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§ 103. “The House of Representatives.”

As the Senate is the legislative organ representing the States, so the House of Representatives is the legislative organ representing the nation. This appears from the exact words of the Constitution. The Senate is composed of an equal number of senators “for each State,” directly chosen by the people of the State (sec. 7). The House of Representatives is composed of members directly “chosen by the people of the Commonwealth,” and the number of members chosen in the several States is required to be in proportion to the respective numbers of the people. In one chamber the States are equally represented. In the other chamber the people are proportionately represented. The Senate represents the States as political units. The House represents the people as individual units.

In declaring that the House of Representatives is chosen by the “people of the Commonwealth,” the Constitution follows the precedent of Switzerland, which declares that the National Council represents “the Swiss people;” whereas the House of Representatives in the United States is “chosen by the people of the several States”—a phrase which does not so clearly express its national element.

In our review of the meaning of the phrase, “Federal Commonwealth” (Note, § 27 supra), we have seen that the Commonwealth is a community created on the model of a national State with a federal structure;—National in uniting the people, Federal in uniting the States, and, for certain purposes, maintaining the autonomy and individuality of each State, and assigning to each State a share in the dual system of government. It is hardly necessary once more to emphasize the principle that the Commonwealth


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as a political State should not be confused with the Federal Government. The Federal Government, consisting of three divisions—the legislature, the executive, and the judiciary—is charged with the duty of exercising certain defined powers and functions, assigned to it by the Commonwealth in and through the Constitution.

The Federal Government is only one part of the dual system of government by which the people are ruled; the other parts of the dual system are the State Governments, charged with the duty of exercising the residuary powers and functions of government, reserved to them by the Commonwealth in and through the Constitution.

The House of Representatives is one of the two Chambers of the legislative organization of the Federal Government. It gives particular force and expression to what may be described as the national principle of the Commonwealth. In that great assembly the national principle will find full scope and representation. Its operation and tendency will be in the direction of the unification and consolidation of the people of the Commonwealth into one integrated whole, irrespective of State boundaries. In its constitution it represents “the people of the Commonwealth,” as distinguished from “the people of the States.” The natural bent and inclination of its policy will, therefore, be to regard its constituents as one united people; one in community of rights and interests; one in their title to the equal protection of the law; one in the claim to fair and beneficent treatment; one in destiny. On the other hand, the Senate, as well as the High Court, will tend to check any unconstitutional encroachments on the reserved realm of provincial autonomy. If in both chambers the people had been represented in proportion to their numbers, the practical result would have been the establishment of a unified government, in which the States, as political entities, would have been absolutely unrecognized, and would have been soon reduced to a subordinate position. The Convention was entrusted with no such duty, under the Enabling Acts by which it was called into existence; its mandate was to draft a Constitution in which the federal, as well as the national elements, were recognized.

The House of Representatives is not only the national chamber; it is the democratic chamber; it is the grand depository and embodiment of the liberal principles of government which pervade the entire constitutional fabric. It is the chamber in which the progressive instincts and popular aspirations of the people will be most likely to make themselves first felt. This characteristic is not founded on any difference in the franchise of the House of Representatives from that of the Senate, because both franchises are the same; it arises from the fact that, by the Constitution, it is expressly intended to be such a House, and that by its organization and functions it is best fitted to be the arena in which national progress will find room for development.

The House of Representatives of the Commonwealth bears a close resemblance to the House of Representatives of the United States of America, and occupies the corresponding position in the scheme of government.

THE HOUSE OF COMMONS AND THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES COMPARED.—We will now proceed to draw attention to certain features in the constitution and functions of the House of Representatives in which it resembles the House of Commons, and certain other features and functions in which it differs from that historic Chamber:—

Resemblance.—The members of both the House of Commons and the House of Representatives are elected by the people, voting in national constituencies, and consequently they represent national elements. They both exercise supreme supervision over the finances. This is secured by the exclusive power of originating proposed laws appropriating public money and imposing taxation, and in the inability of the House of Lords in all cases, and of the Senate with certain exceptions, to amend such proposed laws. This control of the finances will tend to carry with it the predominant control of the Executive, and hence the system known as Responsible Government.

Differences.—The House of Commons is the National Chamber of the Empire, exercising in conjunction with the other branches of the Imperial Parliament unlimited,


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unchallengeable sovereign authority. The House of Representatives is the National Chamber of the Commonwealth, which is merely an outlying portion of the Empire, the Parliament of which is endowed only with restricted and enumerated powers, delegated to it through the Federal Constitution by the parent Parliament. The House of Representatives is a division of a subordinate law-making body, whose mandates are of the nature of by-laws, valid whilst within the jurisdiction conferred upon it by the Constitution, but invalid if they go beyond the limits of such jurisdiction. (Dicey, Law of the Const. p. 137.)

Another important point of difference between the House of Commons and the House of Representatives has been pointed out by Dr. Burgess. Since the reform and revolution of 1832, the House of Commons, he says, has occupied a double position in the English system. It is one branch of the legislature, and it is also the sovereign organization of the State. In the former capacity it has no more power than the House of Lords; in the latter it is supreme over the King and the Lords. The great result of the reform movement of 1832 is, he contends, that the people became politically organized in the House of Commons. In other words, the organization of the State, within the Constitution, is now the same as was its organization back of the Constitution. The House of Commons, newly elected after a dissolution on a particular principle, or measure, is the political people organized through their representatives in that House. There is thus, he says, a correspondence between the revolutionary organization of the State, back of the Constitution, and its continuing organization within the Constitution. (Burgess, Political Sci. vol. i. p. 95; vol. ii. pp. 38-9.) At the beginning of its constitutional career, the House of Representatives will not occupy such a commanding relative position as the House of Commons, for the reason previously stated that its powers are limited by the Constitution. Its capacity to initiate reforms with a view to the acquisition of further power is, however, with the exceptions mentioned in sec. 128, unbounded. It cannot, like the House of Commons, through ministers having its confidence, intimidate or coerce the Upper House and the Crown to agree to a proposed amendment of the Constitution; the ultimate determination of all such constitutional proposals is vested in a body of persons, defined by the Constitution as a majority of the electors of the Commonwealth voting, including majorities in more than half the States. Such majorities constitute the quasi-sovereign organization of the Commonwealth, considered as a political State. But the House of Representatives can originate such constitutional proposals, and cause them to be submitted to the Federal electors for their decision; and it cannot be doubted that the influence of the members of such a strong chamber in securing an affirmative vote in favour of its proposals will be very powerful indeed.

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