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This, the Fifth Congress, met December 21, 1775, pursuant to precepts issued by the preceding body. On January 5, 1776, in accordance with a recommendation of the Continental Congress, dated November 3, 1775, it was voted : “ That this Congress take up Civil Government”; also“ That this Congress, Assume the Name, Power, & Authority of a House of Representatives or Assembly for the Colony of New Hampshire”; and that precepts should be issued for an annual election as they should thereafter prescribe.
In accordance with this provision, the house of representatives voted on the eighteenth of September, 1776:
“ That Precepts signed by the President of the Council And Speaker of the House of Representatives, Issue to the Same Towns, Parishes and Places in this State for the choice of a New House of Representatives (as issued for the same number of Representatives for the present House) to meet at Exeter on the third Wednesday in December next & to continue for one year.
The act of November 14, 1775, passed by the Fourth Provincial Congress, which had temporarily determined the basis of representation, appears to have remained in force throughout the remainder of the period until the constitution adopted in 1783 went into effect on June 2, 1784. The number of representatives varied slightly from time to time, on account of occasional revisions in the grouping of the less populous towns, but no radical changes were made until New Hampshire emerged from her political vicissitudes a full Aedged state.
The Basis of Representation in the House of Representa
tives in New Hampshire since 1783.
Under the constitution of 1783 every town, parish, or place entitled to town privileges, having 150 ratable polls, was entitled to send one representative to the General Court; and 300 was made the mean increasing number of ratable polls to entitle a town, parish, place, etc., to an additional representative.' It is of interest to note that this basis and ratio remained fixed for more than ninety years, or until changed by the convention of 1876.
And even then allowing four inhabitants for each ratable poll, the change of base from ratable polls to population did not change the ratio. Thus the only changes made in the constitution of 1783 materially affecting representation have been those relating to the smaller towns. Convention of 1791–92.
The first house of representatives elected under the constitution of 1783 contained only ninety-one members; and up to September 7, 1791, when the first convention for revising that constitution assembled, the largest number had been ninety-four.
In that convention, however, because of the growth of the population of the State, the fear was commonly expressed that the house of representatives would soon become too large; and two plans for reducing the number of representatives were laid before the convention, as follows:
1 The Constitution of Massachusetts of 1780 established the same basis, 160 ratable polls for the first representative, but made 225 the mean increasing number for an additional representative.
1. It was proposed to change the number of ratable polls required for a representative from 150 to 200." This proposition was rejected—31 yeas and 70 nays.
2. Mr. Plumer of Epping proposed to limit the number of representatives to sixty, and to divide the state into districts for their election. This proposal was rejected-yeas, 22 ; nays, 73."
On September 16 a Committee on Alterations and Amendments was appointed to take into consideration the constitution with the several resolutions and proposed amendments, and report at the next session, and the convention then adjourned to February 8, 1792.
At the adjourned session this committee reported in favor of the following clause to be added to the constitution of 1783 :
“ Provided, nevertheless, that whenever the number of members of the House of Representatives shall exceed 110, it shall be the duty of the legislature to make such arrangement as that the members shall not exceed at any time that number, nor shall the towns and districts entitled to send representatives at any time be less than 80." 3
Under date of February 21, 1792, is the following record :
· Province and State Papers, Vol. X., p 44.
“Proceeded to the consideration of the several articles or paragraphs (of the proposed draft of a revised constitution) under the head House of Representatives.
“On the first paragraph much debate ensued and motion was made to strike out the words three hundred,' and insert 'two hundred twenty-five' as the mean increasing number — to determine which the yeas and nays were called and were as follows: 19 yeas- -79 nays.
So the motion was lost and no alteration was made to said article.
“ The next paragraph, contained in a proviso to prevent the number of representatives being more than 110 at any one time hereafter, &c., was rejected.”
Thus the house of representatives, as constituted under the constitution of 1783, remained unchanged.
Convention of 1850–51. In the next convention called to revise the constitution of the State, which met in Concord, November 6, 1850, the basis and ratio of representation was one of the chief subjects of discussion. The population of the State, which in 1786 (the state census for that year was the first taken under the constitution) had been 95,801, had now grown to 317,976; and the membership of the house of representatives had increased from ninety-one to two hundred eighty-eight. It was generally recognized that so large a body was unwieldy, and incapable of legislating to the best advantage, and that it imposed an unnecessary burden upon the taxpayers. Many plans for reducing the number of members of the house of representatives were presented. Those most favored in the early stages of debate were the four following:
1 Province and State Papers, Vol. X., pp. 107, 108.
1. On November 13, Mr. Hoit of Exeter moved to strike out the whole of the ninth, tenth, and eleventh articles of the constitution, and insert the following:
“ House of Representatives. — The House of Representatives shall consist of not less than 200 nor more than 250 members, chosen annually by the cities, towns, and parishes entitled to town privileges according to population as shown decennially by the National Census. The population of the state shall be divided by 250, and the number of times the resulting quotient is contained in each town or city, will show the number of representatives to which each city or town shall be entitled. Provided, however, that in respect to those towns and those towns only which by this process could not be represented in the Legislature, a fraction of one-half or more shall be entitled to one representative. Provided, moreover, that each town however small in population shall be allowed one representative whenever a new apportionment of the state tax is made by the Legislature.
II. On November 15, Mr. Hayes of Madbury offered in the convention the following resolution which was referred to the Committee of the Whole :
• Resolved, That every town or place in this state entitled to town privileges, shall be entitled to elect at least one representative; that every such town or place having 700 legal voters, shall be entitled to elect two representatives ; every such town or place having 1,500 legal voters, shall be entitled to elect three representatives; every such town or place having 2,500 legal voters, shall be entitled to elect four representatives; every such town or place having 5,000 legal voters, shall be entitled to elect five representatives; and no town or place shall elect more than five.” 2 1 The “Daily Patriot," November 14, 1850. · The “Daily Patriot,” November 16, 1850.