Congressional Apportionment Amendment
The Congressional Apportionment Amendment (also known as Article the First) is a proposed amendment to the United States Constitution, one of twelve articles of amendment to the United States Constitution approved by the 1st Congress on September 25, 1789 and sent to the legislatures of the several states for ratification. It would, if ratified, establish a formula for determining the appropriate size of the House of Representatives and the appropriate apportionment of representatives among the states following each constitutionally mandated decennial census. It is the only one of the twelve which remains inoperative, as it has not been ratified by enough states for it to become part of the Constitution. Ten of the articles were ratified in 1791, becoming the First through Tenth Amendments to the Constitution, collectively known as the Bill of Rights. In 1992, another was ratified, becoming the Twenty-seventh Amendment.
On January 28, 1790, the Delaware General Assembly ratified eleven of the articles of amendment, rejecting only this proposed amendment. As a result, it remained one ratification short when Articles the Third through Twelfth were certified two years later as being part of the Constitution. It remained one state short of the required three-quarters plateau for most of the period between 1791 and 1803, after which it fell further behind as more and more states entered the Union. As Congress did not set a time limit for its ratification, the Congressional Apportionment Amendment is still technically pending before the states. Currently, ratification by an additional 27 states is necessary for this amendment to be adopted.
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.
Placed first among the twelve articles of amendment to the Constitution sent to the states for ratification by the 1st United States Congress, this proposed amendment would modify Article I, Section 2, Clause 3 of the Constitution and would have an impact on the apportionment of House seats among the states. It was designed to ensure that members of the House would continue to represent small constituencies even as the general population grew. Opponents of the 1787 Constitution's ratification noted that no such guarantee existed in it, and they feared that over time, if the size remained relatively small and the districts became more expansive, that only well known individuals with reputations spanning wide geographic areas could secure election. It was also feared that those in Congress would, as a result, have an insufficient sense of sympathy with and connectedness to ordinary people in their district.
The Anti-Federalists' concern with the size of the House of Representatives was evident in the state ratifying conventions, where several states specifically requested an amendment to secure a minimum size for the House of Representatives. Virginia's ratification resolution proposed,
That there shall be one representative for every thirty thousand, according to the Enumeration or Census mentioned in the Constitution, until the whole number of representatives amounts to two hundred; after which that number shall be continued or encreased [sic] as the Congress shall direct, upon the principles fixed by the Constitution by apportioning the Representatives of each State to some greater number of people from time to time as population encreases [sic].
Anti-Federalist Melancton Smith declared at the New York ratifying convention that,
We certainly ought to fix, in the Constitution, those things which are essential to liberty. If anything falls under this description, it is the number of the legislature.
Supporters of the new Constitution managed to disarm those opposing its ratification by agreeing that the new government should immediately address Anti-Federalist concerns and consider amending the Constitution. The assurance that these issues would be addressed in the First Congress was essential to the ratification of the new form of government.
Legislative and ratification historyThe proposed amendment to the Constitution's apportionment of representatives clause was introduced first in the House on June 8, 1789, by Representative James Madison of Virginia. One of a series of proposed Constitutional amendments, it was referred to a committee consisting of one representative from each State. After emerging from committee, the full House debated the issue and on August 24, 1789, passed it and sixteen other articles of amendment. The proposals went next to the Senate, where 26 substantive alterations were made. On September 9, 1789, the Senate approved a culled and consolidated package of twelve articles of amendment. Changed in this amendment was the apportionment formula to be followed once the number of House members reached 100.
A comparison of the two versions of the amendment
(The substitute Senate language and the affected House language are both in red.)
On September 21, 1789, a House–Senate Conference Committee convened to resolve the numerous differences between the two Bill of Rights proposals. On September 24, 1789, the committee issued its report, which finalized 12 Constitutional Amendments for House and Senate to consider. Regarding the apportionment amendment, the House passed version prevailed with one change, the word "less" was changed to "more" in the second to last line. The amendments were finally approved by both Houses on September 25, 1789.
Having been approved by Congress the twelve Bill of Rights amendments were sent to the states for ratification. This one was ratified by the legislatures of the following states:
- New Jersey — November 20, 1789
- Maryland — December 19, 1789
- North Carolina — December 22, 1789
- South Carolina — January 19, 1790
- New Hampshire — January 25, 1790
- New York — February 24, 1790
- Rhode Island — June 7, 1790
- Pennsylvania — September 21, 1791 (after rejecting it on March 10, 1790)
- Vermont — November 3, 1791
- Virginia — December 15, 1791
- Kentucky — June 24, 1792
At the time it was sent to the states for ratification, an affirmative vote by ten states would have made this amendment operational. That number rose to eleven on March 4, 1791, when Vermont joined the Union. By the end of 1791, the amendment was only one state short of the mark. However, when Kentucky attained statehood on June 1, 1792, the number climbed to twelve, and, even though Kentucky ratified the amendment that summer (along with the other eleven amendments), it was still one state short. No additional states ratified this amendment since. To become part of the Constitution today, ratification by 38 states (an additional 27) would be required.
- List of amendments to the United States Constitution
- List of proposed amendments to the United States Constitution
- Fourteenth Amendment, Section 2 – Apportionment of representation in House of Representatives
- United States congressional apportionment
- Apportionment Act of 1792
- Apportionment Act of 1911
- Reapportionment Act of 1929
- "Representation I"
- "Virginia ratification" Avalon Law Project, Yale University. Viewed June 12, 2014.
- "Promise of Amendments"