Constitution Sunday: Reply to Elbridge Gerry: “A Landholder” [Oliver Ellsworth] IV

Reply to Elbridge Gerry: “A Landholder” [Oliver Ellsworth] IV

Connecticut Courant (Hartford), November 26, 1787

Following are excerpts from Oliver Ellsworth’s article:

“Such a body of men might be an army to defend the country in case of foreign invasion, but not a legislature, and the expence to support them would equal the whole national revenue. By the proposed constitution the new Congress will consist of nearly one hundred men. When our population is equal to Great Britain of three hundred men, and when equal to France of nine hundred. Plenty of Lawgivers! why any gentleman should wish for more is not conceivable.”

Mr. Ellsworth touches on a fundamental question relating to the Constitution that deserves a contemporary debate: Should the size of Congress have increased with the population of America? If so, Congress would likely be filled with thousands of representatives now.

This becomes a matter of balancing how representative America’s representative democracy should be. The Founding Fathers framed a representative democracy so that the people would not have too much power to make governing decisions, however, the people were also ensured to have a voice.

This line of reasoning brings one to wonder if Congress would be more or less effective as a result of having more representatives. Perhaps it would not affect the productivity of Congress, but it would certainly make Congress a fuller, more reflective political body.

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