Front Page Titles (by Subject) 41: [General Assembly of Rhode Island Is Divided into Two Houses] - Colonial Origins of the American Constitution: A Documentary History
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41: [General Assembly of Rhode Island Is Divided into Two Houses] - Donald S. Lutz, Colonial Origins of the American Constitution: A Documentary History 
Colonial Origins of the American Constitution: A Documentary History, ed. Donald S. Lutz (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund 1998).
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[General Assembly of Rhode Island Is Divided into Two Houses]
Taken without alteration from Bartlett, Vol. ii, 1664 to 1677, 110.
March 27, 1666
Several colonies independently made this important move to a bicameral legislature—Massachusetts (Massachusetts Bicameral Ordinance ) and Connecticut (Division of the Connecticut General Assembly ) are others noted in this collection. To a certain extent these moves to bicameralism were attempts to emulate the structure and processes of the British Parliament, and to a certain extent they were a response to colonial political inclinations. The documents provide only vague reasons for bicameralism, but it is certain that the British model was not so much slavishly imitated as it was studied for beneficial design characteristics. In British North America, with no true aristocracy to serve as the basis for an upper house, bicameralism was grounded in the desire for a careful, deliberative process as well as in a desire to distinguish representation of specific geographical units, such as towns and counties, from representation of the interests of the entire colony. In short, bicameralism provided a way for the colonists to respond simultaneously to two of their fundamental values—localism and the common good.
The Assembly having taken notice of the motion from the townes of Portsmouth and of Warwick, desiring the Assembly would order that the deputyes may sitt apart from the magistrates as a House by themselves; and consequently the magistrates to sitt as a House by themselves; and that of these two houses may consist the law makeing power, called in the Charter the Gennerall Assembly, of this body, collony, or corporation of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. At this present Assembly haveing well weighed such conveniances, and such considerationes as may perswade to grant the same, and yett to provide against such inconveniancyes as may for want of mature and sound advice proceed therefrom, doe in this presant Assembly enacte and declare that it is freely agreed, that the request of the townes aforesaid, be granted and ordered, that the magistrates sitt by themselves, and the deputyes by themselves, and that each house soe sitting have equal power and priviledge in the proposeing, composing and propagating any act, order and law in Gennerall Assembly; and that neither house in Gennerall Assembly shall have power without the concurrance of the majour part of the other House, to make any law or order to be accounted as an acte of the Gennerall Assembly. This in gennerall, is fully ordered, with a recommendation of the more pertickelar and methodicall settleing the ways and circumstances of ordering and regulating the afaires in each house and addresses, &c., from the one house to the other, vnto the consideration of the Gennerall Assembly, that is to sitt the first Wednesday in the month of May, now next ensuinge: where it is hopefully expected the matter may be fully debated and sett in a good way vpon more deliberation than this presant time can afford. The Court haveing alredye sate long on other weighty matters that lay before them.
Ordered, that the Recorder shall have for his atendance on the Gennerall Assembly in October, and for the Assembly now in March, 1666, for coppies of both, twenty five shillings from each towne.
Ordered, that coppies shall spedily goe forth vnder the seale to each towne.
Plantation Covenant at Quinnipiack
The text is taken from Isabel Macbeath Calder, The New Haven Colony (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1934), 51. Calder in turn cites the New Haven Colonial Records, 1638–1649, 12. The first part of the first sentence, in brackets, has been added by this editor on the basis of information found in Calder and elsewhere. The spelling and punctuation are Calder’s.
Although the framers used the title shown above, it is more frequently referred to in history books as the “New Haven Plantation Covenant.” This document was adopted shortly after the group arrived from Boston. It was to function as a temporary, general agreement until the people could become familiar enough with each other’s religious views, sentiments, and moral conduct to adopt a written frame of government and code of laws, which they did fourteen months later (see the New Haven Fundamentals, 1643 ). The earlier document, reproduced below, was not actually a covenant because there was no oath. The settlers, not knowing each other well, did not want to force an oath on each other until they were certain they all had agreed on what was to be covenanted. Thus the authors termed the document a “plantation covenant” to indicate its lesser status.
We the assembly of free planters do solemnly covenant] thatt as [in] matters thatt Concerne the gathering and ordering of a Chur. so Likewise in all publique offices wch concerne Cuill orders as Choyce of magistrates and officers makeing and repealing of Lawes devideing allotmts of Inheritance and all things of Like nature we would all of vs be ordered by those Rules wch the scripture holds forth to vs.