Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

a

right than it is by the bill. And both these propositions are equally true of a transfer to Delaware of the twenty-eighth member assigned by the bill to Pennsylvania, and to Missouri of the thirteenth member assigned to Kentucky. In other words, Vermont has, by her numbers, more right to six members than New York has to forty; Delaware, by her numbers, has more right to two members than Pennsylvania has to twenty-eight; and Missouri, by her numbers, has more right to three members than Kentucky has to thirteen. Without disturbing the proposed number of the House, the mere changing of these three members from and to the six States, respectively, would bring the representation of the whole six nearer to their due proportion, according to their respective numbers, than the bill in its present form makes it. In the face of this indisputable truth, how can it be said that the bill apportions members of Congress among those States according to their respective numbers, as near as may be?

The principle on which the proposed amendment is founded is an effectual corrective for these and all other equally great inequalities. It may be applied at all times, and in all cases, and its result will always be the nearest approach to perfect justice. It is equally simple and impartial. As a rule of apportionment, it is little other than a transcript of the words of the Constitution, and its results are mathematically certain. The Constitution, as the committee understand it, says, Representatives shall be apportioned among the States according to their respective numbers of people, as near as may be. The rule adopted by the committee says, out of the whole number of the House, that number shall be apportioned to each State which comes nearest to its exact right according to its number of people.

Where is the repugnancy between the Constitution and the rule? The arguments against the rule seem to assume, that there is a necessity of instituting some process, adopting some number as the ratio, or as that number of people which each member shall be understood to represent. But the committee see no occasion for any other process whatever, than simply the ascertainment of that quantum, out of the whole mass of the representative power, which each State may claim.

But it is said that, although a State may receive a nuinber of Representatives which is something less than its exact pro

a

portion of representation, yet that it can in no case constitutionally receive more. How is this proposition proved? How is it shown that the Constitution is less perfectly fulfilled by allowing a State a small excess, than by subjecting her to a large deficiency? What the Constitution requires is the nearest practicable approach to precise justice. The rule is approximation; and we ought to approach, therefore, on whichever side we can approach nearest.

But there is a still more conclusive answer to be given to this suggestion. The whole number of Representatives of which

. the House is to be composed is, of necessity, limited. This number, whatever it is, is that which is to be apportioned, and nothing else can be apportioned. This is the whole sum to be distributed. If, therefore, in making the apportionment, some States receive less than their just share, it must necessarily follow that some other States have received more than their just share. If there be one State in the Union with less than its right, some other State has more than its right; so that the argument, whatever be its force, applies to the bill in its present form, as strongly as it can ever apply to any bill.

But the objection most usually urged against the principle of the proposed amendment is, that it provides for the representation of fractions. Let this objection be examined and considered. Let it be ascertained, in the first place, what these fractions, or fractional numbers, or residuary numbers, really are, which it is said will be represented, should the amendment prevail.

A fraction is the broken part of some integral number. It is, therefore, a relative or derivative idea. It implies the previous existence of some fixed number, of which it is but a part or remainder. If there be no necessity for fixing or establishing such previous number, then the fraction resulting from it is itself not matter of necessity, but matter of choice or accident. Now, the argument which considers the plan proposed in the amendment as a representation of fractions, and therefore unconstitutional, assumes as its basis, that, according to the Constitution, every member of the House of Representatives represents, or ought to represent, the same, or nearly the same, number of coile stituents; that this number is to be regarded as an integer; and any thing less than this is therefore called a fraction, or a residuum, and cannot be entitled to a Representative. But nothing of this is prescribed by the Constitution of the United States. That Constitution contemplates no integer, or any common number for the constituents of a member of the House of Representatives. It goes not at all into these subdivisions of the population of a State. It provides for the apportionment of Representatives among the several States, according to their respective numbers, and stops there. It makes no provision for the representation of districts of States, or for the representation of any portion of the people of a State less than the whole. It says nothing of ratios or of constituent numbers. All these things it leaves to State legislation. The right which each State possesses to its own due portion of the representative power is a State right, strictly. It belongs to the State, as a State; and it is to be used and exercised as the State may see fit, subject only to the constitutional qualifications of electors. In fact, the States do make, and always have made, different provisions for the exercise of this power. In some, a single member is chosen for a certain defined district; in others, two or three members are chosen for the same district; and in some, again, as New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Georgia, the entire representation of the State is a joint and undivided representation. In each of these last-mentioned States, every member of the House of Representatives has for his constituents all the people of the State; and all the people of those States are consequently represented in that branch of Congress.

