Six constitutional amendments that came close

A More Perfect Union: 6 constitutional amendments which came close

The U.S. Constitution is designed to be amended "to form a more perfect union" as the years go on. But not every proposal has made it. As of 1997, 10,980 amendments have been proposed, 33 of which passed Congress and 27 ratified by the states. Here are the other six.

Storified by Digital First Media · Mon, Sep 17 2012 03:52:51

The Larger House Amendment

The very first amendment proposed to the Constitution would have set minimum sizes for congressional districts. But it seems to have been written by the people behind Murphy’s Law. The amendment included a complicated formula specifying when the House would increase, but it was incorrectly transcribed. The result was mathematically impossible in some circumstances. The amendment fell one state short of ratification, though some argue Connecticut actually ratified it but forgot to tell Congress. 

The Anti-Nobility Amendment

In the early 1800s, Americans feared that French or English royals would somehow gain control of the government. In 1810, Congress passed an amendment which would strip U.S. citizenship of any American who accepted a title of nobility or other honor from “any emperor, king, prince or foreign power.” Two hundred years later, some Iowa Republicans sought to revive the amendment in order to criticize President Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize (which wouldn’t qualify anyway, as it comes from the Nobel committee). Fortunately for former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who accepted an honorary knighthood from the Queen of England, the amendment failed.

The Pro-Slavery Amendment

In an effort to stave off secession by the Southern states, Congress passed an amendment proposed by Ohio Republican Rep. Thomas Corwin in 1861 that would have barred any future constitutional amendments from ending slavery. Only Ohio and Maryland ratified the amendment, which failed to prevent the Civil War. By 1865, Congress approved an amendment ending slavery. That amendment was ratified and became the Thirteenth Amendment, while the Corwin Amendment was largely forgotten.

Child Labor Amendment

Concerns about children working in factories led to a national reform movement in the early part of the 20th century. When the Supreme Court overturned a federal law barring child labor in 1918, reformers pushed for the Child Labor Amendment, which would assert that Congress had the power to regulate — and ban — child labor. The amendment was adopted by Congress in 1924, but opponents argued it would give the federal government the power to ban chores on the family farm, and support dissipated. The amendment was ratified by 28 states and technically remains pending.

Equal Rights Amendment

First proposed in 1923, the Equal Rights Amendment was designed to end legal discrimination against women. Over the years, it gained support from such notables as Eleanor Roosevelt and President Eisenhower and was eventually passed by Congress in 1972 with a seven-year time limit for ratification by the states. The amendment drive failed narrowly, with only 35 of the necessary 38 states ratifying it by the 1979 deadline. An effort to extend the deadline also failed as support for the amendment thinned.

The D.C. Representation Amendment

Few other seats of national government get treated as poorly as the District of Columbia. Washington residents are given one member of the House (currently Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton), but she isn’t allowed to vote, and they have no representation in the Senate. An amendment passed by Congress in 1978 would have given D.C. one representative and two senators, essentially treating it the same as a state without granting statehood. It was approved by 16 states, far short of the 38 necessary.