Ep. 20: U.S. Constitution – Art 1, Sec 2 – House of Representatives

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Ep. 20: U.S. Constitution - Art 1, Sec 2 - House of Representatives
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Show Notes

In this episode, Jason and Matt discuss Article I, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution which covers the U.S. House of Representatives. They use the debates in the Constitutional Convention as a tool to uncover the context and thinking of the Framers when they wrote the passage.

“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.”

  • Records of the Federal Convention of 1787 (Vol I, Vol II, Vol III)
  • From Madison’s Notes on the Convention
    • Regarding John Dickenson’s comments:
      • “Mr. Dickenson. had a very different idea of the tendency of vesting the right of suffrage in the freeholders of the Country. He considered them as the best guardians of liberty; And the restriction of the right to them as a necessary defence agst. the dangerous influence of those multitudes without property & without principle, with which our Country like all others, will in time abound. As to the unpopularity of the innovation it was in his opinion chemirical. The great mass of our Citizens is composed at this time of freeholders, and will be pleased with it”
    • Regarding Gouvenor Morris’s Comments:
      • “Mr. Govr. Morris. He had long learned not to be the dupe of words. The sound of Aristocracy therefore, had no effect on him. It was the thing, not the name, to which he was opposed, and one of his principal objections to the Constitution as it is now before us, is that it threatens this Country with an Aristocracy. The aristocracy will grow out of the House of Representatives. Give the votes to people who have no property, and they will sell them to the rich who will be able to buy them. We should not confine our attention to the present moment. The time is not distant when this Country will abound with mechanics & manufacturers who will receive their bread from their employers. Will such men be the secure & faithful Guardians of liberty? Will they be the impregnable barrier agst. aristocracy ?– He was as little duped by the association of the words, “taxation & Representation”- The man who does not give his vote freely is not represented. It is the man who dictates the vote. Children do not vote. Why? because they want prudence. because they have no will of their own. The ignorant & the dependent can be as little trusted with the public interest. He did not conceive the difficulty of defining “freeholders” to be insuperable. Still less that the restriction could be unpopular. 9 of the people are at present freeholders and these will certainly be pleased with it. As to Merchts. &c. if they have wealth & value the right they can acquire it. If not they don’t deserve it”
  • From James McHenry’s Notes on the Convention
    • Regarding Benjamin Franklin’s comments
      • “Doctor Franklin spoke on this occasion. He observed that in time of war a country owed much to the lower class of citizens. Our late war was an instance of what they could suffer and perform. If denied the right of suffrage it would debase their spirit and detatch them from the interest of the country. One thousand of our seamen were confined in English prisons- had bribes offered them to go on board English vessels which they rejected. An English ship was taken by one of our men of war. It was proposed to the English sailors to join ours in a cruise and share alike with thin in the captures. They immediately agreed to the proposal. This difference of behavior arises from the operation of freedom in America, and the laws in England. One British Statute excluded a number of subjects from a suffrage– These immediately became slaves”
  • Regarding Representation
    • From the Journal of the Convention
      • “Resolved that the right of suffrage in the first branch of the national Legislature ought not to be according to the rule established in the articles of confederation; but according to some equitable ratio of representation namely in proportion to the whole number of white and other free citizens and inhabitants, of every age, sex and condition, including those bound to servitude for a term of years and three fifths of all other persons not comprehended in the foregoing description, except Indians, not paying taxes in each State”
    • From Luther Martin’s notes from the Convention
      • “That it involved the absurdity of increasing the power of a State in making laws for .freemen in proportion as that State violated the rights of freedom. That it might be proper to take slaves into consideration, when taxes were to be apportioned, because it had a tendency to discourage slavery; but to take them into account in giving representation tended to encourage the slave-trade, and to make it the interest of the States to continue that infamous trade.”

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