Representation by Deliberation: Changes in the Rules of Deliberation in the U.S. House of Representatives, 1789–1844


  • Evelyn C. Fink


In a legislative setting, open access to the floor of a legislature and full debate are hallmarks of republican liberty. Yet the early U.S. House of Representatives closed access to the floor and restricted debate. A rational choice explanation of control based on the degree of party conflict is tested using a database of all rule change proposals regarding floor access and debate in the first through the twenty-eighth congresses. I find that easements are not connected to partisan conflict or the lack of the same, but restrictions are. The majority party initiated restrictions to strengthen its powers on the floor to compensate for its weakness. The minority party took advantage of divided majority-party coalitions to limit the severity of majority control.