Notes and References on our Constitution

Even with all of this preoccupation with the fear of populism, the original draft of the constitution specifically called for one representative for every 40 thousand people, and provided that this be maintained through any separation or joining or entry of new states to the union. The idea that so large a body of individuals would constitute a populist mob, or that a legislative body composed of a large number of such representatives would be given to "heated populism" was of little concern and not at issue.

Initial Draft Article IV, Section 4
As the proportions of numbers in different States will alter from time to time; as some States may hereafter be divided; as others may be enlarged by addition of territory; as two or more states may be united; as new state will be erected within the limits of the United States, the Legislature shall, in each of these cases, regulate the number of representatives by the number of inhabitants, according to the provisions herein after made, at a rate of one for every forty thousand.

Initial Draft Article IV, Section 5
All bills for raising or appropriating money, and for fixing the salaries of the officers of Government, shall originate in the House of Representatives, and shall not be altered or amended by the Senate. No money shall be drawn from the Public Treasury, but in pursuance of appropriations that shall originate in the House of Representatives.

Initial Draft Article IV, Section 6
The House of Representatives shall have the sole power of impeachment. It shall choose its Speaker and other officers.

Alterations in the Convention

The wording of the initial draft was then changed to insist that not less than 30 thousand would have a member in the House of Representatives, but no cap on the upper size of constituencies was instituted in the new version. The literal interpretation of the reworded document can be construed to say that the Congress itself has the right to limit representation in the House of Representatives to one representative from each state. But it seems beyond belief that anyone knowledgeable of the history of the period could interpret the Constitution in that way, that any knowledgeable individual could interpret the meaning of "but each State shall have at Least one Representative" to be anything other than a mechanism to prevent a small or sparsely populated state such as those that would be joining the new union as the nation spread westward from being denied representation in the House.


United States Constitution, Article I, Section II, Paragraph 3

Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons. The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct. The Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand, but each State shall have at Least one Representative; and until such enumeration shall be made, the State of New Hampshire shall be entitled to chuse three, Massachusetts eight, Rhode-Island and Providence Plantations one, Connecticut five, New-York six, New Jersey four, Pennsylvania eight, Delaware one, Maryland six, Virginia ten, North Carolina five, South Carolina five, and Georgia three.

Section 7

All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills.

Original Meanings (B2)

The following is an excerpt from "Original Meanings - Politics and Ideas in the Making of the Constitution", a Pulitzer Prize winning book authored by Jack N. Rakove:

"Was representation simply a device to replace the impracticable meeting of the people at large, in which case representatives should resemble their constituents as closely as possible? Or should representatives possess an independence of mind and a breadth of experience or knowledge that would provide a capacity for deliberation that ordinary citizens lacked? Did the "sympathy" desired of lawmakers require reinforcing the ties that bound them to the voters; or could it be attained, in adequate measure, through some act of imagination? The answers to these questions in turn reflected divergent definitions of the essential duties of representative institutions. Did they exist primarily to protect the people at large against arbitrary power by preventing government from acting without the expression of popular consent? Or did they not provide as well a mechanism whereby the people could authorize government to make law in the positive sense, actively adopting policies that contribute to the prosperity of the the society and the happiness of its citizens?"

Again quoting from Jack N. Rakove's "Original Meanings":

"At the Convention, the framers struggled to move beyond their preoccupation with the mechanics of representation -- especially the dilemma of apportionment in both houses -- to secure the qualitative improvement in the character of deliberation and legislation they desired. Once the Constitution was published, however, Federalists were hard pressed to defend this conception of representation against more traditional norms to which Anti-Fedralists clung when they worried that a small and elite Congress would lack the sympathy and local knowledge needed to protect the people at large against the abuse of power."

Ratification By the People

It is highly implausible that any person knowledgeable of the history of the period could interpret the overall breadth of the Constitution in any way other than to acknowledge that the intent of those who ratified the Constitution was to embrace a system of governance in which the people themselves chose their representatives from among the array of individuals known to them and their fellows. That choice was to be unencumbered by an the intervening layer of well financed and obtrusive political parties, and the constituency sizes were not rival the population of nation states. Regardless of any hidden agenda or intent on the part of the framers of the Constitution to establish something other than a true representative republic in which the people themselves were the supreme authority, those who ratified our Constitution did so with the understanding that the new national government was to be responsive to them in their ideals of justice. These people did not ratify the Constitution with an intent of creating electorate constituencies so large that adequate sympathy with the people themselves could not be gained from reasonable exposure and discourse with those who are to be represented. They ratified a Constitution that they believed was to provide proper representation to defend them against aristocratic encroachment on liberty and freedom by any government such as the one of King George, or one of oligarchy or of aristocracy, or by the self proclaimed chieftains in the legislature itself.