Sent: Thursday, June 18, 2020 9:56 AM
Subject: Article the First
Few people have ever heard of Article the First, which was the 1st of the 12 proposed amendments to comprise our Bill of Rights to the U.S. Constitution—its purpose was to place an upper limit on the population that would comprise a legislative representative district. It was sabotaged by the changing of one word. You never hear about it, the pundits and politicians never mention it. The schools don’t teach about it—yet it is an absolute fact, that self-government by We the People cannot exist without a reasonable limitation on the population size of a representative district—which is why America no longer has a semblance of self-government by We the People (at least not at the federal level).
This is likely the first you have heard of Article the First, which was the 1st of the 12 amendments proposed by our first congress in 1789, as our Bill of Rights. Its purpose was to establish an upper limit on the size of a House District, yet the proposed amendment was sabotaged at the last minute by the replacement of the word “less” in the final clause with the word “more”, rendering the entire purpose of the amendment void. This represents political intrigue in the highest fashion, at the very start of our new government. Why you never hear about it is beyond me as its passage was essential to preserving the founder’s vision of self-government by We the People. So, why do you never hear about it?
Note: Article the First is one of six unratified amendments. As Congress did not set a time limit on its ratification, it could be possible for Congress to correct the wording of the proposed amendment, changing the word “more” back to “less,” as it was worded in the version passed by the House of Representatives in 1789, and promote it again for ratification.
Article I of the Constitution provides that the number of representatives in the House of Representatives not exceed (or be more than) one for every 30,000 population. While providing this minimum threshold, the Constitution failed to provide a maximum reasonable size for a House District.
Anti-Federalists, who opposed the Constitution's ratification, noted that there was nothing in the document to guarantee that the number of seats in the House would continue to represent small constituencies as the general population of the states grew. They feared that over time, if the population size of districts grew and the districts became more expansive, that only well-known individuals or those with political backing could secure election. Since that time, of course, many more factors have developed such as the evolution of the lobbying industry, modern political financing the various forms of mass media, all of which undermine the ability of the electorate’s to choose or hold the elected representative accountable.
Below is a comparison of the two versions of the amendment proposed by the two branches of the legislature in 1789:
What was decided upon in reconciliation was this:
After the first enumeration required by the first article of the Constitution, there shall be one Representative for every thirty thousand, until the number shall amount to one hundred, after which the proportion shall be so regulated by Congress, that there shall be not less than one hundred Representatives, nor less than one Representative for every forty thousand persons, until the number of Representatives shall amount to two hundred, after which the proportion shall be so regulated by Congress, that there shall not be less than two hundred Representatives, nor less than one Representative for every fifty thousand persons (emphasis added)
What ended up going out for ratification ended up being this:
After the first enumeration required by the first article of the Constitution, there shall be one Representative for every thirty thousand, until the number shall amount to one hundred, after which the proportion shall be so regulated by Congress, that there shall be not less than one hundred Representatives, nor less than one Representative for every forty thousand persons, until the number of Representatives shall amount to two hundred, after which the proportion shall be so regulated by Congress, that there shall not be less than two hundred Representatives, nor more than one Representative for every fifty thousand persons (emphasis added)
Notice with the upper of the two versions (with the word less), after the number of representatives reached 200 members, members would continue to be added as the U.S. Population grew such that there would not be less than one for every 50,000 population. This effectively capped the size of a House District.
However, in the lower version (with the word more), the one that actually got printed and went to the states for ratification, once the number of representatives reached 200 members, while there would not be more than one for every 50,000 population, there was no maximum size—in other words, the only purpose achieved by this amendment would be to establish a new lower limit of the population size of a House District (from 30,000 as in Article I of the Constitution, to a new lower limit of 50,000 population). As the population grew, nothing in this revised amendment would have set a maximum upper limit on the size of a House District—thus essentially, the amendment’s original purpose of setting an upper limit was destroyed by changing this one work, from “less” to “more.” While it was more than 50 years before the 50,000 population size was exceeded (and the founders dead and buried), the failure of the original purpose of Article the First has allowed for the concept of true representation by We the People to be undermined such we now have the corrupt crony system we have today. And, this critical amendment was the only amendment of the 12 for our Bill of Rights that was not ratified.
