The House of Representatives
From the New York Packet.
Friday, February 8, 1788.

Author: Alexander Hamilton or James Madison

To the People of the State of New York:

FROM the more general inquiries pursued in the four last papers, I pass on to a more particular examination of the several parts of the government. I shall begin with the House of Representatives. The first view to be taken of this part of the government relates to the qualifications of the electors and the elected. Those of the former are to be the same with those of the electors of the most numerous branch of the State legislatures.

The definition of the right of suffrage is very justly regarded as a fundamental article of republican government. It was incumbent on the convention, therefore, to define and establish this right in the Constitution. To have left it open for the occasional regulation of the Congress, would have been improper for the reason just mentioned. To have submitted it to the legislative discretion of the States, would have been improper for the same reason; and for the additional reason that it would have rendered too dependent on the State governments that branch of the federal government which ought to be dependent on the people alone. To have reduced the different qualifications in the different States to one uniform rule, would probably have been as dissatisfactory to some of the States as it would have been difficult to the convention. The provision made by the convention appears, therefore, to be the best that lay within their option.

It must be satisfactory to every State, because it is conformable to the standard already established, or which may be established, by the State itself. It will be safe to the United States, because, being fixed by the State constitutions, it is not alterable by the State governments, and it cannot be feared that the people of the States will alter this part of their constitutions in such a manner as to abridge the rights secured to them by the federal Constitution. The qualifications of the elected, being less carefully and properly defined by the State constitutions, and being at the same time more susceptible of uniformity, have been very properly considered and regulated by the convention. A representative of the United States must be of the age of twenty-five years; must have been seven years a citizen of the United States; must, at the time of his election, be an inhabitant of the State he is to represent; and, during the time of his service, must be in no office under the United States. Under these reasonable limitations, the door of this part of the federal government is open to merit of every description, whether native or adoptive, whether young or old, and without regard to poverty or wealth, or to any particular profession of religious faith. The term for which the representatives are to be elected falls under a second view which may be taken of this branch. In order to decide on the propriety of this article, two questions must be considered: first, whether biennial elections will, in this case, be safe; secondly, whether they be necessary or useful. First. As it is essential to liberty that the government in general should have a common interest with the people, so it is particularly essential that the branch of it under consideration should have an immediate dependence on, and an intimate sympathy with, the people. Frequent elections are unquestionably the only policy by which this dependence and sympathy can be effectually secured. But what particular degree of frequency may be absolutely necessary for the purpose, does not appear to be susceptible of any precise calculation, and must depend on a variety of circumstances with which it may be connected. Let us consult experience, the guide that ought always to be followed whenever it can be found. The scheme of representation, as a substitute for a meeting of the citizens in person, being at most but very imperfectly known to ancient polity, it is in more modern times only that we are to expect instructive examples. And even here, in order to avoid a research too vague and diffusive, it will be proper to confine ourselves to the few examples which are best known, and which bear the greatest analogy to our particular case. The first to which this character ought to be applied, is the House of Commons in Great Britain. The history of this branch of the English Constitution, anterior to the date of Magna Charta, is too obscure to yield instruction. The very existence of it has been made a question among political antiquaries. The earliest records of subsequent date prove that parliaments were to SIT only every year; not that they were to be ELECTED every year. And even these annual sessions were left so much at the discretion of the monarch, that, under various pretexts, very long and dangerous intermissions were often contrived by royal ambition. To remedy this grievance, it was provided by a statute in the reign of Charles II. , that the intermissions should not be protracted beyond a period of three years. On the accession of William III. , when a revolution took place in the government, the subject was still more seriously resumed, and it was declared to be among the fundamental rights of the people that parliaments ought to be held FREQUENTLY. By another statute, which passed a few years later in the same reign, the term “frequently,” which had alluded to the triennial period settled in the time of Charles II. , is reduced to a precise meaning, it being expressly enacted that a new parliament shall be called within three years after the termination of the former. The last change, from three to seven years, is well known to have been introduced pretty early in the present century, under on alarm for the Hanoverian succession. From these facts it appears that the greatest frequency of elections which has been deemed necessary in that kingdom, for binding the representatives to their constituents, does not exceed a triennial return of them. And if we may argue from the degree of liberty retained even under septennial elections, and all the other vicious ingredients in the parliamentary constitution, we cannot doubt that a reduction of the period from seven to three years, with the other necessary reforms, would so far extend the influence of the people over their representatives as to satisfy us that biennial elections, under the federal system, cannot possibly be dangerous to the requisite dependence of the House of Representatives on their constituents. Elections in Ireland, till of late, were regulated entirely by the discretion of the crown, and were seldom repeated, except on the accession of a new prince, or some other contingent event. The parliament which commenced with George II. was continued throughout his whole reign, a period of about thirty-five years. The only dependence of the representatives on the people consisted in the right of the latter to supply occasional vacancies by the election of new members, and in the chance of some event which might produce a general new election.

