The Alleged Tendency of the New Plan to Elevate the Few at the
Expense of the Many Considered in Connection with Representation
From the New York Packet.
Tuesday, February 19, 1788.


To the People of the State of New York:

THE THIRD charge against the House of Representatives is, that it will
be taken from that class of citizens which will have least sympathy with
the mass of the people, and be most likely to aim at an ambitious
sacrifice of the many to the aggrandizement of the few.

Of all the objections which have been framed against the federal
Constitution, this is perhaps the most extraordinary. Whilst the
objection itself is levelled against a pretended oligarchy, the
principle of it strikes at the very root of republican government.

The aim of every political constitution is, or ought to be, first to
obtain for rulers men who possess most wisdom to discern, and most
virtue to pursue, the common good of the society; and in the next place,
to take the most effectual precautions for keeping them virtuous whilst
they continue to hold their public trust. The elective mode of obtaining
rulers is the characteristic policy of republican government. The means
relied on in this form of government for preventing their degeneracy are
numerous and various. The most effectual one, is such a limitation of
the term of appointments as will maintain a proper responsibility to the

Let me now ask what circumstance there is in the constitution of the
House of Representatives that violates the principles of republican
government, or favors the elevation of the few on the ruins of the many?
Let me ask whether every circumstance is not, on the contrary, strictly
conformable to these principles, and scrupulously impartial to the
rights and pretensions of every class and description of citizens?

Who are to be the electors of the federal representatives? Not the rich,
more than the poor; not the learned, more than the ignorant; not the
haughty heirs of distinguished names, more than the humble sons of
obscurity and unpropitious fortune. The electors are to be the great
body of the people of the United States. They are to be the same who
exercise the right in every State of electing the corresponding branch
of the legislature of the State.

Who are to be the objects of popular choice? Every citizen whose merit
may recommend him to the esteem and confidence of his country. No
qualification of wealth, of birth, of religious faith, or of civil
profession is permitted to fetter the judgement or disappoint the
inclination of the people.

If we consider the situation of the men on whom the free suffrages of
their fellow-citizens may confer the representative trust, we shall find
it involving every security which can be devised or desired for their
fidelity to their constituents.

In the first place, as they will have been distinguished by the
preference of their fellow-citizens, we are to presume that in general
they will be somewhat distinguished also by those qualities which
entitle them to it, and which promise a sincere and scrupulous regard to
the nature of their engagements.

In the second place, they will enter into the public service under
circumstances which cannot fail to produce a temporary affection at
least to their constituents. There is in every breast a sensibility to
marks of honor, of favor, of esteem, and of confidence, which, apart
from all considerations of interest, is some pledge for grateful and
benevolent returns. Ingratitude is a common topic of declamation against
human nature; and it must be confessed that instances of it are but too
frequent and flagrant, both in public and in private life. But the
universal and extreme indignation which it inspires is itself a proof of
the energy and prevalence of the contrary sentiment.

In the third place, those ties which bind the representative to his
constituents are strengthened by motives of a more selfish nature. His
pride and vanity attach him to a form of government which favors his
pretensions and gives him a share in its honors and distinctions.
Whatever hopes or projects might be entertained by a few aspiring
characters, it must generally happen that a great proportion of the men
deriving their advancement from their influence with the people, would
have more to hope from a preservation of the favor, than from
innovations in the government subversive of the authority of the people.

All these securities, however, would be found very insufficient without
the restraint of frequent elections. Hence, in the fourth place, the
House of Representatives is so constituted as to support in the members
an habitual recollection of their dependence on the people. Before the
sentiments impressed on their minds by the mode of their elevation can
be effaced by the exercise of power, they will be compelled to
anticipate the moment when their power is to cease, when their exercise
of it is to be reviewed, and when they must descend to the level from
which they were raised; there forever to remain unless a faithful
discharge of their trust shall have established their title to a renewal
of it.

I will add, as a fifth circumstance in the situation of the House of
Representatives, restraining them from oppressive measures, that they
can make no law which will not have its full operation on themselves and
their friends, as well as on the great mass of the society. This has
always been deemed one of the strongest bonds by which human policy can
connect the rulers and the people together. It creates between them that
communion of interests and sympathy of sentiments, of which few
governments have furnished examples; but without which every government
degenerates into tyranny. If it be asked, what is to restrain the House
of Representatives from making legal discriminations in favor of
themselves and a particular class of the society? I answer: the genius
of the whole system; the nature of just and constitutional laws; and
above all, the vigilant and manly spirit which actuates the people of
America -- a spirit which nourishes freedom, and in return is nourished
by it.

If this spirit shall ever be so far debased as to tolerate a law not
obligatory on the legislature, as well as on the people, the people will
be prepared to tolerate any thing but liberty.

