The U.S. Census
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Brief Census History
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Civilizations have been conducting censuses for thousands of years in order to keep track of their number of people, especially for tax purposes. The Bible tells of a census demanded by King David done against the will of God on the people of Israel and Judah, which took 9 months and 20 days to complete. The leaders of the army reported to King David that 800,000 men in Israel and 500,000 men in Judah were fit for military service. The Bible then states that King David’s census angered God and the Lord sent a pestilence over Israel until 70,000 people from Dan to Beer-sheba died.

The Romans conducted the first recorded census in the 5th century B.C. At that time, under the rule of Servius Tullius, the Romans counted and divided their citizens into classes according to wealth. Failure to disclose certain information such as family size, land, livestock, slaves, etc, could mean the forfeiture of all of one’s property, and even enslavement.

However, much of western civilization avoided conducting censuses for fear of offending God based on the biblical census conducted by King David. Religious groups in the United States also delayed conducting censuses. The first official U.S. census took place after the drafting of the U.S. Constitution which mandated taking a census. In 1790, President George Washington commissioned the first U.S. census pursuant to the U.S. Constitution, and it covered the largest amount of territory and scope at that time.

Next, we’ll go over the exact language of the U.S. Constitution which mandates a U.S. census every 10 years.