The ability also of the Irish parliament to maintain the rights of their constituents, so far as the disposition might exist, was extremely shackled by the control of the crown over the subjects of their deliberation. Of late these shackles, if I mistake not, have been broken; and octennial parliaments have besides been established. What effect may be produced by this partial reform, must be left to further experience. The example of Ireland, from this view of it, can throw but little light on the subject. As far as we can draw any conclusion from it, it must be that if the people of that country have been able under all these disadvantages to retain any liberty whatever, the advantage of biennial elections would secure to them every degree of liberty, which might depend on a due connection between their representatives and themselves. Let us bring our inquiries nearer home. The example of these States, when British colonies, claims particular attention, at the same time that it is so well known as to require little to be said on it. The principle of representation, in one branch of the legislature at least, was established in all of them. But the periods of election were different. They varied from one to seven years. Have we any reason to infer, from the spirit and conduct of the representatives of the people, prior to the Revolution, that biennial elections would have been dangerous to the public liberties? The spirit which everywhere displayed itself at the commencement of the struggle, and which vanquished the obstacles to independence, is the best of proofs that a sufficient portion of liberty had been everywhere enjoyed to inspire both a sense of its worth and a zeal for its proper enlargement This remark holds good, as well with regard to the then colonies whose elections were least frequent, as to those whose elections were most frequent Virginia was the colony which stood first in resisting the parliamentary usurpations of Great Britain; it was the first also in espousing, by public act, the resolution of independence.

In Virginia, nevertheless, if I have not been misinformed, elections under the former government were septennial. This particular example is brought into view, not as a proof of any peculiar merit, for the priority in those instances was probably accidental; and still less of any advantage in SEPTENNIAL elections, for when compared with a greater frequency they are inadmissible; but merely as a proof, and I conceive it to be a very substantial proof, that the liberties of the people can be in no danger from BIENNIAL elections. The conclusion resulting from these examples will be not a little strengthened by recollecting three circumstances. The first is, that the federal legislature will possess a part only of that supreme legislative authority which is vested completely in the British Parliament; and which, with a few exceptions, was exercised by the colonial assemblies and the Irish legislature. It is a received and well-founded maxim, that where no other circumstances affect the case, the greater the power is, the shorter ought to be its duration; and, conversely, the smaller the power, the more safely may its duration be protracted. In the second place, it has, on another occasion, been shown that the federal legislature will not only be restrained by its dependence on its people, as other legislative bodies are, but that it will be, moreover, watched and controlled by the several collateral legislatures, which other legislative bodies are not. And in the third place, no comparison can be made between the means that will be possessed by the more permanent branches of the federal government for seducing, if they should be disposed to seduce, the House of Representatives from their duty to the people, and the means of influence over the popular branch possessed by the other branches of the government above cited. With less power, therefore, to abuse, the federal representatives can be less tempted on one side, and will be doubly watched on the other.


Guest Essayist: Horace Cooper, Senior Fellow with the Heartland Institute

Article I, Section 2, Clause 1-2

The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by 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.

The House of Representatives or the people’s house was created by design to be the most democratic body and the legislative chamber closest to the public.   It is the larger of the two chambers and its elections the most frequent at the federal level.

In his essay on the “Original Contract” philosopher David Hume in 1752 said “The people, if we trace government to its first origin in the woods and deserts, are the source of all power and jurisdiction, and voluntarily, for the sake of peace and order, abandoned their native liberty and received laws from their equal and companion.”  The design and make up of the House reflects this view.

James Madison mentions in Federalist #52, the design and make up of the House of Representatives is predicated on the notion of a republican form of government.  As Madison points out: “It is a received and well-founded maxim, that where no other circumstances affect the case, the greater the power is, the shorter ought to be its duration.”

“…Members chosen every second year” ensures that House members will be appropriately responsive to the public.  If the elections were more frequent there is the risk that House Members would stay in a perpetual election mode – constantly campaigning and less able to exercise their judgment and wisdom.  On the other hand if the elections were held less frequently there was the risk that the House Members might exercise their personal judgments too and simultaneously the public might find it harder to hold them accountable due to the length of time between elections as passions and memories subside.

The two year cycle provides a happy medium that ensures accountability while also giving House members some limited ability to juxtapose their own judgment on policy matters.

