Jensen, Merrill (ed.) / Ratification of the Constitution by the states: Delaware, New Jersey, Georgia, Connecticut
V. Commentaries on the Constitution, 13 November 1787-7 January 1788, pp. 456-534
increases the power and consequence of the people; and enables them to defend their rights and privileges against every invader. If in addition to the advantages, which I have before mentioned, for maintaining liberty, a people have a free constitution of govern- ment, their liberties are secured by the strongest barriers. The great distinction between a free and an arbitrary government is this: in the former the people give their assent to the laws by which they are governed; in the latter, the laws are made by a power which they cannot control. And the plain reason why the former kind of gov- ernment secures the rights and liberties of the people is that the peo- ple will not consent to laws which are oppressive to themselves. In a country of any considerable extent, the people cannot meet to- gether in person to make laws; consequently they must do it, if at all, by their representatives. Now if they have the privilege of [electing? ] representatives to act for them, if they have an opportunity of choos- ing a fair and adequate representation, and if no law can be made without the consent [of these?] representatives, we may presume the people will be free from oppression because their own interest will induce them to choose those who will be faithful to their country. The new Constitution gives the people a fair opportunity to elect their Representatives for the general legislature. The state legislatures are to make the regulations and arrangements for the choice; and to make the privilege still more secure, these regulations are subject to the revision of the general legislature. The Constitution expressly pro- vides that the choice shall be by the people, which cuts off both from the general and state legislatures the power of so regulating the mode of election as to deprive the people of a fair choice. As to the number of Representatives, it is certainly as great as it ought to be. It is greater than the numbers in Congress under the old Confederation; and we never have found that the number of members in Congress was so small as to occasion any danger or inconvenience. As our country grows more populous and wealthy, it will be proper to have a more numerous representation. Accordingly, it is wisely provided in the new Consti- tution that the number of Representatives shall increase as that of the people increases. Upon the whole, therefore, I am warranted in saying that there is full provision made in the new Constitution for an adequate representation of the people. Now as the people of the United States profess a spirit of liberty to induce them to maintain their rights; as there is such a diffusion of knowledge among them as enables them to judge by what methods liberty is to be supported; as the people at large possess such a share of property as gives them the rank of independent freemen; as the people themselves are the military power of our country; these im- portant supports of liberty, together with our choice of Representa- 530 CONNECTICUT/7 JAN.
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