After the first apportionment in the 20th Century, the average House District exceeded 200,000 population. To make matters worse, Congress passed the Apportionment Act of 1911, which froze the membership of the House at 435 members (as it remains today). As such, as the U.S. population grows, so did the size of House Districts, now over 750,000 and growing without limit in direct proportion to the population. Unless rectified, the issue of accountability to the People, versus politicians self-interest and allegiance to the financial forces that support their campaigns will only grow worse.
Further discussion regarding Congressional Apportionment:
Founders had experience – Prior to drafting our Constitution, our nation’s founders had experience in self-government via their local and state legislatures. They had experience in what worked and what didn’t work.
They were also students of history, and knew from history that democracies self-destruct (always) as they degenerate into mob rule by the majority, self-destruct and end up being governed by an elite few: oligarchy. That is why our founders established a Constitutional Republic and representative form of government.
The House representatives were to be selected directly by We the People, and the Senators were to be selected indirectly by their state legislatures who in turn were selected by We the People.
While in many ways the framers of our Constitution showed extreme wisdom, some were also a bit naïve, such as James Madison who is often regarded as the father of the Constitution, who felt a Bill of Rights was not necessary to safeguard the nation, as the Constitution itself, if strictly upheld as the Supreme Law of the Nation, was sufficient. And, he was possibly right—if it was upheld under its founding principles.
Nevertheless, many forces from the Colonies/States demanded a bill of rights…Amendments to the Constitution to provided protections for issues not specifically addressed by the Constitution. As a result, the various requests were consolidated into 12 articles that were submitted to the first Congress in 1789 for approval as amendments to the Constitution and submission to the states for ratification.
The very first of these twelve articles, called Article the First was to provide an upper limit on the size of a representative district for the House of Representatives. The Constitution, Article 1, Section 2 provides there will be no more than one representative for every 30,000 population. There were two versions of Article the First approved by Congress. The House version allowed for an increase in the district to a maximum of 50,000 in population per representative district. The Senate version allowed for a maximum of 60,000 per representative district. As the two versions differed, it went to reconciliation.
What came out of reconciliation, or at least what got sent to the states for ratification encompassed neither. It was essentially the House version, but with one change: the word “less” in the final clause was changed to the word “more.” This totally changed the meaning of the proposed Amendment. Instead of it setting an upper limit of 50,000 as the population grew, it essentially became nebulous after the House reached 200 members (and the census population reached an aggregate of 8 million people in the United States).
How this slipped by (a corrupted version that was inconsistent with both House and Senate versions) is anybody’s guess. I have read articles that state it was a clerical error changing the “less” to “more.” I have read others that would place it as skullduggery. However, for the founders it may have seemed an inconsequential issue at that time as they were dealing with many other issues—and House district size was being kept small anyway, and even during the their lifetimes did not exceed the 50,000 limitation.
The Constitution provides for reapportionment following each 10 year federal census. It was not until the 1843 reapportionment that the average House district increased beyond 50,000 to 71,338 population. This was 54 years after the Constitution was ratified and long after the debate had ended on the issue and the founders had died.
You may be wondering: What’s the big deal?
Well, size of House districts matter, in fact the population size of any electoral district matters for selecting and electing representatives. Without an upper limit to House district size, the size of the average House district grew to over 203,000 by the reapportionment of 1903. Then, House membership was frozen by the Reapportionment Act of 1911 to 435 members, and we now have House districts that average over 750,000 in population, and which will grow in size in proportion to the national population—a very bad fact, if we regard to the concept of self-government by We the People as a good thing.
The greater the population in encompassed by a House district, the more powerful special interests and big money can wield control over who gets nominated and who gets elected—as well as the growth of opportunity for voter fraud and other skullduggery counter to the best interest of the general welfare.
Benefit of Small Districts – say 50 to 60 thousand population
- The average citizen, if they so desire, can have a voice in the selection of the candidates.
- The candidates, residents of the district, can be known commodities—people of known character and known opinions.
- There is reasonable opportunity for all concerned citizens to attend one or more of small public meetings where issues and their concerns can be discussed and addressed.
- The local community and candidate/representative can discuss the issues with reasonable depth.
- When you vote, you can vote based on actual knowledge rather than campaign rhetoric and mass advertising propaganda.
- Individuals or a small group of citizenry can reasonably hold the representative accountable
- Big money would not be needed for a candidate to be known by the electorate—as local meetings and interpersonal dissemination and discussion would suffice.
