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The Invention of the United States Senate

, 248 pages
February 2004
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The Invention of the United States Senate

The invention of the United States Senate was the most complicated and confounding achievement of the Constitutional Convention. Although much has been written on various aspects of Senate history, this is the first book to examine and link the three central components of the Senate's creation: the theoretical models and institutional precedents leading up to the Constitutional Convention; the work of the Constitutional Convention on both the composition and powers of the Senate; and the initial institutionalization of the Senate from ratification through the early years of Congress. The authors show how theoretical principles of a properly constructed Senate interacted with political interests and power politics in the multidimensional struggle to construct the Senate, before, during, and after the convention.

Daniel Wirls is a professor of politics at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He is the author of Buildup: The Politics of Defense in the Reagan Era. Stephen Wirls is an associate professor of political science at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee.

"This exemplary new book by Daniel and Stephen Wirls brings theory and history together in a lucid and timely analysis of this pivotal institution's formation and early development in a way suitable for advanced undergraduates and graduate students."

"No other book that I know of focuses so intently on the origins of the Senate. None, certainly, covers the ground so well. The scholarship is through, up-to-date, and sound."

"Daniel and Stephen Wirls have presented a rich and provocative study of the origins of America's most fascinating but least-understood institution. Like skilled molecular biologists, they have cracked the genetic code of the United States Senate and the many strands that went into its creation. The book is an intellectual triumph and a delight to read."

" Invention of the United States Senate is a tour de force. It is a meticulous, primary-source-based analysis of the interplay of political theory, lived experience, and state and class interests on decisions about the composition and powers of the U.S. Senate. It also analyzes the way 'ordinary' politics in the first few Congresses cemented some tendencies and caused the abandonment of others. This book will be a very important addition to the literature of American political development and Congress. Historians and contemporary scholars of Congress will find it invaluable for graduate and advanced undergraduate classes."

"Two learned political scientists explore the foundations and early development of the US Senate."

"A masterful treatment of the origins and early evolution of the U.S. Senate... Extremely well-written and informed... Raises the bar substantially for future studies of congressional development."

"Highly scholarly but also highly engaging work."

"No previous work offers an account that ties the theoretical and practical origins of the Senate with its early institutional development. Wirls and Wirls prove to be able guides and their journey worthy of our efforts."

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