5/2/13 - we should have 9,380 congressmen instead of 435

In today's encore excerpt - if we were strictly following both the letter of the U.S. Constitution and the intentions of those who wrote it, we would now have 9,380 members of the House of Representatives. That is because the Constitution speaks of one representative for every thirty thousand citizens to insure a direct and personal connection between congressmen and their constituents—in order to achieve truly democratic involvement. This point was so important to George Washington that he required a change from forty thousand down to thirty thousand on the last day of the Constitutional Convention:

"The minimal size of a House district was reduced from 40,000 to 30,000 on the very last day of the Convention, and only then with an unprecedented direct endorsement from George Washington, speaking from the chair, who rightly foresaw that many Americans would be disturbed by the large number of constituents each member of the House would represent. No constitutional requirement limits the size of the House to 435 representatives (as set in 1911), which makes it a smaller body than the British House of Commons. (Rakove) ...

"Based on the count in 2000 of America's population, 9,380 is the number of representatives Congress would be permitted to create. The apportionment following the 2000 census left each House member representing an average of 646,952 people. The current size of the House, 435 seats, dates to a 1911 law that authorized 433 representatives, with room for two more when Arizona and New Mexico were admitted as states. The House eventually swelled to 437 seats with the additions of Alaska and Hawaii, but was adjusted back to 435. ...

"The first House of Representatives was to include as many as sixty-five members. Madison urged that the number be doubled, as it 'was too small a number to represent the whole inhabitants of the U. States; They would not possess enough of the confidence of the people, and wd. be too sparsely taken from the people, to bring with them all the local information which would be frequently wanted.' Others called for fewer members, with Roger Sherman of Connecticut urging fifty on the grounds that 'the great distance they will have to travel will render their attendance precarious and will make it difficult to prevail on a sufficient number of fit men to undertake the service.' After the first apportionment, which followed the 1790 census, the House was expanded to 105 seats, with each seat representing about 33,000 inhabitants as counted for apportionment purposes. (Lipsky)"

author: Seth Lipsky
title: The Citizen's Constitution: An Annotated Guide
publisher: 2009, 2011 by Seth Lipsky
date: Basic Books
pages: 11


Jack N. Rakove


The Annotated U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence


Belknap Harvard


Copyright 2009 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College


barns and noble booksellers
Support Independent Bookstores - Visit

All delanceyplace profits are donated to charity and support children’s literacy projects.


Sign in or create an account to comment