The next provision establishes the Constitutional requirements for being a voter in a federal House election.  The founders could have established an independent requirement or it could have authorized Congress to do so.  Instead they took a third way – establishing that whatever voting requirements the states created for their own state assemblies would be used for the Federal House of Representatives election.   The provision specifically requires that federal voters meet the same requirement needed to vote for the larger branch of the state legislature – typically the state House.

Thus, if a state required you to be a resident for 5 years and a property holder in order to vote in state legislative elections, that standard would apply in order to vote in federal House elections.  Conversely if another state required voters merely to pay a fee in order to vote in state legislative races then there could be no additional restrictions for voting in the federal elections.

Instead of states being able to interfere with federal elections or vice-versa, the citizens in each state find that the requirements for voting for state and federal elections are identical.

The Constitution sets the age for House members at 25 years for a few reasons.  The age of 25 recognizes that younger individuals have a natural right to influence the political process and participate in the decision making while ensuring that all of those serving in government possess the necessary maturity, experience, and competence to perform effectively.

The citizenship requirement is equally interesting.  The Constitution does not require the individual to be a “natural born citizen” – only a citizen of the U.S. for 7 years.  While Congress has the authority to define the requirements for U.S. Citizenship, the Constitution only requires that a House member meet that standard for at least 7 years.

At the same time that the individual must be a citizen of the U.S. for 7 years, the requirement to represent a district within a state is not 7 years as a state resident.  Note that the standard for the candidate is that he or she must be “an inhabitant” of the state – i.e. a person who has established his domicile.  Often disputes arise over whether a candidate actually lives in the district that he or she is running in.  But there is no legal recourse at the federal level – the Constitution only requires that he or she live in the state not in the county or district where the federal election is being held.

This section endorses a notion that is replete within all parts of the Constitution – a republican form of government ensures the people’s liberty is maintained.  In this case the liberty of the people is safeguarded through clearly defined rules for holding elections and candidate requirements.

 Horace Cooper is a senior fellow with the Heartland Institute

Posted in Analyzing the Constitution Essay Archives | 19 Comments »

19 Responses to “February 23, 2011 – Article I, Section 2, Clause 1-2 of the United States Constitution – Guest Essayist: Horace Cooper, Senior Fellow with the Heartland Institute”

  1. Susan says:

February 23, 2011 at 9:06 am

“The greater the power the shorter the term should be”, wow! how true! Best argument I’ve heard for term limits if I ever heard one!

  1. Brad says:

February 23, 2011 at 9:29 am

Janine and Cathy,

Are you going to be writing your daily essays again? I miss your wisdom that you shared with the Fed Papers.

  1. Shannon_Atlanta says:

February 23, 2011 at 10:16 am

I was wondering , since each state can make its own rules on voting, would it be upheld as Constitutional if my state of Georgia decided one must have earned income to vote?

  1. Janine Turner says:

February 23, 2011 at 10:57 am

Mr.Cooper, I thank you for being our guest scholar and dedicating your time
to write this most informative essay. Isn’t this fun?!
I learned so much. I realize that when I read the Constitution there is so much to
absorb and thus I skip over certain parts such as the requirements for the “voter”
are maintained at the state level. I always thought this section dealt with requirements for the representative only, yet, I now know it also deals with the requirements of the voter!
Also interesting that the representative merely has to live in the state
but not the district. Fascinating!
The quotes from Madison and David Hume resonate as do your words in the closing paragraph, “a republican form of government ensures the people’s liberty is maintained.  In this case the liberty of the people is safeguarded through clearly defined rules for holding elections and candidate requirements.” Is the constitution relevant?
Yes!!! Thanks Mr.Cooper

  1. Mary Oprea says:

February 23, 2011 at 11:15 am

It’s interesting that our US Reps can be as young as 25. I wondered how many were actually this young, so I did some research.

According to Wikipedia (“List of current members of the United States House of Representatives by age and generation”), we have 0 reps from the Millennial Generation who would be in that age bracket. The majority of our Reps are Boomers, born from 1943-1960. Only 28% of the Reps are younger than the Boomers (“Generation X”).

It looks like our younger generation are busy getting their education (which usually requires more than 4 years these days) and establishing their homes. However, the cost of running in an election could be an impediment also.

GI Generation:1901 – 1924 (1 rep)
Silent Generation: 1925 – 1942 (58 reps)
Boomer Generation: 1943 – 1960 (254 reps)
Generation X: 1961 – 1981 (120 reps)
Millennial Generation: 1982 – 2003 (0 reps)
Vacant – 2

  1. Ron Meier says:

February 23, 2011 at 12:16 pm

Question for Mr. Cooper. The idea of a two year term for the “people’s house” is that voters can throw them out if they are not representing the voters. Some of our representatives have spent their entire work life in the House. Many of us believe that service as a member of the House should not be a career choice. In my case, I think one should not spent more than half an estimated 40 year work life as a career politician. Are we barking up the wrong tree with respect to the original intent of the writers of the Constitution when we press for term limits, since the representatives must be representing the voters as the voters wish if they are reelected for more than 20 terms?

