▪ Abstract 

This paper examines the evolution of legislatures in the United States beginning with the establishment of the first assembly in Virginia in 1619. Drawing on works by historians, it traces the development of the colonial assemblies as legislative institutions. The transition of assemblies to state legislatures is investigated, as is the underappreciated impact of the first state legislatures on the rules and structures given to the U.S. Congress in the Constitution. The effects of legislative generations are revealed by the state legislatures established during the nineteenth century, as newer legislatures were equipped from their start with the rules and committee systems evolved only over time by earlier legislatures. The continuing evolution of state legislatures after the nineteenth century is linked to the concept of legislative professionalization. Finally, the relationship between legislative evolution and membership turnover is examined, as is the idea that legislatures move in both directions on the evolutionary dimension.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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