Happy Bill of Rights Day! The Bill of Rights was ratified on this date in 1791. The ten amendments to the Constitution, first proposed by George Mason, were very controversial at the time. Federalists like Hamilton thought the Constitution was so well written with its checks and balances that a future government would be unable to oppress the people and thus a formal recognition of those rights were unnecessary. Anti-Federalists like Patrick Henry however, who, though agreeing that the Constitution was as well-conceived as possible, believed that some future government would still find means to oppress. In hindsight, people like Henry were absolutely correct. Anti-Federalists though were opposed to a Bill of Rights because it might be assumed that those were the only rights that the people had; they hoped that with time more and more rights would be codified.
Madison, who had written the Constitution and was a staunch Federalist eventually, saw the need for a Bill of Rights. Based on the Virginia Declaration of Rights, the English Bill of Rights and the Magna Carta, twenty amendments were drafted. These were reworded and combined to make twelve; for example, many of the rights, such as speech and religion, were combined to form the first amendment. Of these twelve, ten, Articles 3-12, would soon become ratified.
What happened to the other two, you might ask? Well, Article 2 was eventually ratified after a very long wait; it became the 27th Amendment back in 1992, which is the last time the Constitution was amended. It forbids Congress from giving itself a raise; now when congressmen approve a raise it doesn’t take effect until the next Congress, which happens every two years.
That just leaves Article the First, the only one from the original list that hasn’t yet been ratified; technically, it’s still possible. By the way, the drafters presented them in a ranked order; they considered Article the First to be the most important one of all, more important than even free speech or the right to bear arms. So what is it? It would have limited the size of congressional districts to 30,000 people. Consider their size today; Montana is the largest, around 900,000; Rhode Island is the smallest, around 500,000; the average is 700,000. Just think, they are almost twenty times larger than they’re supposed to be. We should have over twelve thousand congressmen in the House of Representatives right now.
You’re probably thinking that more politicians would be more expensive; not necessarily. Smaller districts would require fewer staffers. Congressmen who now have about forty staffers would only need about two. Plus the sheer size would require congressmen to work from their districts keeping them out of the swamp; teleconferencing would make this possible. Only the most sensitive committee hearings would require attendance in Washington and then only for a few congressmen. All of this would lower expenses. Plus, there is strong evidence to suggest that larger legislatures in proportion to their population are much more fiscally responsible. Large California only has 80 Representatives and is in the bottom five of fiscally unhealthy states. Tiny New Hampshire has 400 representatives and is one of the healthiest. Something to consider moving forward.
I'm an author, novelist, blogger, podcaster, freelance writer, and writing coach. More relevant to this site though, I'm also a Christian, proud American, and ultraconservative-leaning Independent.