  1. Cutler says:

February 23, 2011 at 1:00 pm

Thank you very much, Mr. Cooper for your insightful essay. I must now turn my thanks to Mr. James Madison in his quote: “the greater the power is, the shorter ought to be its duration.” It is completely this attitude that the founding Fathers had when forming this country, not “Just how much government intrusion will the American public tolerate?” Washington (D.C.) has rotated a complete 180 degrees from limiting power originally to seeing how far it can stretch it while still giving lip service to the Constitution.

  1. Shelby Seymore says:

February 23, 2011 at 4:11 pm

I agree with you Cutler. Obama (and his wife!) have overstepped their boundries one to many times for my taste, yet nobody sees this. It seems with this president four years is too long in power. The main problem is that the people are so unaware of these happenings they can’t see straight into the trap they are walking into. I believe the entire system needs to collapse so we start over, it’s not the ideal choice, but it will open people’s eyes.

  1. H Cooper says:

February 23, 2011 at 4:47 pm

Shannon asks an interesting question as to whether the State of Georgia could require a person to have “earned income” in order to vote in the state assembly and thereby require a similar rule for federal elections. While no longer applicable today due to the adoption of the 15th Amendment and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, when the Constitution was first created states had broad power to determine what constituted an eligible voter. Today the 15th Amendment and the Voting Rights Act effectively mean that states have limited ability to restrict voting because the VRA prohibits states from imposing any “voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure … to deny or abridge the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color.”

  1. Scott Miller says:

February 23, 2011 at 7:23 pm

It would be nice if there was a printable version of each essay available as well as a version that could be emailed to freinds and family not aware of Constituting America’s study of the U.S. Constitution!

  1. a guy says:

February 23, 2011 at 8:15 pm

Are you actually suggesting that we take voting rights away from legal, law abiding citizens if they are without income? What if they’re disabled or going to school or college on social security survivor benefits?

And personally, though I am anything but a supporter of Obama, the last thing I want to see is for our entire system to “collapse”. Things are bad enough as they are now.

  1. Barb Zakszewski says:

February 23, 2011 at 8:21 pm

thanks to Mr. Cooper for his insightful analysis of this Article and Section and putting it into an historical context. 2 year terms for House of Representative members, 2 years being seen as a happy medium between perpetual campaigning and becoming less responsive to the people they represent. Unfortunately, most House members today are more concerned with keeping their jobs and are in perpetual campaign mode, then in doing anything of substance. I’m wondering if maybe a Constitutional amendment to increase the term of a House of Representative to 3 or 4 years might be in order. Get them to focus on the tasks at hand instead of worrying about re-election, at least for a little while.

  1. ThreeDogs says:

February 24, 2011 at 1:41 am

“the greater the power is, the shorter ought to be its duration.”

Was there general agreement on this among the founders?

If so they must have thought that the most powerful body would be the the House, followed by the Executive branch, followed by the Senate and then the Judicial branch (lifetime appointments)!

Seems to me that the Judicial has over time become the most powerful.

What do you think?

  1. Ralph T. Howarth, Jr. says:

February 24, 2011 at 5:36 am

…and the Electors in each State shall have the Qualifications requisite for Electors of the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature.

I have always taken that clause to be speaking of the Electoral College Electors. There had to be qualifications for the Electors of the Electoral College too such that the qualifications of the Electors must be the same as that of the most numerous branch of the state’s legislature as Electors are those who cast their ballots for the President at the state capitol. From there, the ballots of the Electors collectively from each state are sealed and sent to the Congress to be opened up and read aloud how many votes from that state for a Presidential candidate.

  1. yguy says:

February 24, 2011 at 4:40 pm

Are you actually suggesting that we take voting rights away from legal, law abiding citizens if they are without income? What if they’re disabled or going to school or college on social security survivor benefits?

It needs to be understood that while we are indeed endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights, suffrage is not among them; and there is certainly nothing wrong with denying parasites the right to vote themselves even more largesse from the public treasury.

Which is not to say people in such circumstances as you mention are all parasites. I’m just making a more general point.

  1. Shelby Seymore says:

February 25, 2011 at 11:58 am

Agreed ThreeDogs. The Judicial branch used to be the least powerful. In fact, people would leave to state positions to gain more political power.

