by Tom Alston
I got my Census form today. Upon reading over the intrusive questions it asked, I decided to refer to my handy pocket copy of The Constitution. One does not have to read far past The Preamble to find the applicable sentence: Article 1, Section 2.
Here’s what our Founding Fathers had to say: “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.”
That’s all there is to it.
Now you might think that the fairly broad statement at the end (“…in such Manner as they shall by Law direct.”) leaves Congress a whole lot of leeway for the questions they ask you. Nay. Let’s return to the word “enumeration” early in that solitary sentence.
I went to Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language – the closet dictionary I have to the 1787 birth of The Constitution – and looked up “enumerate.”
Enumerate comes from the Latin word for number. The definitions have to do with counting, number by number; to mention a number of things separately; and the act of counting or telling by number, by naming each in particular.
In short, The Constitution speaks to counting and just to counting. Not to your name. Or your phone number. Or your race. Or your birthday.
In short Congress can by Law direct how you are counted. Counted in English. With Arabic numerals. Or in Latin with Roman numerals. With an abacus. With a hand-held computer. On the census taker’s fingers and toes. Or with matchsticks. But all The Constitution speaks to is counting.
One. Two. Buckle my shoe.
Three. Four. Shut the door – on people squirreling with our Constitution!
And just for fun, I wrote in my race: American!