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in the state of New-York, one branch of the government is in. tended more especially to be the guardian of property, and is accordingly elected by that part of the society which is most interested in this object of government. In the federal constitution, this policy does not prevail. The rights of property, are committed into the same hands, with the personal rights. Some attention ought, therefore, to be paid to property, in the choice of those hands.
For another reason, the votes allowed in the federal legislature to the people of each state, ought to bear some proportion to the comparative wealth of the states. States have not, like individuals, an influence over each other, arising from superior advantages of fortune. If the law allows an opulent citizen but a single vote in the choice of his representative, the respect and consequence which he derives from his fortunate situation, very frequently guide the votes of othors to the objects of his choice; and through this imperceptible channel, the rights of property are conveyed into the public representation. A state possesses no such influence over other states. It is not probable, that the richest state in the confederacy, will ever influence the choice of a single representative, in any other state. Nor will the representatives of the larger and richer states, possess any other advantage in the federal legislature, over the representatives of other states, than what may result from their superior number alone; as far, therefore, as their superior wealth and weight may justly entitle them to any advantage, it ought to be secured to them by a superior share of representation. The new constitution is, in this respect, materially different from the existing confederation, as well as from that of the United Netherlands, and other similar confederacies. In each of the latter, the efficacy of the fedoral resolutions, depends on the subsequent and voluntary resolutions of the states composing the union. Hence the states, though possessing an equal vote in the public councils, have an unequal influence, corresponding with the unequal importance of these subsequent and voluntary resolutions. Under the proposed constitution, the federal acts
will take effect without the necessary intervention of the individual states. They will depend merely on the majority of votes in the federal legislature, and consequently each vote, whether proceeding from a larger or smaller state, or a state more or less wealthy or powerful, will have an equal weight and efficacy; in the same manner as the votes individually given in a state legislature, by the representatives of unequal counties or other districts, have each a precise equality of value and effect; or if there be any difference in the case, it proceeds from the difference in the personal character of the individual representative, rather than from any regard to the extent of the district from which he comes.
Such is the reasoning, which an advocate for the southern interests, might employ on this subject : And although it muy appear to be a little strained in some points, yet on the whole, I must confess that it fully reconciles me to the scale of representation, which the convention have established.
In one respect, the establishment of a common measure for representation and taxation, will have a very salutary effect. As the accuracy of the census to be obtained by the congress, will necessarily depend, in a considerable degree, on the disposition, if not the co-operation of thọ states, it is of great importance that the states should feel as little bias as possible, to swell or to reduce the amount of their numbers. Were their share of representation alone to be governed by this rule, they would have an interest in exaggerating their inhabitants. Were the rule to decide their share of taxation alone, a contrary temptation would prevail. By.extending the rule to both objects, the states will have opposite interests, which will con. trol and balance each other; and produce the requisite impartiality.
NEW YORK, FEBRUARY 15, 1788.
THE SAME SUBJECT CONTINUED, IN RELATION TO THE TOTAL
NUMBER OF THE BODY.
The number of which the house of representatives is to consist, forms another, and a very interesting point of view, under which this branch of the federal legislature may be contemplated. Scarce any article indeed in the whole constitution, seems to be rendered more worthy of attention, by the weight of character, and the apparent force of argument, with which it has been assailed.
The charges exhibited against it are, first, that so small a number of representatives, will be an unsafe depository of the public interests; secondly, that they will not possess a proper knowledge of the local circumstances of their numerous constituents; thirdly, that they will be taken from that class of citizens which will sympathize least with the feelings of the mass of the people, and be most likely to aim at a permanent elevation of the few, on the depression of the many; fourthly, that defective as the number will be in the first instance, it will be more and more disproportionate, by, the increase of the people, and the obstacles which will prevent a correspondent increase of the representatives.
In general it may be remarked on this subject, that no
political problem is less susceptible of a precise solution, than that which relates to the number most convenient for a representative legislature; nor is there any point on which the policy of the several states is more at variance; whether wo compare their legislative assemblies directly with each other, or consider the proportions which they respectively bear to the number of their constituents. Passing over the difference between the smallest and largest states, as Delaware, whose most numerous branch consists of twenty-one representatives, and Massachusetts, where it amounts to between three and four hundred, a very considerable difference is observable, among statos nearly equal in population. The number of representatives in Pennsylvania, is not more than one fifth of that, in the state last mentioned. New York, whose population is to that of South-Carolina as six to five, has little more than ono third of the number of representatives. As great a disparity prevails between the states of Georgia and Delaware, or RhodeIsland. In Pennsylvania, the representatives do not bear a greater proportion to their constituents, than of one for every four or five thousand. In Rhode Island, they bear a proportion of at least one for every thousand. And according to the constitution of Georgia, the proportion may be carried to one for every ten electors; and must unavoidably far exceed the proportion in any of the other states.
Anothor goneral remark to bo made is, that the ratio be. twoen the representativos and the poople, ought not to be tho. same, where the latter are very numerous, as where they are very few. Were the representatives in Virginia, to be regulated by the standard in Rhode Island, they would, at this time, amount to between four and fivo hundred; and twenty or thirty years hence, to a thousand. On the other hand, the ratio of Pennsylvania, if applied to the state of Delaware, would reduce the representative assembly of the latter to seven or eight members. Nothing can be more fallacious, than to found our political calculations on arithmetical principles. Sixty or seventy men, may be more properly trusted with a
givun degree of power, than six or seven. But it does not fol . low, that six or seven hundred would be proportionably a better depository. And if we carry on the supposition to six or seven thousand, the whole reasoning ought to be reversed. The truth is, that in all cases, a certain number at least seems to be neces. sary, to secure the benefits of free consultation and discussion; and to guard against too easy a combination for improper purposes : As on the other hand, the number ought at most to be kept within a certain limit, in order to avoid the confusion and intemperance of a multitude. In all very numerous assemblies, of whatever charactors composed, passion novor fails to wrest the sceptre from reason. Had every Athenian citizen been a Socrates; every Athenian assombly would still have been a mob.
It is necessary also to recollect here, the observations which were applied to the case of biennial elections.
For the same reason that the limited powers of the congress, and the control of the state legislatures, justify less frequent elections, than the public safety might otherwise require; the members of the congress nood be less numerous, than if they possessed the whole power of legislation, and were under no other, than the ordinary restraints of other legislative bodies.
With these goneral ideas in our minds, let us weigh the objections which have been stated against the number of members proposed for the house of representatives. It is said, in . the first place, that so small a number cannot be safely trusted with so much power.
The number of which this branch of the legislature is to consist, at the outset of the government, will bo sixty-five. Within three years a census is to be taken, when the number may be augmented to one for every thirty thousand inhabitants; and within every successive period of ten years, the census is to be renewed, and augmentations may continuo to be made under the above limitation. It will not be thought an extravagant conjecture, that the first census will, at the rate of one for every thirty thousand, raise the number of representa