2007/02/09

Brushing Up On The Constitution (part 1)

(Welcome to those linking in from RadioPatriots.)

When it comes to Constitutional scholarship, I'll be the first to admit that I had a very poor childhood. So, in an attempt to brush up on that knowledge, I'm going to do a post or few on the Constitution. If I do it right, it ought to be informative and insightful... and if I do it wrong, you're all welcome to laugh at me in the comments section. (Please remember that I have dictatorial control over that section, however. This is not the Republic of Please Make It Clear.)

The text of the Constitution can be found on the Library of Congress website, amongst other places. If you don't like that version, the one at Wikipedia is more reader-friendly. And if you don't like that one either, Google is always your friend. Anyway, let's start with Article One, Section One, shall we?

Article One, Section One:
ALL legislative powers, herein grated, shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.

Sounds simple enough. The document is going to contain specific powers to be given to the House and Senate. The powers in question, then, had to belong to someone or something else before this. In other words, the states, in agreeing to this section, agreed to give up some of their powers to the federal government, while maintaining others themselves.

Moving right along, then...

Article One, Section Two:
The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second year by all the people of the several States, and the Electors in each State shall have the qualifications requisite for Electors of the most numerous branch of the State Legislature.

No person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the age of twenty-five years, and been seven years a citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen.

Representatives and direct taxes shall be appointed among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to the 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 not taxes, three fifths of all other persons. The actual enumeration shall be made within three years after the first meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent term of ten years, in such manner as they shall by law direct. The number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty thousand, but each State shall have at least one Representative; and until such enumeration shall be made, the State of New-Hampshire shall be entitled to choose three, Massachusetts eight, Rhode-Island and Providence Plantation one, Connecticut five, New-York six, New-Jersey four, Pennsylvania eight, Delaware one, Maryland six, Virginia ten, North-Carolina five, South-Carolina five, and Georgia three.

When vacancies happen in the Representation from any State, the Executive authority thereof shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies.

The House of Representatives shall choose their Speaker and other officers, and shall have the sole power of impeachment.


The members of the House will be elected by the people of the state which they represent. The second part of that sentence is tricky, though. What it's essentially saying is that any elector allowed by the law of their state to vote for officers for that state's largest legislative body may also vote for their representatives in the House of Representatives. In other words, the qualifications are left up to the states. (Well, by and large. There are a few amendments on down the line that modify those qualifications on a federal level.)

The second portion (clause) of A1.S2 is clear enough, setting limits on who may be considered for election to the House. Basically, that they be of a certain age (25 years), have a certain length of citizenship (7 years), and be a resident of the state for which they would serve in the House.

A1.S2.C3 deals with the number of representatives per state, as well as a means of direct taxation of the states based on the number of people in each state (rather than by any measure of income or production of the state). To quote from the Wikipedia entry, "Under Section Two, the amount of direct taxes that may be collected from any state was tied directly to its share of representatives. On the basis of this requirement, the income tax was found unconstitutional in 1895, as it was not apportioned among the states." The third clause also designated numbers of representatives for each state before a census could be made, and gives a minimum number of people per one representative, but surprisingly (to me, anyway), no maximum value.

A1.S2.C4 makes a straightforward allowance for the state to go about filling vacancies in its representative body. In other words, since these people are there to do the work of the states, it is the job of the states to see that their representative positions are filled.

A1.S2.C5 is another plain statement of the House of Representatives' powers, being that they choose their own officers, and that they hold the power to call impeachment proceedings. About the only curiosity here is that the power to choose their officers and the power to call impeachment aren't included as separate clauses, since I can't see any particular reason to tie them together.

Next time will be the Senate, and Elections. I can tell already that this is going to take quite some time.

1 comment:

Andrea said...

Geoff -- good job! I encourage you to continue, even though the work is arduous! I will flog this as much as I can on our blogsite and the radio show to get folks over to read it.

We the people must understand what it allowed our government -- especially the limits placed upon it.

Thank you for undertaking this effort. It is a worthy pursuit.

Andrea
Radio Patriot