Federalist Papers Summary 58

 

Federalist Papers Summary No. 58

 
 

Federalist Papers Author James Madison
James Madison

Federalist Papers Summary Number 58

The Federalist Papers Summary No 58: Madison
February 20,1788

The paper addresses the remaining charge against the House of Representatives which is that the number of members will not be increased as the populations increase.  The rationale for this charge comes from the fact that at that time in the Senate small states had an advantage over larger states because all had the same representation but there were more smaller states than larger states.  In the House four of the thirteen states would have a majority of the members so that set the ratio of large to small at four to nine.  The fear was that the Senate would block any bill that increased the allotment of members to the larger states as their populations grew presumably faster than the smaller states.

Admitting that this objection if true would have great weight, he argues 1. the federal and state constitutions both provide for the gradual increase in representatives as populations increase, 2. experience with the states has shown no such problem in increasing the number or in any objection to the increase, and 3. the federal constitution divides the congress into two houses, one the House of Representatives where members are directly elected by the people and the Senate where members  are appointed by the state governments.  Any attempt by the smaller states in the House of Representatives to prevent an increase in the allotment of members relative to population would be overcome by the four larger states whose members totaled more than a majority. 

He then discusses the primary objection where the Senate might block the increase in allotments.  The large states, with the larger number of members speaking for the majority of the people and supported by right and reason will have the advantage in this argument.  Also there is a gradation between large and small states so even in the Senate it is not certain it would be unfriendly to proper allocation.  And where would new states align themselves?  Also the House controls the purse so it could disrupt government should the Senate be unreasonable.  In such a battle the members of the Senate being fewer in number will feel the wrath of the people more than the more numerous House members.

Two interesting but seemingly out of place discussions follow.  He argues against too large a body of legislature for “the greater will be the proportion of members of limited information and of weak capacities.  Now it is precisely on characters of this description that the eloquence and address of the few are known to act with all their force.”  Increasing the size of government beyond a particular size will decrease the peoples safety for the few will manipulate the many. We could use such wisdom these days.  And finally the question of whether a majority is required for a quorum as in the Constitution or should some larger fraction be required.  A larger fraction would give too much power to minority interests who could prevent action by being absent.  

 

Summary Written by Donald Mellon

 

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