Transitional Governance in the United States:
Lessons from the First Federal Congress
Legislative Studies Quarterly XXIV:543-68

This paper details the transition from a confederated to a federal legislative system in the United States. Covering the period 1782 through 1792, I examine how political elites fundamentally reshaped their legislative institutions. This period in American history was extremely important. The newly created nation faced enormous problems reconstituting itself from a loose aggregation of independent and sovereign states into a unified nation. Almost every commentator from the period noted the fragile nature of newfound democratic rights and the importance of this national experiment.

The concluding sections of the paper draw lessons from this period of American transition to contemporary legislatures in democratizing systems. While few of these lessons directly apply to current transitional systems, they shed light on the kinds of issues that scholars should raise while studying democratizing systems.

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