  1. Robert Saunders says:

February 26, 2011 at 6:20 pm

Please explain the wording, “and who shall not”, when elected, be an inhabitant of that state in which he shall be chosen.

  1. Susan says:

February 26, 2011 at 10:33 pm

It is formal 18th century usage for if you haven’t lived you shall not be elected to represent the place.

  1. Janine Turner says:

February 28, 2011 at 12:15 pm

Thanks for asking .. I would love to write daily essays.. I am working toward that goal. For now, I am having fun blogging thanks for joining us!! Isn’t this fun?

Howdy from the air! I am traveling to Boston for an historic event! For those of you who watch our videos and read these essays, you know that Juliette and I traveled to Boston in June. We visited the birthplace and homes of my favorite forefather and foremother, John and Abigail Adams!

We visited the burial place that holds the crypts of John Adams, Abigail Adam, John Quincy Adams and Louisa Catherine Adams. When we walked into the crypt, I wept. It was wondrously moving to be standing that near to the great beginnings of America and to the great human beings who sacrificed so much to make it happen.

While I was there, I was informed by Arthur, the Director of the Visitors, that no President, Vice-President, Senator, Congressman or woman, or Governor had ever come to pay respects and lay a wreath on their graves.

I was shocked. I decided then and there I was going to try to do something about it. Graciously, Senator Scott Brown from Massachusetts, agreed to meet with me – this crazy Texan who wanted to have homage paid to the heroes of our Revolution, patriots whose lives are beyond compare.

To my joy, Senator Scott Brown was familiar with my cause and was aware of a ceremony for the Adam’s family that he had been asked to attend in October. “Wonderful!” I shouted. We proceeded to reminisce about the Adam’s legacy.

A week later, I called Arthur at the Church of the Presidents and told him about my mission and my meeting with Senator Scott Brown. That same moment I received an e-mail from Senator Scott Brown’s office that the Senator was going to lay a wreath on John Quincy Adam’s grave in July. “Fabulous!” I exclaimed.

Hence, this is why I am on the plane! Juliette and I are traveling to Boston to be a part of this historic moment.

John Adams, Abigail Adams, John Quincy Adams and Louisa Catherine Adams are shining, brilliant treasures in our American history. Homage is due to them on a large scale.

My next mission is a monument for John Adams in Washington, DC and a portrait of Abigail Adams in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.!

The memories of John and Abigail are calling to me. They were not infallible, as men are not angels, but they had a devotion to America that was remarkable in its scope and a work ethic that I may only aspire to emulate.

As I like to say, Knowledge is to power what action is to results.

In regard to our great Constitution and Federalist Paper No. 52, the awe continues, not only in its enlightenment but with the continued precedent it sets. Publius’ mission was to educate the public on the Constitution and it is rich with the historical references. Not to mention that  their willingness to explain the “bill,”  exhibited a respect for “the people.”

There is another interesting aspect to the process of the Federalist Papers. In the written word, it is hard to deceive and deviate away from the question or explanation of intent. In speeches, our modern day equivalent, doublespeak prevails and “spin” prohibits true assessment of the meaning.

Not only should all bills written by our legislature be published for public consumption, as mentioned in Publics 48, but our representatives should write an essay, or two or three, on why they believe in it and how it best represents their state and America.

It was interesting to read about other countries and how their legislatures worked and did not work. Our Constitutional forefathers were very intent that our representatives remain accountable to the people knowing that a frequent asking of the people for justification, by their vote, would keep the Representatives humble and accountable.

We should reflect as modern day patriots the voter turnout for midterm elections. They are as valuable and viable as Presidential elections, yet so few Americans vote. Our vote is our voice! Let us reach out to inspire our fellow citizens to vote this midterm. To presume that they do not matter is the surest way to continue the downward spiral of our liberties and our Republic.

The Adam’s family is calling to us. Their intellect, honor, dignity and love for America illuminate the path for us. Let us take the road less traveled. Let us journey forth in the pathway of their sacrifices. What a privilege to walk in the shadows of their sublime statures.

God Bless,

Janine Turner

Friday, July 9th, 2010


Greetings from Mt. Vernon, Virginia!  Having spent many years working for a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Congressman Joe Barton of Texas, I am thrilled to see several Federalist Papers devoted to the subject of the U.S. House.

Unfortunately, Congress as an institution and the people who serve there are suffering from a negative public perception.  As with any group of people, there are a few who deserve the public’s disdain.  And there are others who may not be re-elected this November because they have not carried out their constituents’ will.  But based on my experience of working first hand with many of these men and women, I have developed the highest respect for the institution of the U.S. House, and for most of  those elected from their congressional districts to serve, Republicans and Democrats.

