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APPORTIONMENT OF REPRESENTATION.*
The object of the following report is to set forth the unjust operation of the rule by which the apportionment of Representatives had hitherto been made among the States, and was proposed to be made under the fifth census. Notwithstanding the manifest unequal operation of the rule, and the cogency of the arguments against it contained in this report, Congress could not be brought on this occasion, nor on that of the next decennial apportionment, to apply the proper remedy.
In making provision for the apportionment under the census of 1850, the principles of this report prevailed. By the act of the 23d of May, 1850, it is provided that the number of the new House shall be 233. The entire representative population of the United States is to be divided by this sum; and the quotient is the ratio of apportionment among the several States. Their representative population is in turn to be divided by this ratio ; and the loss of members arising from the residuary numbers is made up by assigning as many additional members as are necessary for that purpose to the States having the largest fractional remainders. It was a further very happy provision of the law of the 23d of May, 1850, that this apportionment should be made by the Secretary of the Interior, after the returns of the census should have been made, and without the necessity of any further action on the part of Congress.
The Select Committee, to whom was referred, on the 27th of
March, the bill from the House of Representatives, entitled, " An Act for the Apportionment of Representatives among the several States according to the Fifth Census," have had the subject under consideration, and now ask leave to report:
This bill, like all laws on the same subject, must be regarded as of an interesting and delicate nature. It respects the distri
A Report on the Subject of the Apportionment of Representation, in the House of Representatives of the United States, made in the Senate, on the 5th of April, 1832.
bution of political power among the States of the Union. It is to determine the number of voices which, for ten years to come, each State is to possess in the popular branch of the legislature. In the opinion of the committee, there can be few or no questions which it is more desirable to settle on just, fair, and satisfactory principles, than this; and, availing themselves of the benefit of the discussion which the bill has already undergone in the Senate, they have given to it a renewed and anxious consideration. The result is, that, in their opinion, the bill ought to be amended. Seeing the difficulties which belong to the whole subject, they are fully convinced that the bill has been framed and passed in the other House with the sincerest desire to overcome these difficulties, and to enact a law which should do as much justice as possible to all the States. But the committee are constrained to say, that this object appears to them not to have been attained. The unequal operation of the bill on some of the States, should it become a law, seems to the committee most manifest; and they cannot but express a doubt whether its actual apportionment of the representative power among the several States can be considered as conformable to the spirit of the Constitution.
The bill provides, that from and after the 3d of March, 1833, the House of Representatives shall be composed of members elected agreeably to a ratio of one Representative for every forty-seven thousand and seven hundred persons in each State, computed according to the rule prescribed by the Constitution. The addition of the seven hundred to the forty-seven thousand, in the composition of this ratio, produces no effect whatever in regard to the constitution of the House. It neither adds to nor takes from the number of members assigned to any State. Its only effect is a reduction of the apparent amount of the fractions, as they are usually called, or residuary numbers, after the application of the ratio. For all other purposes, the result is precisely the same as if the ratio had been forty-seven thousand.
As it seems generally admitted that inequalities do exist in this bill, and that injurious consequences will arise from its operation, which it would be desirable to avert, if any proper means of averting them, without producing others equally injurious, could be found, the committee do not think it necessary to go into a full and particular statement of these consequences. They will content themselves with presenting a few examples only of these results, and such as they find it most difficult to reconcile with justice and the spirit of the Constitution.
In exhibiting these examples, the committee must necessarily speak of particular States; but it is hardly necessary to say, that they speak of them as examples only, and with the most perfect respect, not only for the States themselves, but for all those who represent them here.
Although the bill does not commence by fixing the whole number of the proposed House of Representatives, yet the process adopted by it brings out the number of two hundred and forty members. Of these two hundred and forty members, forty are assigned to the State of New York; that is to say, precisely one sixth part of the whole. This assignment would seem to require that New York should contain one sixth part of the whole population of the United States, and should be bound to pay one sixth part of all direct taxes. Yet neither of these is the case.
The whole representative population of the United States is 11,929,005; that of New York is 1,918,623, which is less than one sixth of the whole, by nearly 70,000. Of a direct tax of two hundred and forty thousand dollars, New York would pay only $38.59.
