The House of Representatives
One of the biggest disagreements between the federalist and the anti-federalist was the issue of the separation of powers, that the executive, judicial, and legislative branches should be separate and distinct. The anti-federalists were afraid that the mixing of the powers would enable the government to hold all of the power and trample on the rights of the individual. The federalist realized this and addressed the issue by saying that in a government of mixed powers it is important that each branch have a degree of control over another. In an idealistic government the people would have the power to elect and control all branches of government. The federalist realized this was not a feasible task because of the lack of knowledge the public had with governing affairs. Therefore the people would vote for trained representatives that would voice their concerns and opinions. These representatives would make up the congress or the legislative branch. America was to be known as a republic form of government. In a representative republic the most powerful branch is the legislative branch because this is the branch that appeals to the people. The federalist divided the congress into the House of Representatives and the Congress to balance the power, each having a different election process. The election process of the House of Representatives concerned the anti-federalists. The anti-federalist criticized these processes because they were very different from the manner in which they elected representatives for their own state legislature. In this paper I will discuss theses criticisms and the federalist s responses to these criticisms.
In the constitution it states that the House of Representatives would be composed of 65 members. This concerned the anti-federalist because some states had more than 65 state representatives did alone. This high number of representatives made it possible for people of different classes and walks of life to be represented within their state. With only 65 representatives how could it be possible for all people to be represented? In the essay To the Citizens of the State of New York , the anti-federalist Brutus, states, One man, or a few men, cannot possibly represent the feelings, opinions, and characters of a great multitude. In this respect, the new constitution is radically defective. The house of assembly, which is intended as a representation of the people of America, will not, be found in the United States, who holds the sentiments. Possess the feelings, or are aquatinted with the wants and interests of this vast country.
The reason why the federalist where in favor of 65 representatives is really a fairly easy reason to comprehend. In essay #55 James Madison states, Sixty or Seventy men, may be more properly trusted with a given degree of power than six or seven. But if does not follow, that six or seven hundred would be proportionally a better depository. And if we ought to be reserved. 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. Having a small number of representatives allows for the legislative process to move faster. The fewer the people the less voices and opinions there are. James Madison also states that, In all very numerous assemblies, of whatever characters composed, passion never fails to wrest the sceptre from reason. This was a very insightful realization. Humans are emotion beings, the more that are present the more emotions that have to be dealt with. Emotions can interfere with rational thought, so it would be beneficial to the country to keep the number of representatives down.
Anti-federalist were not only concerned with the present number of representatives, but also the future number of representatives. Would the number increase as the population increased? The anti-federalist George Mason said, I conceive to be so dangerous, is the provision with respect to the number of Representatives: It does not expressly provide, that we shall have one for every 30,000, but that the number shall be continued to us: Now will not this be complied with, although the present number should never be increased; nay, although it should decrease? The anti-federalist knew that the population of America would eventually grow over time. They wanted safeguards built into the constitution guaranteeing regular increases in the number of representatives as the country s population increased.
The major concern of the federalist was the smooth operation of the House. Having a constant increase in the number of representatives could cause havoc in the House.
So a compromise was made. The House would grow as the nation s population increased, but the increase would have to be regulated so that the House could function properly.
The anti-federalist posed questions concerning who shall decide the qualifications necessary to vote for national representation, what kind of person was best suited for the job of a representative and how long should a representative serve in office. The federalist answered the first question fairly easily, the men in each of the thirteen states now qualified to vote for their state representatives will be qualified to vote for national representatives (Stearns, 94). State constitutions would determine the voting qualifications not the state legislatures. This way all the power does not reside in the congress or in the states but it is balanced between the two. This seemed like the best compromise at the time. But what kind of person was best suited to serve as a representative? The Constitution stated that a representative must be at least twenty-five years old; must have been a citizen for the United States for at least seven years; at he time of his election, be an inhabitant of the state he is to represent; and, during his time in office, he can not hold any other position in government. The question of the duration of the office of the representative was not as easily answered.