The founders designed the U.S. House of Representatives to be close to the people:

As it is essential to liberty that the government in general should have a common interest with the people, so it is particularly essential that the branch of it under consideration should have an immediate dependence on, and an intimate sympathy with, the people. Frequent elections are unquestionably the only policy by which this dependence and sympathy can be effectually secured.

Publius argues that an election every two years is frequent enough to maintain the people’s liberty:

“I conceive it to be a very substantial proof,that the liberties of the people can be in no danger from BIENNIAL elections.”

This is true, as long as the people uphold their duty articulated in Federalist No. 33, to “take such measures to redress the injury done to the Constitution as the exigency may suggest and prudence justify.”

Elections every two years keep members of Congress close to their constituents.  There are extended  breaks from votes during January, February, April, July, August, September, and Congress usually breaks for good anywhere from mid-October in election years to mid-November or mid-December in the off years.  During these breaks, most Members of Congress go back to their districts, hold town meetings and other forums, and work hard to meet with their constituents and listen to them.

We have all seen the video footage from town meetings of Congressmen or women who appear to be disengaged, uniformed, hostile to their constituents, or out of touch, especially during the health care debate.    From my experience, these members of Congress are the exception, rather than the rule.

Most members of the U.S. House, of both parties, are well informed, hard working individuals who deeply love their country and sacrifice a great deal to serve the people of their congressional district. Most keep their families in their congressional district, and are in Washington only when they have to be, flying in to vote Tuesday through Thursday, and back home Thursday evenings to spend Friday through Monday working in their congressional district.

Most members of Congress are very accessible to their constituents. Any citizen may “walk the halls,” of Congress, and stop in at their U.S. Representative’s office, or any U.S. Representative’s office, often getting to at least say hello to the member of Congress, even without an appointment, if they are willing to wait.  And if they request a meeting with enough lead time, most people who want to have a sit down meeting with their member of Congress are usually able to get one scheduled.  Janine, Juliette and I walked the halls of Congress recently, and met with Congressman Scott Garrett, Chairman of the Congressional Constitution Caucus, and Congresswomen Blackburn and Bachmann.  We even met with Senator Scott Brown on the Senate side!  We witnessed all taking the time to say hello to visiting constituents while we were there.

Members of Congress also maintain offices and staffs in their congressional district, whose sole purpose is to serve the constituents, untangling them from governmental red tape, facilitating military academy appointments, and participating with citizens in the community on local projects.

It is understandable that people are frustrated and angry when Congress passes a bill so large no one can read it, with provisions that go against the U.S. Constitution and our founding principles of limited government and free enterprise.  But that is where elections every two years come into play.  It is the people’s responsibility to make their views known, and the most effective way to do that, is on election day.

In 1994, and in 2006, the people’s voice was heard. Despite gerrymandering (which I agree with Jon and Professor Rowley, is a terrible modern day development) control of the U.S. House shifted, because the people were unhappy.

As we have said many times on these pages before, knowledge is power. Before you judge your member of Congress, get to know him or her, or at least try! Find out their voting record, their attendance record. Do they hold town meetings? If so, attend! Ask a question. Send an email. Write a letter. Request a meeting.  Sit down with their congressional district staff. You may be surprised to find out how hard your member of Congress is actually working for you, or you may have your worst suspicions confirmed, and decide a change is needed.

“The definition of the right of suffrage is very justly regarded as a fundamental article of republican government.”

Let’s use that powerful tool granted to us by the Constitution!

Thank you to all of you for your continued participation, and your insightful comments.

Good night and God Bless,

Cathy Gillespie

Thursday, July 8th, 2010


Guest Essayist: Charles K. Rowley, Ph.D., Duncan Black Professor of Economics at George Mason University and General Director of The Locke Institute in Fairfax, Virginia

Let me commence this discussion with an important caveat.  There are two ways in which to evaluate the contributions of the Founding Fathers in drafting and pursuing the ratification of the various Articles and Sections of the United States Constitution.  The first way is by reference to the circumstances of the emerging nation and the knowledge available to the Founders.  The second way is by reference to the circumstances of our time and the accumulated knowledge that is now available.  I shall focus primarily on the first way, given the exigencies of space.

The Federalist, No. 52, written by Hamilton or Madison, explains and justifies Article I, Section 2 of the draft Constitution, with particular regard to the qualifications both of the electors and of those elected to the House of Representatives, and to the length of term for which the representatives were to be elected.  These are centrally important considerations for any Constitution that seeks to establish a Federal Government of strictly enumerated powers, to ensure that elected representatives will faithfully reflect the preferences of a majority of their constituents and yet will not be overly tempted to discriminate against vulnerable minorities.  If the People are to govern, then a suitable definition of the People, and how the People are to impact on government, is of crucial importance.

