Reflections on the Constitution Page: 3 of 6
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states, "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." "Three fifths of all other persons:" That phrase includes my
ancestors. If the original meaning had been fixed forever, I would today count as
three-fifths of a person. Section 2 of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution
changed that. It states, "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." This amendment was proposed by Congress on
June 13, 1866. It was ratified by July 28, 1868. The document signed by the framers
on September 17, 1787 was not immutable. It provided a framework - a structure for
governing. As many of the drafters campaigned for ratification, they promised that
several amendments would be added which would make the constitution more
acceptable. James Madison is generally regarded as the father of the Constitution.
One of his first acts as a member of Congress was to propose amending the
Constitution to add a Bill of Rights. James Madison was fulfilling a campaign promise.
Did the fact of adding the first ten amendments to the Constitution so soon after
ratification mean that the instrument as ratified was defective? There was no
unanimous answer to that question. Strong advocates of the natural rights of man felt
that a Bill of Rights was unnecessary because it constituted only a restatement of
rights already held by man by virtue of being human. Ardent anti-federalists, ever
distrustful of government, felt that a Bill of Rights was necessary to protect the
citizenry from encroachment and intrusion by big government. It is my belief that
those first ten amendments to the Constitution provide a cogent and concise statement
of this country's public philosophy. They are a convenient and substantive response to
what this country is about.
Those first ten amendments applied to the federal government and its constitutional
restraints. The question of whether those amendment were applicable to the states
was answered by the decision that the Fourteenth Amendment incorporated the first
ten amendments and made them applicable to the states. With that, the whole of
government was constitutionally enjoined from interfering with those basic freedoms of
speech, press, religion, conscience, thought, and assembly.
In the early sixties, I sought election in Houston. There were twelve
representatives from Houston-Harris County to be elected to the Texas House of
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Jordan, Barbara, 1936-1996. Reflections on the Constitution, article, July 14, 1987; (https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth616608/m1/3/: accessed May 6, 2021), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, https://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Southern University.