Constitution Posts: Article 1, Section 2, Third, Fourth, and Fifth Paragraphs

In our last Constitution post, we dealt with the specific qualifications for voters and potential representatives laid out in the first two paragraphs of Section 2 of Article I.  Today, we will deal with the remaining three paragraphs, one at a time.

The text of the third paragraph of Section 2 is as follows:

[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 not taxed, 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 chuse three, Massachusetts eight, Rhode-Island and Providence Plantations 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.

The sentence in brackets was repealed by the first sentence of Section 2 of the Fourteenth Amendment, which is as follows:

Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed.

Let’s start with a quick definition.  The word apportionment means “the determination of the number of members of the U.S. House of Representatives according to the proportion of the population of each state to the total population of the U.S.”  In our context, apportionment is how we determine how many representatives each state gets.

Under the original Constitution, the population of a state consisted of all of it’s free inhabitants, with the exception of Indians, plus three fifths of “all other persons.” The phrase, “other persons,” refers to slaves.  Thus, after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, it became necessary to forbid slave holding states from disenfranchising black citizens, which some states continued to do in violation of the Emancipation Proclamation.  The apportionment rules of the original Constitution were, therefore, repealed by the second Section of the Fourteenth Amendment.  Under the Fourteenth Amendment, the population of a given state consisted of the entire number of free persons, which included freed slaves.

Now that we have that out of the way, can discuss the remaining clauses of the third paragraph of the second Section.  This paragraph mandates that:

-The enumeration, or census, shall take place every ten years (the first census took place in 1790).

-No state shall have more than one representative per thirty-thousand people.  The number of representatives each state gets is now determined by comparing the state’s population to the entire population U.S.

Let us now consider the next paragraph of this Section:

When vacancies happen in the Representation from any State, the Executive Authority thereof shall issue Writs of Election to fill such Vacancies.

A “writ of election” orders the holding of an election.  The phrase, “executive authority,” refers to the Governor of a state.  So, if a state loses one of it’s representatives at any time other than the end of a term, that state’s governor is to order the holding of an election to fill the vacancy.

And, finally, the last paragraph of this Section reads:

The House of Representatives shall chuse their Speaker and other Officers; and shall have the sole Power of Impeachment.

In this paragraph, the House of Representatives is given the power to choose various officers among themselves to assist with organization, and ensure that their proceedings run as smoothly as possible.

In addition, any resolution for impeachment must originate in the House, while the Senate must vote to enact such a measure.  As we will explain further in future posts, impeachment is applicable to the President, Vice President, or any other U.S. official, such as a Supreme Court Justice or member of the President’s Cabinet. There is no set procedure detailed in the Constitution regarding the initiation of an impeachment proceeding; however, in recent impeachment considerations, the proceedings have been initiated by the members of the House Judiciary Committee, which have then made various recommendations to the whole House.

I hope this has helped your understanding of the this section of the Constitution!  As always, I would encourage you to do your own research, as the information presented in this post only scratches the surface of the various mechanisms of the U.S. House of Representatives!



Definition of apportionment:

Article I, Section 2:

The Fourteenth Amendment:

More information on apportionment of representatives:!/amendments/14/essays/172/apportionment-of-representatives

The first U.S. census:

Information in impeachment:!/articles/1/essays/11/impeachment

Definition of “writs of election”:

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