A key circumstance influencing the Convention was recognition that any shift from the existing Confederation to a new Federation inevitably constituted a fundamental challenge to States’ rights, and must be perceived as a threat to the less populous states.  In order to ratify the Constitution, those issues must be addressed effectively by PUBLIUS.

Naturally, therefore, PUBLIUS emphasized the good sense in requiring that the qualifications of the electors would be the same as those required by each State’s own Constitution for the most numerous branch of that State’s legislature.  Of course, this implied that electoral qualifications might vary across the several States.  Yet, individual States could not manipulate the suffrage by simple legislation to gain advantage in the House of Representatives.  If they engaged in high cost constitutional manipulation, they could do so only by imposing upon their own State legislature any inherent disadvantages of such a manipulation.

Inevitably, norms of the day governed the extent of the suffrage.  For the most part, only propertied male citizens qualified.  Non-citizens (which of course included slaves), male citizens without property, and women need not apply.  This restricted the electorate to some twenty-five percent of the adult population.  But remember that the United States was one of only two emerging democracies.  And Britain, albeit without the taint of slavery, similarly limited the suffrage at that time to a suitably-propertied male minority.

The qualifications of the representatives were a different matter.  They were much less clearly defined by the State Constitutions and more susceptible to uniformity.  PUBLIUS defended the proposal by the Convention that a representative must be at least of the age of twenty-five years, must have been seven years a citizen of the United States, must, at the time of the election, be an inhabitant of the State he was to represent, and, during the time of his service, must be in no office under the United States.  This left the door widely open to would-be candidates, including women and persons without property.  Of course, slaves could not be citizens and, therefore, were excluded from candidacy.

The Convention had decided that the House of Representatives should be composed of Members chosen every second year by the electorate.  This was a truly important judgment, defended by PUBLIUS.  The Founders were well aware of a British history, where monarchs not infrequently had failed to call Parliament for several years when threatened by its fractiousness towards their objectives.  So the regularity of the election would avoid any such deviance on the part of fractious States.  They were also aware that some long-lived parliaments had lost significant contact with their electors, and had culminated in widespread corruption and inefficiencies.

A two-year term was deemed appropriate, in that it would maintain a close linkage between individual representatives and the People without imposing an excessive urgency on their deliberations.  The Founders were not disposed to introduce direct democracy into the federal legislature, recognizing its high cost and limited effectiveness in a geographically dispersed country with a rapidly increasing population of potential voters.

With respect to the two-year term, my judgment is that the Founders were correct.  The House of Representatives would become the engine of the legislature and the Senate, with its six-year staggered terms, would become the brake, especially when transient passions were running high.  Sadly, the great expectations of the Founders regarding the linkage between the People and those that they elected to office would be disappointed.

The Founders failed to anticipate the emergence of powerful political parties that would demand loyalty from their members even when such loyalty conflicted with constituents’ interests.  They failed to anticipate the gerrymandering of districts that would provide incumbent re-election probabilities as high as in many dictatorships.  They failed to anticipate the growth of political action groups and other special interests that would flood political campaigns with funding designed to distort election results away from the interests of the People.  They failed to anticipate the willingness of the United States federal courts to loosen the strictly enumerated powers of the Federal Government by inappropriately redefining key Articles of the Constitution designed to limit the range of collective actions that might impact adversely upon the People.  These developments, however, were products of changing circumstances and advancing political acumen unavailable to the Founders in the dying years of the eighteenth century, and at the very beginning of a great experiment in constitutional republicanism.

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

Charles K. Rowley, Ph.D. is Duncan Black Professor of Economics at George Mason University and General Director of The Locke Institute in Fairfax, Virginia.  He is the co-author (with Nathanael Smith) of Economic Contractions in the United States: A Failure of Government. The Locke Institute He blogs at



Howdy from Boston! Today was an historical day! Juliette and I had the great fortune to witness Senator Scott Brown lay a wreath on John Quincy Adams crypt, marking our 6th President’s 243rd birthday. It was the first time a sitting Senator has ever done so.

Senator Scott Brown delivered a very inspiring speech and his wife Gail is a beautiful, dedicated American patriot.

It was an honor to meet Peter Boylston Adams! He is a seventh generation Adams. It was a momentous event for me. I handed him a copy of my book, “Holding Her Head High,” because I have a chapter dedicated to Abigail Adams! I told Mr. Adams that I had met with Senator Scott Brown about honoring the Adams legacy and that my next mission was to help facilitate the building of a monument dedicated to John Adams in Washington, D.C. and to have a portrait of Abigail Adams hung in the National Portrait Gallery!

