Federalist Papers Summary 56


Federalist Papers Summary No. 56


Federalist Papers Author James Madison
James Madison

Federalist Papers Summary Number 56

The Federalist Papers Summary No 56: Madison
February 16,1788

This paper discusses the second charge against the number of representatives in the House of Representatives, that it will be too small to posses adequate knowledge of the interests of the constituents.  The first question in this regard is what are the interests of the constituents that the representative needs to be acquainted with?  The objects of federal legislation that are most important concern commerce, taxation, and the militia so what local knowledge is required for federal legislation in these area?  Local laws and situations relating to commerce discussed previously can be handled with regard to federal legislation by a very few representatives.

Taxation consists in a great measure of duties involved in the regulation of commerce so as above only a few knowledgeable representatives are required.  Taxation within the States will be more diffusive but a few intelligent men from different parts of a State can bring sufficient knowledge to the federal legislative process for there will not be a great difference in the laws on taxation across a State.  Further many of the representatives will be or have been members of the State legislatures where all of the local knowledge and interests of the State are assembled.  These same observations apply in greater force to the militia.   Although there may be differences in discipline between States those differences within a State will be small and can be known by a few people. 

Having previously argued that representatives need considerable knowledge and therefore a two year term was necessary to acquire it, he now argues that the knowledge previously discussed was interstate knowledge whereas here it is intrastate.  Knowledge about all the other States requires being in the legislative body for considerable time but local knowledge is obtained prior to election.

As to the exact number of representatives for a given population he gives as examples the two kingdoms of England and Scotland.  Through some numerical and logistical manipulations he shows that the people's interests are supported by representatives at a ratio to population of one per twenty eight thousand six hundred and seventy, thus the number in the Constitution of one per thirty thousand is justified.


Summary Written by Donald Mellon


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