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§ 107. “In Proportion to the Respective Numbers of Their People.”

The number of members chosen by the people of the Commonwealth in the several States is to be in proportion to the respective numbers of their people. The words of the corresponding section in the Constitution of the United States of America (Art. I. sec. ii. sub-sec. 3), are, that representatives shall be apportioned among the several States of the Union “according to their respective numbers,” provided that their representation should not be greater than the proportion of 1 to 30,000. In the Draft Bill of 1891, part III. sec. 24, it was proposed that representatives should be chosen by the people of the several States, “according to their respective numbers,” provided that their representation should not be greater than 1 to 30,000. In the Constitution of the United States it was further provided that each State should have at least one representative; and, until the first enumeration was made, the number of members for each State was specified in the Constitution itself.

Every scheme of apportionment, founded on a fixed ratio, such as one representative for every 30,000 inhabitants, was open to the objection that in almost every State there would probably be thousands of persons constituting a fraction of the given number, who would be absolutely unrepresented in the House. This was the actual experience of the United States of America. Accordingly, different methods of providing for and dealing with these fractions were suggested and tried. The first apportionment Bill was introduced into the House of Representatives in 1790. It gave one representative for every 30,000 inhabitants, and made no provision for the representation of the remaining fractions; thus a State containing a population of one million would be assigned 33 representatives, representing 990,000 in the million, leaving 10,000 unrepresented. The Senate amended the Bill by allowing additional representatives to the States having the largest fractions; the House concurred in the amendment, but the Bill was eventually vetoed by President Washington. (Marshall's Life of Washington, vol. V. pp. 320, 323; cited Foster's Comm. vol. I. pp. 394-7; Webster's Report of the Senate, 1832, cited Foster, pp. 436-8.)

Accordingly, the basis of apportionment in the United States ignored fractions altogether until 1842, when a new rule was adopted on the lines of Daniel Webster's Report to the Senate, made ten years previously. The new rule made the provision as to fractions which is adopted by this Constitution, and the purpose of which cannot be explained more clearly than in the words of Webster's Report:—

“It may be clearly expressed in either of two ways. Let the rule be, that the whole number of the proposed House shall be apportioned among the several States, according to their respective numbers, giving to each State that number of members which comes nearest to her exact mathematical part, or proportion; or, let the rule be, that the population of each State shall be divided by a common divisor, and that, in addition to the number of members resulting from such division, a member shall be allowed to each State whose fraction exceeds a moiety of the divisor.” (Webster's Report, cited Foster's Comm., vol. 1. p. 445.)

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