Such will be the relation between the House of Representatives and their
constituents. Duty, gratitude, interest, ambition itself, are the chords
by which they will be bound to fidelity and sympathy with the great mass
of the people. It is possible that these may all be insufficient to
control the caprice and wickedness of man. But are they not all that
government will admit, and that human prudence can devise? Are they not
the genuine and the characteristic means by which republican government
provides for the liberty and happiness of the people? Are they not the
identical means on which every State government in the Union relies for
the attainment of these important ends? What then are we to understand
by the objection which this paper has combated? What are we to say to
the men who profess the most flaming zeal for republican government, yet
boldly impeach the fundamental principle of it; who pretend to be
champions for the right and the capacity of the people to choose their
own rulers, yet maintain that they will prefer those only who will
immediately and infallibly betray the trust committed to them?

Were the objection to be read by one who had not seen the mode
prescribed by the Constitution for the choice of representatives, he
could suppose nothing less than that some unreasonable qualification of
property was annexed to the right of suffrage; or that the right of
eligibility was limited to persons of particular families or fortunes;
or at least that the mode prescribed by the State constitutions was in
some respect or other, very grossly departed from. We have seen how far
such a supposition would err, as to the two first points. Nor would it,
in fact, be less erroneous as to the last. The only difference
discoverable between the two cases is, that each representative of the
United States will be elected by five or six thousand citizens; whilst
in the individual States, the election of a representative is left to
about as many hundreds. Will it be pretended that this difference is
sufficient to justify an attachment to the State governments, and an
abhorrence to the federal government? If this be the point on which the
objection turns, it deserves to be examined.

Is it supported by REASON? This cannot be said, without maintaining that
five or six thousand citizens are less capable of choosing a fit
representative, or more liable to be corrupted by an unfit one, than
five or six hundred. Reason, on the contrary, assures us, that as in so
great a number a fit representative would be most likely to be found, so
the choice would be less likely to be diverted from him by the intrigues
of the ambitious or the ambitious or the bribes of the rich.

Is the CONSEQUENCE from this doctrine admissible? If we say that five or
six hundred citizens are as many as can jointly exercise their right of
suffrage, must we not deprive the people of the immediate choice of
their public servants, in every instance where the administration of the
government does not require as many of them as will amount to one for
that number of citizens?

Is the doctrine warranted by FACTS? It was shown in the last paper, that
the real representation in the British House of Commons very little
exceeds the proportion of one for every thirty thousand inhabitants.
Besides a variety of powerful causes not existing here, and which favor
in that country the pretensions of rank and wealth, no person is
eligible as a representative of a county, unless he possess real estate
of the clear value of six hundred pounds sterling per year; nor of a
city or borough, unless he possess a like estate of half that annual
value. To this qualification on the part of the county representatives
is added another on the part of the county electors, which restrains the
right of suffrage to persons having a freehold estate of the annual
value of more than twenty pounds sterling, according to the present rate
of money. Notwithstanding these unfavorable circumstances, and
notwithstanding some very unequal laws in the British code, it cannot be
said that the representatives of the nation have elevated the few on the
ruins of the many.

But we need not resort to foreign experience on this subject. Our own is
explicit and decisive. The districts in New Hampshire in which the
senators are chosen immediately by the people, are nearly as large as
will be necessary for her representatives in the Congress. Those of
Massachusetts are larger than will be necessary for that purpose; and
those of New York still more so. In the last State the members of
Assembly for the cities and counties of New York and Albany are elected
by very nearly as many voters as will be entitled to a representative in
the Congress, calculating on the number of sixty-five representatives
only. It makes no difference that in these senatorial districts and
counties a number of representatives are voted for by each elector at
the same time. If the same electors at the same time are capable of
choosing four or five representatives, they cannot be incapable of
choosing one. Pennsylvania is an additional example. Some of her
counties, which elect her State representatives, are almost as large as
her districts will be by which her federal representatives will be
elected. The city of Philadelphia is supposed to contain between fifty
and sixty thousand souls. It will therefore form nearly two districts
for the choice of federal representatives. It forms, however, but one
county, in which every elector votes for each of its representatives in
the State legislature. And what may appear to be still more directly to
our purpose, the whole city actually elects a SINGLE MEMBER for the
executive council. This is the case in all the other counties of the

Are not these facts the most satisfactory proofs of the fallacy which
has been employed against the branch of the federal government under
consideration? Has it appeared on trial that the senators of New
Hampshire, Massachusetts, and New York, or the executive council of
Pennsylvania, or the members of the Assembly in the two last States,
have betrayed any peculiar disposition to sacrifice the many to the few,
or are in any respect less worthy of their places than the
representatives and magistrates appointed in other States by very small
divisions of the people?

But there are cases of a stronger complexion than any which I have yet
quoted. One branch of the legislature of Connecticut is so constituted
that each member of it is elected by the whole State. So is the governor
of that State, of Massachusetts, and of this State, and the president of
New Hampshire. I leave every man to decide whether the result of any one
of these experiments can be said to countenance a suspicion, that a
diffusive mode of choosing representatives of the people tends to
elevate traitors and to undermine the public liberty.