The Same Subject Continued (The Total Number of the House of
For the Independent Journal.
Saturday, February 16, 1788.


To the People of the State of New York:

THE SECOND charge against the House of Representatives is, that it will
be too small to possess a due knowledge of the interests of its

As this objection evidently proceeds from a comparison of the proposed
number of representatives with the great extent of the United States,
the number of their inhabitants, and the diversity of their interests,
without taking into view at the same time the circumstances which will
distinguish the Congress from other legislative bodies, the best answer
that can be given to it will be a brief explanation of these

It is a sound and important principle that the representative ought to
be acquainted with the interests and circumstances of his constituents.
But this principle can extend no further than to those circumstances and
interests to which the authority and care of the representative relate.
An ignorance of a variety of minute and particular objects, which do not
lie within the compass of legislation, is consistent with every
attribute necessary to a due performance of the legislative trust. In
determining the extent of information required in the exercise of a
particular authority, recourse then must be had to the objects within
the purview of that authority.

What are to be the objects of federal legislation? Those which are of
most importance, and which seem most to require local knowledge, are
commerce, taxation, and the militia.

A proper regulation of commerce requires much information, as has been
elsewhere remarked; but as far as this information relates to the laws
and local situation of each individual State, a very few representatives
would be very sufficient vehicles of it to the federal councils.

Taxation will consist, in a great measure, of duties which will be
involved in the regulation of commerce. So far the preceding remark is
applicable to this object. As far as it may consist of internal
collections, a more diffusive knowledge of the circumstances of the
State may be necessary. But will not this also be possessed in
sufficient degree by a very few intelligent men, diffusively elected
within the State? Divide the largest State into ten or twelve districts,
and it will be found that there will be no peculiar local interests in
either, which will not be within the knowledge of the representative of
the district. Besides this source of information, the laws of the State,
framed by representatives from every part of it, will be almost of
themselves a sufficient guide. In every State there have been made, and
must continue to be made, regulations on this subject which will, in
many cases, leave little more to be done by the federal legislature,
than to review the different laws, and reduce them in one general act. A
skillful individual in his closet with all the local codes before him,
might compile a law on some subjects of taxation for the whole union,
without any aid from oral information, and it may be expected that
whenever internal taxes may be necessary, and particularly in cases
requiring uniformity throughout the States, the more simple objects will
be preferred. To be fully sensible of the facility which will be given
to this branch of federal legislation by the assistance of the State
codes, we need only suppose for a moment that this or any other State
were divided into a number of parts, each having and exercising within
itself a power of local legislation. Is it not evident that a degree of
local information and preparatory labor would be found in the several
volumes of their proceedings, which would very much shorten the labors
of the general legislature, and render a much smaller number of members
sufficient for it? The federal councils will derive great advantage from
another circumstance. The representatives of each State will not only
bring with them a considerable knowledge of its laws, and a local
knowledge of their respective districts, but will probably in all cases
have been members, and may even at the very time be members, of the
State legislature, where all the local information and interests of the
State are assembled, and from whence they may easily be conveyed by a
very few hands into the legislature of the United States.

[The observations made on the subject of taxation apply with greater
force to the case of the militia. For however different the rules of
discipline may be in different States, they are the same throughout each
particular State; and depend on circumstances which can differ but
little in different parts of the same State.][E1]

[With regard to the regulation of the militia, there are scarcely any
circumstances in reference to which local knowledge can be said to be
necessary. The general face of the country, whether mountainous or level,
most fit for the operations of infantry or cavalry, is almost the only
consideration of this nature that can occur. The art of war teaches
general principles of organization, movement, and discipline, which
apply universally.][E1]

The attentive reader will discern that the reasoning here used, to prove
the sufficiency of a moderate number of representatives, does not in any
respect contradict what was urged on another occasion with regard to the
extensive information which the representatives ought to possess, and
the time that might be necessary for acquiring it. This information, so
far as it may relate to local objects, is rendered necessary and
difficult, not by a difference of laws and local circumstances within a
single State, but of those among different States. Taking each State by
itself, its laws are the same, and its interests but little diversified.
A few men, therefore, will possess all the knowledge requisite for a
proper representation of them. Were the interests and affairs of each
individual State perfectly simple and uniform, a knowledge of them in
one part would involve a knowledge of them in every other, and the whole
State might be competently represented by a single member taken from any
part of it. On a comparison of the different States together, we find a
great dissimilarity in their laws, and in many other circumstances
connected with the objects of federal legislation, with all of which the
federal representatives ought to have some acquaintance. Whilst a few
representatives, therefore, from each State, may bring with them a due
knowledge of their own State, every representative will have much
information to acquire concerning all the other States. The changes of
time, as was formerly remarked, on the comparative situation of the
different States, will have an assimilating effect. The effect of time
on the internal affairs of the States, taken singly, will be just the
contrary. At present some of the States are little more than a society
of husbandmen. Few of them have made much progress in those branches of
industry which give a variety and complexity to the affairs of a nation.
These, however, will in all of them be the fruits of a more advanced
population, and will require, on the part of each State, a fuller
representation. The foresight of the convention has accordingly taken
care that the progress of population may be accompanied with a proper
increase of the representative branch of the government.

The experience of Great Britain, which presents to mankind so many
political lessons, both of the monitory and exemplary kind, and which
has been frequently consulted in the course of these inquiries,
corroborates the result of the reflections which we have just made. The
number of inhabitants in the two kingdoms of England and Scotland cannot
be stated at less than eight millions. The representatives of these
eight millions in the House of Commons amount to five hundred and
fifty-eight. Of this number, one ninth are elected by three hundred and
sixty-four persons, and one half, by five thousand seven hundred and
twenty-three persons.[1] It cannot be supposed that the half thus
elected, and who do not even reside among the people at large, can add
any thing either to the security of the people against the government,
or to the knowledge of their circumstances and interests in the
legislative councils. On the contrary, it is notorious, that they are
more frequently the representatives and instruments of the executive
magistrate, than the guardians and advocates of the popular rights. They
might therefore, with great propriety, be considered as something more
than a mere deduction from the real representatives of the nation. We
will, however, consider them in this light alone, and will not extend
the deduction to a considerable number of others, who do not reside
among their constitutents, are very faintly connected with them, and
have very little particular knowledge of their affairs. With all these
concessions, two hundred and seventy-nine persons only will be the
depository of the safety, interest, and happiness of eight millions that
is to say, there will be one representative only to maintain the rights
and explain the situation of TWENTY-EIGHT THOUSAND SIX HUNDRED AND SEVENTY constitutents, in an assembly exposed to the whole force of executive influence, and extending its authority to every object of legislation within a nation whose affairs are in the highest degree
diversified and complicated. Yet it is very certain, not only that a
valuable portion of freedom has been preserved under all these
circumstances, but that the defects in the British code are chargeable,
in a very small proportion, on the ignorance of the legislature
concerning the circumstances of the people. Allowing to this case the
weight which is due to it, and comparing it with that of the House of
Representatives as above explained it seems to give the fullest
assurance, that a representative for every THIRTY THOUSAND INHABITANTS will render the latter both a safe and competent guardian of the interests which will be confided to it.


1. Burgh's "Political Disquisitions."

E1. Two versions of this paragraph appear in different editions.