- You would know if special interests and big money was being used to try to influence the district election and the use of such could count against such candidates.
- The process is amenable to the district selecting a candidate of their choosing rather than having a candidate or slate of candidates foisted upon them by special interests.
- Voter fraud can readily be minimized or eliminated entirely in a small district where those voting can both be identified and the votes more easily counted.
- And, there are many other factors that make a small (30 to 60 thousand population) district beneficial to selected and electing representatives that actually represent the community.
Result of Large Districts – These conditions worsen as the size of the district increases:
- It becomes increasingly unreasonable that the average person can know or be a party to selecting the candidates for even the primary election.
- Becomes increasingly unreasonable to have direct communication with the candidate or elected representative
- Individuals and small groups of people are not able to truly hold elected representative accountable
- Big money is needed to promote the candidate
- Difficult for a candidate to promote their campaign effectively without accepting money from special interests to finance the campaign or obtain their support
- Few voters will actually be able to attend a rally with the candidate present and if they do, it is unlikely they would be able to ask any question, and if they did, it would be easy for the candidate to dodge such questions with vague or untruthful replies.
- Most voters will only know what is broadcast through the media, and advertising propaganda disseminated.
- Easy for candidate to make promises that he/she will never deliver on
- With the lack of good knowledge of the candidate, many simply revert to voting their party line.
- And, there are many other features of large districts that make it less likely the candidate will truly represent the interests of the public or uphold the Constitution, but instead yield to those special interests contrary to the general welfare, or ideologies hostile to our founding values.
Small districts favor the power of We the People, large districts favor the power of special interests and big money. This applies not just to the House of Representatives, but to state legislatures and ultimately the U.S. Senate—for which the selection process was corrupted by the 17th Amendment.
Under the Constitution, the original concept of Senators being selected by state legislatures made perfect sense. The state legislators were accountable to their constituents, and as a group, state legislators would tend strongly to select suitable Senators of good character to represent their state in Congress.
However, as politicians gained control over We the People, they were able to foil the public into thinking the 17th Amendment—which changed the way Senators were selected to one of a statewide election process—was a democratic improvement. However, it was the opposite, for instead of accountable state legislators choosing the Senator, it was transformed to a statewide election process where once again big money and special interests 9 times out of 10 had more sway over who ended up on the ballot and who got elected than did We the People.
Thus, if we are to restore Congress to being responsive to We the People, the rule of law, and or Constitution, we must educate the public regarding the importance of small legislative districts if we are to restore self-government to this nation.
We need to repeal the 17th Amendment, and pass a new amendment similar to Article the First which sets a maximum population size for a House district.
If we accomplish that, how do we handle the large number of representatives?
As for the House of Representatives, you might be arguing (as politicians have in the past) that too large a House membership will become unworkable. After all, we are talking 6,000 or more House members with districts in the 50 to 60 thousand range.
However, this can be workable to several reasons:
1) With the exception of national defense and border control, probably in excess of 90% of the size and function of the federal government is an overreach of the Constitution (see Article 1, Section 8 for the actual responsibilities of the federal government). These functions should be phased out and revert to either the states, or preferably back to the local counties and communities.
2) With a federal government that actually adheres to the Constitution, there should be far fewer legislative issues at the national level.
3) With modern technology, it is not needed that all Representatives meet in a common location.
4) A new concept by We the People should be initiated, and that is that no bill should be submitted to the House for consideration unless it was proposed by a constituency of the People (in other words, not the brainstorm of representatives acting on their own), and that it promotes the General Welfare, and not some special interest.
5) A small group selected by lot – say 200 to 400 – could be assigned to consider legislation on the floor (and they could rotate) of Congress, and the rest of the representatives could reside in their home district, and interact with D.C. via multiple forms of communication.
6) It could be organized many ways, for example the group in D.C. could be charged with deciding if a piece of legislation even warranted further concern…if it did a majority vote of those in D.C. would relegate the bill to discussion and a vote of the entire body of Representatives…with various ways to debate/discuss.
7) And, some have argued the great cost of such a large legislature—well even if they were funded as currently, it would be small potatoes in the scheme of things. However, I would favor a very limited staff—say 2 people—and any additional staffing, if any, paid by the local district. There should be no need for the extravagance of our current Congress.