Four research questions frame this inquiry into the elemental import of rules of apportionment, the process of constitutional change, and the development of the American political order between 1700 and 1870. The first two questions ask when and how do constitutional changes in the rule of apportionment occur. The final two questions ask why these changes occur and what are their immediate and longer-term consequences.
In the Preface, rules of apportionment were defined not only in terms of the allocation of collective decision-making authority, but of their particular informational and distributional qualities as well. The general relationship between these rules and the process of constitutional change thus seems clear. Constitutional changes are a type of political change that alters or establishes seemingly permanent organizational structures, institutional procedures, or customary practices that determine the practical limits of collective authority. These changes are easily recognized when they are coterminous with explicit formal changes like constitutional amendments or written legal decrees, but they also occur with the establishment or transformation of unwritten, customary political practices.
Because every type of constitutional order requires some form of apportionment rule, constitutional changes in the rule of apportionment are further signified by two distinguishing events: the abandonment of an existing rule and the establishment of a new rule of apportionment. As a consequence, answers to the questions of when and how constitutional change occurs require detailed descriptive accounts of the contextual conditions which precede, and the sequences of decisions which effect, historical instances of this particular type of political change.