17. Happy Bill Of Rights Day!


Last week, I wrote that it was the anniversary of the signing of the Constitution.  Today is another anniversary relating to the Constitution.  It was on this date in 1789 that the First Congress passed the first amendments to the Constitution.

Now, I have a question for you.  True or false:  The first amendment to the Constitution has never been ratified.

Believe it or not, the answer is true.

Congress passed 12 amendments on this date, and sent them to the states for ratification.  The third through 12th of these amendments were ratified by at least nine states on December 15, 1791, and are now known to us as the Bill Of Rights.  The second took a little longer to ratify — 203 years, as a matter of fact.  It was finally ratified by 3/4 of the states (now 38) in 1992, and is now known as the 27th Amendment.

But the first of those 12 amendments (referred to as either “Article The First” or “Congressional Apportionment Amendment”) was never ratified by the necessary three fourths of the states.  It was ratified by only 11 states — the last being Kentucky, in 1792.  At the time, there were only 15 states, and 11/15 represented 73.3% of the states.

Technically, Article The First is still pending before the legislatures of the several states, as was the 27th Amendment until it was ratified in 1992.  And there is another little twist.  It was widely believed that Connecticut never voted to ratify any of the first proposed amendments at the time, but records of votes in the Connecticut Archives clearly show that Connecticut’s state legislature voted to ratify Article The First in 1789 and 1790.  If the Archivist Of The USA were to accept that ratification vote as valid, it would mean that it was ratified by 3/4 of the states as of 1792, and would become part of the Constitution.  (I would guess that it would be added to the end of the list, and become the 28th Amendment.)

And what is Article The First?  Well, here is the text of the amendment, as taken from Wikipedia:

“Article The First . . . 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.”

Simply put, this amendment deals with the size of the House Of Representatives, and expands upon Article I, Section 2, Clause 3 of the original Constitution.  Currently, the size of the House is set by federal statute, using what is called the method of equal proportions.  In other words, each of the 425 House districts is as equal in size as feasible, given that each state has at least one Representative.  If my understanding of the applicable laws is correct, ratification of Article The First would not have any affect on the current makeup of the House.  Any changes in the apportionment process would probably not take affect until after the 2020 Census.  (Again, this is just my opinion, based on my reading.  As the saying goes, Your Mileage May Vary.)

[NOTE:  After a little additional research, I have discovered that my title is not entirely accurate.  There is a Bill Of Rights Day, but it is December, to commemorate the ratification of the Bill Of Rights.  As I do not have a more accurate title that I find satisfactory, it will remain until and unless I can think of a better title.]