If the bill before the Senate should pass into a law, in its present form, whatever injustice it might do to any of those States, it would not be correct to say of them, nevertheless, that any portion of their people was unrepresented. The well-founded objection would be, as to some of them at least, that they were not adequately, competently, fairly represented; that they had not as many voices and as many votes in the House of Representatives as they were entitled to.

This would be the objection. There would be no unrepresented fraction; but the State, as a State, as a whole, would be deprived of some part of its just rights.

On the other hand, if the bill should pass as it is now proposed to be amended, there would be no representation of fractions in any State; for a fraction supposes a division and a remainder. All that could justly be said would be, that some of these States, as States, possessed a portion of legislative power a little larger than their exact right; as it must be admitted, that, should the bill pass unamended, they would possess of that power much less than their exact right. The same remarks are substantially true, if applied to those States which adopt the district system, as most of them do. In Missouri, for example, there will be no fraction unrepresented, should the bill become a law in its present form; nor any member for a fraction, should the amendment prevail. Because the mode of apportionment which is nearest to its exact right applies no assumed ratios, makes no subdivisions, and, of course, produces no fractions. In the one case, or in the other, the State, as a State, will have something more, or something less, than its exact proportion of representative power; but she will part out this power among her own people, in either case, in such mode as she may choose, or exercise it altogether as an entire representation of the people of the State.

Whether the subdivision of the representative power within any State, if there be a subdivision, be equal or unequal, or fairly or unfairly made, Congress cannot know, and has no authority to inquire. It is enough that the State presents her own representation on the floor of Congress in the mode she chooses to present it. If a State were to give to one portion of her territory a Representative for every twenty-five thousand per. sons, and to the rest a Representative only for every fifty thousand, it would be an act of unjust legislation, doubtless; but it would be wholly beyond redress by any power in Congress, because the Constitution has left all this to the State itself.

These considerations, it is thought, may show that the Constitution has not, by any implication or necessary construction, enjoined that which it certainly has not ordained in terms, namely, that every member of the House should be supposed to represent the same number of constituents; and therefore, that the assumption of a ratio, as representing the common number of constituents, is not called for by the Constitution. All that Congress is at liberty to do, as it would seem, is to divide the whole representative power of the Union into twenty-four parts, assigning one part to each State, as near as practicable accord

a

ing to its right, and leaving all subsequent arrangement, and all subdivisions, to the State itself.

If the view thus taken of the rights of the States and the duties of Congress be the correct view, then the plan proposed in the amendment is in no just sense a representation of fractions. But suppose it was otherwise; suppose a direct provision were made for allowing a Representative to every State in whose population, it being first divided by a common ratio, there should be found a fraction exceeding half the amount of that ratio, what constitutional objection could be fairly urged against such a provision? Let it always be remembered, that the case here supposed provides only for a fraction exceeding the moiety of the ratio; for the committee admit at once that the representation of fractions less than a moiety is unconstitutional; because, should a member be allowed to a State for such a fraction, it would be certain that her representation would not be so near her exact right as it was before. But the allowance of a member for a major fraction is a direct approximation towards justice and equality. There appears to the committee to be nothing, either in the letter or the spirit of the Constitution, opposed to such a mode of apportionment. On the contrary, it seems entirely consistent with the very object which the Constitution contemplated, and well calculated to accomplish it. The argument commonly urged against it is, that it is necessary to apply some one common divisor, and to abide by its results.

If by this it be meant that there must be some common rule, or common measure, applicable, and applied impartially, to all the States, it is quite true. But if that which is intended be, that the population of each State must be divided by a fixed ratio, and all resulting fractions, great or small, disregarded, this is but to take for granted the very thing in controversy. The question is, whether it be unconstitutional to make approximation to equality by allowing Representatives for major fractions. The affirmative of this question is, indeed, denied, but it is not disproved, by saying that we must abide by the operation of division by an assumed ratio, and disregard fractions. The question still remains as it was before, and it is still to be shown what there is in the Constitution which rejects approximation as the rule of apportionment.

But suppose it to be necessary to find a divisor, and to abide

« AnteriorContinuar »