Page:Federalist, Dawson edition, 1863.djvu/530

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
386
The Fœderalist.

Another general remark to be made is, that the ratio between the Representatives and the People ought not to be the 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 five 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 given degree of power, than six or seven. But it does not follow, that six or seven hundred would be proportionably a better depositary. 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 necessary 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 character composed, passion never fails to wrest the sceptre from reason. Had every Athenian citizen been a Socrates, every Athenian Assembly 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 safely might otherwise require, the members of the Congress need be less numerous than if they possessed the whole power