The Peoples' House
As...new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manners and opinions change with the change of change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the time.
Thomas Jefferson, 1816
Throughout the six and a half years of the Bush Administration, which seems like a lifetime to many of us, countless numbers of articles have been written on the subject of this administration's contempt for the Constitution that has resulted in willful ignoring of its systems of checks and balances among the three branches of the federal government. Until the voters returned control of both houses of Congress to the Democrats in last year's midterm election, the Republican-controlled Congress, up to that time, virtually had functioned as a rubberstamp legislative body following the lead of its exalted leader, ignoring its responsibility, under the Constitution, of congressional oversight.
Unarguably, the rank and file citizens of our country have not been well served by an executive branch that believes it has carte blanche to usurp what powers it wants to from the other branches of government.
At the time Bush assumed the office of President in January 2001, the mission of the Republican Party was to gerrymander state congressional districts and manipulate state and federal election laws so as to monopolize political power in perpetuity. In effect-their purpose was to establish a one-party dictatorship.
It is not my purpose to give all of the examples of what they have done to bring this about, this has been well done by others. However, I do want to discuss one aspect of the principle of one- man-one-vote that has not received the attention it deserves.
The Peoples' House
Between the times the Constitution was drafted, until the requisite number of states had ratified it, for it to take effect, a lengthy period of debate and discussion took place. During this period, a number of shortcomings in the drafted document were identified.
One of the most important was the size of the House. An undersized House, warned some of the state conventions, would not allow it to be the "guardian of the people. Others warned that a House dominated by an "aristocratic class" would make it vulnerable to corruption.
These issues and concerns, published between October 1787 and August 1788 make up The Federalist Papers.
As regards to the size of the House, ratification by the states were based upon two expectations:
- Equally sized House districts (derived from a common divisor); and,
- Congressional district population would remain at roughly 30,000.
President Washington vetoed the bill, arguing, "There is no one proportion or divisor which, applied to the respective numbers of the States will yield the number and allotment of representatives proposed by the Bill".
During the early years our republic, despite congressional failure to produce an "Article the first", that would institutionalize the above concerns, the average population of a House district was roughly 30,000.
However, precisely because of this failure, the decision as to whether to change the number of House members was left in the hands of the House members themselves. For a concise history of Congressional apportionment legislation, go to thirty-thousand.org