The Original First Amendment

You know the First Amendment, right? It’s the one about free speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom of religion, right?

Nope. I am talking about the First Amendment. That is, the original First Amendment. And it was not about these freedoms—vital as they are—but rather about adequate representation in Congress.

A primary concern among some of the framers was that we would have enough people in the House to speak for the number of people they represented as adequately as possible. For, the larger a body of people to speak for, the less one person truly represents them. This means, therefore, that if we desire more accurate representation, we should have smaller constituencies. This means more districts and more representatives.

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Sure enough, under the original First Amendment, instead of only 435 Representatives in Congress—as it has been since the Permanent Apportionment Act of 1929—we would have as many as 6,000. This is because the original First Amendment in the original Bill of Rights allowed for one Representative for every 50,000 people in the population ad infinitum.

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Here’s the way that Amendment read:

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 not be 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.

This is one of two proposed amendments in the original proposed Bill of Rights which were not adopted by enough of the States to come into effect.

So, granted, this “Amendment” cannot technically be called the First Amendment since it never passed. It was merely the First proposed Amendment. But the issue it addresses is highly important, and the fact that it fell only one State short of ratification shows that most of the early framers felt it was important as well. (In fact, only two of fourteen States—Delaware and Pennsylvania—actually refused it. Eight agreed to it, and four States simply did not return the call for any Amendments at all).

In fact, the constitutional standard we got was 1 for every 30,000, which would mean up to 10,000 representatives! This, of course, was also trumped by the 1929 Act.

Granted, it is a valid concern whether it is desirable to have another 5,565—let alone 9,565—federal-level politicians running around, but the principle of adequate representation is vital to freedom. It was this principle that the proposed amendment sought to protect, and for this reason it is worth reviewing this original proposal: 1) it raises our awareness as to how vital the principle of adequate representation is, and 2) it forces us to question whether our relatively meager (in numbers) representative House is much more than the oligarchy so many of the framers predicted.

Read the entire article at American Vision.

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