Founders / Framers Minute:
Article I, Section 2, Clause 3b
by Cornel Rasor
“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.”
Debating in the Massachusetts ratifying convention of January 1788, founder Nathaniel Gorham allowed that should the constitution survive, within 100 years there would be 1.400 – 1,500 Federal representatives. It was understood that the “more numerous” branch would grow with the population. As we showed in the last Founder’s/Framer’s Minute, the number of representatives was fixed in 1909 and 1911.
Much debate centered around the mode of taxation. Should the land be taxed or the people? It would be very difficult it was decided, to ascertain land values but population could be relatively easy to determine once an official census was commissioned. Thus population became the basis for both taxation and representation. Interestingly, in this convention, it was noted that Georgia with it’s slave population was content with the three representatives allotted.
The main content of the federal convention debate and the Federalist Papers addresses the first section of Clause 3. Not much is said about the deliberate numbering of representatives. Much more was said about the idea of direct taxation replacing tariffs and excises. Once the founders settled on representation as a function of population viz. one representative per 30,000 citizens, it remained only to decide on initial representation. As mentioned, the 3/5th’s clause was the vehicle for this decision.
The population of North Carolina counting slaves was 393,751 in 1790 and they were given 5 representatives. Pennsylvania with a population of 434,373 was given 8 even though the difference in population was only 40,622, or about one representative. This speaks well of the carefully crafted compromise that was designed to end slavery. Article 1, Section 9, Clause 1 disallowed Congress from banning slavery before 1808. True to form, in 1807 a statute was introduced that banned the importation of slaves. Also, Article 5 of the constitution prohibited an amendment interdicting this plan.
Thus, a beginning was made for taxation and representation in the new nation. The death knell of slavery was sounded and the decennial census was founded.
Minute 1: Article I, Section 1
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Editor’s note: minor autocorrect corrections. 8/9/2018