The founders approach to government was scientific. They had many ideas about how to build a new government, but they also had a lot of doubt. This led to debates on how to proceed, as revolutions are never clear.
The founders attempted to build a system that would protect such rights as the (now) famous, “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” They also knew, when talking of citizens and representation, that there was no monopoly on how to define those three rights. Freedom is a deep well; it has also been aptly referred to as an abyss. Our revolutionaries certainly knew the abyss. Thirteen colonies do not revolt against their King and fight an eight-year civil war and not come to know the abyss. Those subjects-turned radical revolutionaries who took up arms against their law and the King of England, they had firsthand knowledge of how deep the well of human freedom ran – they lived it and then left us a blueprint: the US Constitution.
The first time I considered constitutional representation a political issue, rather than a historical one, was in graduate school at Purdue University. Before that, when I taught high school US history classes, I recall discussing the representation ratio but dismissing it; frankly, it seemed old.
Then, as a political science graduate student, I was assistanting a professor who was lecturing on the US Constitution, The Federalist Papers, and James Madison. At one point, the third clause in Article I, Section 2 entered the lecture. After class we discussed the size of a constitutional House, one based on the constitutional ratio of “one for every thirty Thousand.” The House would be huge, we agreed, but mostly we thought it impractical.
That was nearly twenty years ago. Since then I began to think of the representation ratio in constitutional, and not congressional, terms. If we were to build a new Congress based on the constitutional ratio of one for every thirty Thousand, we would have a House of Representatives of 10,000 members. This would bring dozens of groups (factions) into the constitutional process and fundamentally change Congress. For example, women won the right to suffrage with the Nineteenth Amendment (1920), but have never received their right to representation according to their numbers. Women are more than 50 percent of We the People, and yet they are represented in the current House, our 113th, with 79 Representatives, or 18 percent of the representation; that is a 32 percent under-representation of women as a group. Such under-representations of We the People create profound political, and constitutional, consequences.
Bryan W. Brickner