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Constitution Monday: Why the House and Census

Note: Throughout this series, items that are hyperlinked were in the Constitution as written in 1787 but have since been amended or superseded.

Article I of the Constitution of the United States established the Legislative Branch, known as Congress. Here is Article I, Section II:

Section. 2.

The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States, and the Electors in each State shall have the Qualifications requisite for Electors of the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature.

No Person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the Age of twenty five Years, and been seven Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen.

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.

When vacancies happen in the Representation from any State, the Executive Authority thereof shall issue Writs of Election to fill such Vacancies.

The House of Representatives shall chuse their Speaker and other Officers; and shall have the sole Power of Impeachment.

This article of the Constitution gives the qualifications of the Members of the House of Representatives and talks about how much representation each state received in the House.  The Founders intended that this would be done through giving representatives in proportion to a state’s population, which would be measured every ten years. This is why we have a Census. And it’s part of the reason you really ought to follow the law and fill out your Census form next April. If you don’t, your state could conceivably lose representatives in Congress. No matter how small a state’s population gets, it will still have at least one Representive in Congress like Alaska does. But why take chances?

Last week I spoke of a shameful episode and it can be found in our first hyperlinked section that says:

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.

While the Declaration of Independence boldly declared that “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights”, the Constitution was nearly silent on slavery, except to mention that non-free persons were only worth 3/5 of a free person. Thankfully this was corrected, at least in law if not prevailing attitude, by the 14th Amendment.

Any thing strike you about anything in Article I, Section II? Leave a comment.

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