But if, instead of comparing the numbers assigned to New York with the whole numbers of the House, we compare her with other States, the inequality is still more evident and striking. To the State of Vermont the bill assigns five members. It gives, therefore, eight times as many Representatives to New York as to. Vermont; but the population of New York is not equal to eight times the population of Vermont, by more than three hundred thousand. Vermont has five members only for 280,657 persons. If the same proportion were to be applied to New York, it would reduce the number of her members from forty to thirty-four, making a difference more than equal to the whole representation of Vermont, and more than sufficient to overcome her whole power in the House of Representatives.
A disproportion almost equally striking is manifested, if we compare New York with Alabama. The population of Alabama is 262,203; for this she is allowed five members. The rule of proportion which gives to her but five members for her number,
would give to New York but thirty-six for her number. Yet New York receives forty. As compared with Alabama, then, New York has an excess of representation equal to four fifths of the whole representation of Alabama; and this excess itself will give her, of course, as much weight in the House as the whole delegation of Alabama, within a single vote. Can it be said, then, that Representatives are apportioned to these States according to their respective numbers ?
The ratio assumed by the bill, it will be perceived, leaves large fractions, so called, or residuary numbers, in several of the small States, to the manifest loss of a great part of their just proportion of representative power. Such is the operation of the ratio, in this respect, that New York, with a population less than that of New England by thirty or thirty-five thousand, has yet two more members than all the New England States; and there are seven States in the Union, represented, according to the bill, by one hundred and twenty-three members, being a clear majority of the whole House, whose aggregate fractions, all together, amount only to fifty-three thousand; while Vermont and New Jersey, having together but eleven members, have a joint fraction of seventy-five thousand.
Pennsylvania, by the bill, will have, as it happens, just as many members as Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and New Jersey; but her population is not equal to theirs by a hundred and thirty thousand; and the reason of this advantage, derived to her from the provision of the bill, is, that her fraction, or residuum, is twelve thousand only, while theirs is a hundred and forty-four thousand.
But the subject is capable of being presented in a more exact and mathematical form. The House is to consist of two hundred and forty members. Now, the precise portion of pow. er, out of the whole mass presented by the number of two hundred and forty, to which New York would be entitled according to her population, is 38.59; that is to say, she would be entitled to thirty-eight members, and would have a residuum or fraction; and even if a member were given her for that fraction, she would still have but thirty-nine. But the bill gives her forty.
These are a part, and but a part, of those results, produced by the bill in its present form, which the committee cannot bring themselves to approve. While it is not to be denied, that, under any rule of apportionment, some degree of relative inequality must always exist, the committee cannot believe that the Senate will sanction inequality and injustice to the extent in which they exist in this bill, if it can be avoided. But, recollecting the opinions which had been expressed in the discussions of the Senate, the committee have diligently sought to learn whether there was not some other number which might be taken for a ratio, the application of which would produce more justice and equality. In this pursuit, the committee have not been successful. There are, it is true, other numbers, the adoption of which would relieve many of the States which suffer under the present; but this relief would be obtained only by shifting the pressure to other States, thus creating new grounds of complaint in other quarters. The number 44,000 has been generally spoken of as the most acceptable substitute for 47,700; but should this be adopted, great relative inequality would fall on several States, and, among them, on some of the new and growing States, whose relative disproportion, thus already great, would be constantly increasing.
The committee, therefore, are of opinion that the bill should be altered in the mode of apportionment. They think that the process which begins by assuming a ratio should be abandoned, and that the bill ought to be framed on the principle of the amendment which has been the main subject of discussion before the Senate. The fairness of the principle of this amendment, and the general equity of its results, compared with those which flow from the other process, seem plain and undeniable. The main question has been, whether the principle itself be constitutional; and this question the committee proceed to examine, respectfully asking of those who have doubted its constitutional propriety to consider the question of so much importance as to justify a second reflection.
The words of the Constitution are, “Representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several States, which may be included within this Union, according to their respective numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole number of free persons, including those bound to service for a term of years, and excluding Indians, three fifths of all other persons. The actual enumeration shall be made within three years after the first