17. Happy Bill Of Rights Day!

09/25/2012

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.]

***jn***


16. Happy Constitution Day!

09/17/2012

It was 225 years ago today — which also happened to be a Monday, as a matter of fact — that the Constitutional Convention finished their work, and the US Constitution was signed.  Of course, that was not the end of the matter.  It still needed to be presented to the states, and ratified by nine of them before it would go into effect.  (That happened on June 21, 1788, when New Hampshire became the ninth state to ratify the Constitution.)

I have done some reading on how the Constitution came into being, and the more I read about it, the more I am convinced of one thing.  I am more and more truly amazed that the Constitutional Convention produced a finished product, let alone that it was ratified and became the supreme law of the United States.

As best as I can tell, most of America’s leaders at the time agreed that the Articles Of Confederation were proving to be an inadequate foundation for the national government.  The major point of contention seemed to be how to deal with those inadequacies.  Some felt that a mere revision of the Articles was all that was necessary, while others thought that the Articles had to be replaced with an entirely new document.  (And I suspect that there was probably a broad spectrum of viewpoints between those two.)  (Make that a very broad spectrum.)

It took the entire summer of 1787 to create the Constitution, but on September 17 of that year, the Constitutional Convention agreed to the following resolution:

“In Convention Monday, September 17, 1787.

“Present The States of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Mr. Hamilton from New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.

“Resolved, That the preceding Constitution be laid before the United States in Congress assembled, and that it is the Opinion of this Convention, that it should be afterwards be submitted to a Convention of Delegates, chosen in each State by the People thereof, under the Recommendation of its Legislature, for their Assent and Ratification; and that each Convention assenting to, and ratifying the Same, should give Notice thereof to the United States in Congress assembled.

“Resolved, That it is the Opinion of this Convention, that as soon as the Conventions of nine States shall have ratified this Constitution, the United States in Congress assembled should fix a Day on which Electors should be appointed by the States which have ratified the same, and a Day on which the Electors should assemble to vote for the President, and the Time and Place for commencing Proceedings under this Constitution.

“That after such Publication the Electors should be appointed, and the Senators and Representatives elected:

“That the Electors should meet on the Day fixed for the Election of the President, and should transmit their Votes certified, signed, sealed, and directed, as the Constitution requires, to the Secretary of the United States in Congress assembled, that the Senators and Representatives should convene at the Time and Place assigned; that the Senators should appoint a President of the Senate, for the sole purpose of receiving, opening, and counting the votes for President; and, that after he shall be chosen, the Congress, together with the President, should, without Delay, proceed to execute this Constitution.

“By the unanimous Order of the Convention

“George Washington — President
“William Jackson — Secretary.”

As with the previous entry on the Declaration Of Independence, I am quoting from a collection published by Fall River Press in 2002.

***jn***


12. The Root Of The Problem

07/20/2011

I have been watching, as I suspect most of you have been doing, the various bits of wrangling over the impending debt crisis.  And as I have been thinking about it, I have been formulating a modest proposal to prevent any future recurrence of the posturing that we have been witnessing over the past few weeks.

First, I think I should state my basic premise for this proposal.  I believe that the problem is not that the United States is taking in far too little in taxes.  The problem is that there is far too much spending taking place.  And I think that the root of the problem is that the bureaucracy has become far too bloated, and needs to be brought under control.

I think part of this problem is that it is far too easy for any governmental agency, bureau, or department to expand its area of authority and/or responsibility.  There seems to be nothing in place to put limits on their authority.  And their ability to issue regulations is an usurping and an arrogation of the legislative power of Congress.

The solution, as I see it, is that there needs to be put into place some form of controlling and limiting the bureaucracy.  And these controls and limits need to be enacted in such a way that they cannot be easily overridden.  To enact these controls, then, would most likely require an amendment to the US Constitution.

My proposed amendment would have three sections.  The first section would deal with the creation of any future governmental agency, bureau, or department.  The second section would deal with controlling any agency after its creation, including any agency that currently exists.  The third section

SECTION 1 — The creation of any new governmental agency, bureau, or department would be treated like any amendment to the Constitution.  It would first have to pass each house of Congress by a two-thirds majority, then approved by three-fifths of the states.  Such approval by the states would also have to be done within one year of the proposal’s passing in Congress.  I might also give the states the option of giving the approval either by the state legislatures, or by a ballot referendum by the voters of each state.

My reasoning here is that as the Constitution was originally written, the several states had a much larger role in governing the country.  Giving the states a say in the creation of any new agency would return some of that role.  More importantly, it would (I hope) serve as a check on Congress creating an agency that the country as a whole would not want.

SECTION 2 — Dissolving or abolishing any governmental agency, bureau, or department, including those already in place, would require only a simple majority of Congress.  And if a simple majority of the states so direct, Congress would have to consider the matter of abolishing an agency.

Here, I want to make getting rid of an agency, especially one that has outlived its usefulness, much easier than creating one.  Again, I want to give the states more of a check on the power of Congress.  I might even consider the idea that it would take only a simple majority of the states to abolish an agency.  Give any agency notice that it not only has to worry about Congress, but also the several states.

SECTION 3 — This would mandate that any regulations created by any agency that have the force of law would have to be approved by Congress before taking effect.  The Senators and Representatives were elected to pass legislation; these bureaucrats were not.

I must admit, the last section needs a little more thought.  But I decided that I wanted to post this before the August 2 deadline.

As for why I feel this needs to be an amendment to the Constitution, I want it to be difficult for any agency to find ways around any restrictions placed upon them.  I also want it difficult for anyone to try removing those restrictions once they are in place.

Does this sound like it might be at least a step in the right direction?

***jn***