There were many great patriots present at the event today. Patriots who volunteer their time and energies to preserving the legacy of John Adams, Abigail Adams, John Quincy Adams and Louisa Catherine Adams.

Arthur W. Ducharme, the director of the Visitor’s Program of the United First Parish Church, (the Church of the Presidents) is one of the great patriots who were present today. He is a passionate American and is a shining example of one who understands the importance of history. He carries the torch of the Adam’s legacy with dignity and grace.

John and Abigail are smiling from heaven on Arthur Duscharme.

The church has a rich history. The Reverend Sheldon W. Bennett serves as the church’s minister. He is also a descendent of the Adam’s family – from Henry Adams, John Adam’s great, great grandfather. His presentation and prayers were wonderful and afterwards he showed us the cemetery where many of the Adams family are buried, including Henry Adams!

On the tombstone of Henry Adams, John Adams wrote the following words:

“This stone and several others have been placed in this yard, by a great, great grandson from a veneration of the piety, humility, simplicity, prudence, patience, temperance, frugality, industry and perseverance of his Ancestors, in hopes of recommending an imitation of their virtues to their posterity.”

Reverend Bennett said that he finds the words, “personally inspiring.” I find them to be not only inspiring but representative of a legacy that changed America.

Without John Adams we would have not had a Declaration of Independence. Our country’s birth stemmed from John Adam’s perseverance and it was his prudent and industrious habits that guided our country to victory and fruition.

He laid the foundation for our United States Constitution with his brilliant construction of the Constitution for the Great Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the understanding of the importance of, as mentioned in Federalist Paper No. 53, “a Constitution established by the people and unalterable by the government.”

His frugality, temperance and piety as our nation’s first Vice President and second President, tempered a rising nation through its infancy. Without his patience and virtue America would have not prevailed.

His son, John Quincy Adams, mirrored all of these virtues with his astonishing and tireless dedication to his country. He served as a young diplomat beside his father, then as U.S. Minister to Holland, Prussia, Russia and Great Britain, U.S. Senator, negotiator of the Peace Treaty of Ghent, (War of 1812), Secretary of State under President Monroe, promulgator of the Monroe Doctrine, the 6th President of the United States and finally as Congressman in the U.S. House of Representative.

God Bless Henry Adams for the great example he set for his posterity and for John Adams and John Quincy Adams who recognized it and honored it with their lives and legacy.

Today, Peter Boylston Adams and Reverend Bennett are a rich reflection of their heroic heritage.

Never may we take for granted the impact we may have on our country and our children. Daily we are the servants to a great cause, America, our country and Americans our children.

God Bless,

Janine Turner

Saturday, July 10th, 2010


Greetings from Mt. Vernon, Virginia!

Thank you to Professor Kyle Scott for soaring to 50,000 feet and giving us the aerial view of Hamilton’s important point in Federalist 61!  I was in the weeds, struggling to make sense of where and when elections should be held, and the most important point of this paper sailed right over my head until I read Professor Scott’s essay.

Federalist 61 gives us an important insight and specific example of the founders’ view and intention of the construction of the United States Constitution:  broad principles outlined that provide a structure and framework to guide the specifics of future legislation as time and events require.

Our founders had great wisdom as to what is appropriate for the Congress to decide, the specific powers that should be delegated to the federal government, where the federal government’s limits are, and what needed to be carefully spelled out and guarded in the Constitution.  Reading back through Federalist Papers 52-61, the founders gave Congress many powers when it came to elections: deciding the time of elections, the power to modify election law, even the power to alter the total number of U.S. Representatives.  These are all powers Publius argues are “safe for the legislature to decide.” The important guiding principles, such as the frequency of elections, and who may vote (broadened with Amendments, thanks to the “genius of the people”) are safely embedded in the Constitution.

In Federalist 51, Publius writes:

In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this:  you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”

Giving the government any power over the laws affecting the election of its own members is a tricky proposition.  The founders’ carefully crafted system of checks and balances, including “THE CONSENT OF THE PEOPLE,” (Federalist No. 22) have preserved our liberty for over 200 years.

Let us not forget the words of Federalist No. 60 regarding the ultimate “check” of the people:

“Would they not fear that citizens, not less tenacious than conscious of their rights, would flock from the remote extremes of their respective States to the places of election, to overthrow their tyrants, and to substitute men who would be disposed to avenge the violated majesty of the people?”

Looking forward to hearing everyone’s thoughts and comments today!!

Stay cool!

Cathy Gillespie

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010