Tyranny of Volume

Tyranny comes in many different forms. The founding fathers of the United States would probably look at Texas’ Constitution as one such tyranny. The author of the 62nd Federalist Paper[1] tells us of three sources of tyranny—all with the same root—that would necessitate a radical change in the Lone Star Constitution.

It was probably James Madison[2] who told us: “It will be of little avail to the people that the laws be made by men of their own choice if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read…” [1] This is the first problem with the current Lone Star Document. At ninety-thousand words of almost solid jargon, no casual or even a motivated citizen would attempt to read the whole document.

The second source of tyranny found in the Constitution, as the same author notes, is that it is “so incoherent that [it] cannot be understood.”[1] Not only is it frequented with indecipherable jargon, but the structure of the document is lacking. For example, to this day Article 3, Section 48c is left blank, [3] since it was left out after being transcribed at the original convention. As admitted by the Texas government itself: “…the 1876 [Texas] constitution… is now considered to be one of the most disorganized and confusing of all state constitutions.”[4]

The Constitution also “undergoes such incessant changes that no man… can guess what it will be tomorrow,” [1] as it was states in The Federalist No 62. In November, sixteen changes to the “foundation” of law in Texas will be put on the ballot for voter approval. [5] Indeed, Texas’ amendment rate has always been high:

“Some 615 amendments to the Texas Constitution had been proposed by 2005, only 129 years after that document was adopted. Of these, 439 had been ratified by popular vote. That averages to more than 9 amendments proposed and 6 amendments ratified for each two-year legislative session since 1876.”[6]

Some might be asking themselves: What’s so important? What is really the problem with a jargonistic document if it is read by those who understand jargon? Maybe it would have been a problem in the early 1800s, but not now. The simple impact to the argument is this: There is no way people can be law-abiding citizens if they don’t know the law. To the Texas public, though, knowing the law is like chasing the wind: It doesn’t stop long enough to give you a breath and doesn’t bother to explain what’s going on. Is it any wonder that less than 20 percent of Texans bother to show up for special elections were constitutional amendments are considered? [7]

In the end, what is needed is a Constitution that the people of Texas can actually study and understand. As Thomas Jefferson commented: “Though [the people] may acquiesce, they cannot approve what they do not understand.”[8] The citizenry must demand to be able to take an active roll in government if they feel so inclined. Texas needs both the “enlightened” citizens that a republic demands and strong political leadership in order to resist the tyrannies of volume, incoherence, and ceaseless change that are too prevalent in the Lone Star Constitution.


1. James Madison or Alexander Hamilton. Federalist No. 62. (February 19 1788) http://thomas.loc.gov/home/histdox/fed_62.html

2. The authorship of this paper is not certain. The University of Chicago Press version cites Madison as the author: http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/documents/v1ch12s22.html The Emory Law School, however, less confidently states that it could be Madison or Hamilton. http://www.law.emory.edu/law-library/research/ready-reference/us-federal-law-and-documents/historical-documents-the-federalist-papers/the-federalist-no-62.html Finally, the Library of Congress, perhaps the best source, says that the “Author: [is] Alexander Hamilton or James Madison” http://thomas.loc.gov/home/histdox/fed_62.html

3. The Texas Constitution. “Article 3 – Legislative Department” http://tlo2.tlc.state.tx.us/txconst/articles/cn000300.html

4. Texas State Library and Archives Commission. “The Texas Constitution of 1876” (Texas State Library, November 2005) http://www.tsl.state.tx.us/treasures/constitution/index.html

5. Texas Secretary of State. “Ballot Language For November 6, 2007 Constitutional Amendment” (n.d.) http://www.sos.state.tx.us/elections/voter/2007novballotlang.shtml

6. Texas Politics. Texas Constitution. “Mode of Amendment” (University of Texas at Austin, n.d.) http://texaspolitics.laits.utexas.edu/html/cons/0405.html

7. Micheal Hodges. “Observer’s Report for Texas: May 12, 2007 Constitutional Amendments Special Election” (Elections Advisory Committee, September 4, 2007) p 1. http://www.sos.state.tx.us/elections/forms/sept2007report.pdf

8. Thomas Jefferson. “Opinion on Apportionment Bill” (1792) Lipscomb and Bergh, ed. The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Memorial Ed. (Washington, D.C.: 1903-04) 3, p 211. http://etext.virginia.edu/jefferson/quotations/jeff1350.htm