawing a new constitution. It is this constitution that was modified over the years to what it is to day.This research will focus on the legislature and the changes it has undergone over the years and the effect it has had on the various entities in society.


Power is the ability to cause or prevent an action. In politics and law though, it refers to the instrument that is used to vest legal authoritization. It is the ability conferred by a person or a body by law to determine and change the rights, liabilities, duties and legal relations of that individual or those institutions. In the federal government the legislature has powers to make laws of the state. The legislature consists of the Senate, The House of Representatives and the Agencies which support Congress. Article 1 section 3 of the constitution states that to be at the Senate, a senator must have attained the age of 30years and has been a citizen for at least 9 years.

The Vice president of the state is the president of the senate and is to take a neutral position on matter presented in the senate. At the Senate chambers, the senators have the chance to debate and vote on legislations that are pending; the constitution gives the legislature the power to pass on legislations that will assist in the smooth running of the government affairs. Each state is represented in the legislature and according to the constitution they are required to serve a maximum of six year terms. The senate has the sole power of trying all Impeachments while on oath. For a conviction to happen two third of the members must agree (Duignan, 2009.

According to the constitution article 1 section 8,the congress which is a branch of the legislature has the power to lay and collect taxes, excises, imposts and duties on behalf of the unites state government. It is up to the congress to ensure uniformity of the imposts and excises throughout the state. This therefore means that no one state should pay more in term of the excises and impost than another state (Sobel, & Tanzey, 1999).The constitution also gives the congress power to borrow money on the credit of the country; it is also up to the congress to ensure that trade with other nations, among states and with the Indian tribes is regulated.

The constitution also gives the congress powers to establish a uniform rule of naturalization of individuals wishing to become citizens and it is also up to the Congress to establish uniform laws on matters of bankruptcies throughout the country (Duignan, 2009).Section 8 of the constitution also gives the congress power to coin money, and regulate its value and that of the foreign countries. It is also up to the congress to establish the standards of weights and measures. Standardization of weights and measures protects the consumers from being duped off their money. It is also up to the congress to establish post office s and post roads that the citizens will use, the provision and maintenance of the US Navy is overseen by the Congress, generally it is the task of the congress to establish rules for the government and regulations of the state and the Navy.

The Constitution also gives the Congress power to define piracy and felony crimes and stipulate the punishment of crimes that occur in the high seas and those that occur against the state’s laws (Sobel, & Tanzey, 1999).The Constitution gives the Congress immense power for the control of the laws of the state. However, in the same constitution, article 1 section 9, the legislative branch is limited from passing and voting of any bill of attainder or ex post facto, Section 9 also prohibits the legislature from drawing funds from the treasury unless it is as a result of the appropriation made by laws that is accompanied by a statement and account of the receipts of expenditures.

The Legislature is also limited when it comes to the taxation and duty payment of articles exported from the state (Duignan, 2009).According to the constitution, the congress has the unlimited power to declare war at any time for any reason that is valid. To prevent misuse of this power the same constitution stipulates that for war to be declared, a majority of the Congress members must agree with the war declarationThe expansion of power dates back to the 19th century when the government took up most of the states responsibilities in ensuring that economic activities and individual conduct are regulated.

This responsibility has been held by the government to date hundred of years after they were formulated.Historically, the government controls were necessary due to the improvement in the industrialization and transportation industries in the state that resulted to regional tensions that arose due to the advantages created by competing state regulatory system such as the slave and free labor system which consequently led to civil war. The war and the consequences of it led to the need to have a constitutional system with expanded federal powers. These new legislations lead to the regulation of activities and provision of services to the citizens (Duignan, 2009).

Over the years the Congress has gone ahead to create more executive and judicial branches in the modern government. Congress has set up cabinet departments, bureaus and regulatory agencies that are independent so as to employ the expanding range of legislation (American Academy of Political and Social Science, 1958).The expansion of the topics that the legislature has been a source of controversy, this is the because the constitutions had originally created a federal government with specific powers but over time this have been modified such that the legislature is in control of practically every thing in the state.

The doctrine of non delegability of the legislature can be traced back to the 19th century in 1825 when the Chief Justice Marshall categorically declared that the legislative powers of the congress cannot be delegated. The statement however did not hold ground as the court had upheld the delegation of the legislature, the court has over time realized that the legislative cannot function effectively without the ability to delegate power; the problem arises when there has to be a boundary on the power that the legislature can possess. The modern doctrine can be seen for example in the 1928 case J. Hampton v United States; the court upheld the decision of the legislature (American Academy of Political and Social Science, 1958).


It is evident that the legislative branch of the federal state of the United State holds a lot of power with reference to the functions it carries out in the society. The constitution has clearly defined the responsibilities and duties that the three branches of the legislature has and the powers it holds in the government. Fortunately though, the same constitution also has rules and regulations that guide the legislature such that it does not misuse its powers,


American Academy of Political and Social Science. (1958)Unofficial government: pressure groups and lobby. American Academy of Political and Social Science

Duignan, B. (2009) the Legislative Branch of the Federal Government. The Rosen Publishing Group

Sobel, S. & Tanzey, P. (1999) How the U.S. Government Works. Barron’s Educational Series,