In his series of essays, the Anti-federalist Federal Farmer warned repeatedly that the proposed Constitution provided for too little representation in Congress. 

Previously, he argued that a tendency toward aristocracy would prevent adequate representation, and that the Constitution didn’t provide for enough representatives to account for all the classes of people in the states. 

In his ninth letter dated January 3, 1788, he expanded on his concerns about representation and took up the argument made by some that the system would work if the people elected good men.

He was skeptical of this claim, asking rhetorically “is it practicable for them to elect fit and proper representatives where the number is so small?”

As he had written previously, he once more expounded on his views regarding the different classes that made up the American population, particularly those qualified for public office. Too little representation in the legislative branch would inevitably lead to at least one class of men who are “often overlooked” being kept out of government, while “popular demagogues” would dominate. This would be most prominent for smaller states like Delaware and Rhode Island.

He wrote: 

“My opinion is, that the representation proposed is so small, as that ordinarily very few or none of them can be elected; and, therefore, after all the parade of words and forms, the government must possess the soul of aristocracy, or something worse, the spirit of popular leaders.”

He went on to expound on this idea (bold emphasis added):

A man that is known among a few thousands of people, may be quite unknown among thirty or forty thousand. On the whole, it appears to me to be almost a self-evident position, that when we call on thirty or forty thousand inhabitants to unite in giving their votes for one man, it will be uniformly impracticable for them to unite in any men, except those few who have become eminent for their civil or military rank, or their popular legal abilities: it will be found totally impracticable for men in the private walks of life, except in the profession of the law, to become conspicuous enough to attract the notice of so many electors and have their suffrages.

In fact, the Federal Farmer thought this was such a problem that he actually wrote that “the ultimate control over the purse must be lodged elsewhere” as a way to convey the implications of insufficient representation. 

The Federal Farmer bolstered his argument by contrasting representation in the proposed Congress to representation within state legislatures. He said that because there was sufficient representation, the states were in a good position to resist encroachment by the existing confederation because all classes of men were involved.

I shall only observe, at present, that in the state legislatures the body of the people will be genuinely represented, and in congress not; that the right of resisting oppressive measures is inherent in the people, and that a constitutional barrier should be so formed, that their genuine representatives may stop an oppressive ruinous measure in its early progress, before it shall come to maturity, and the evils of it become in a degree fixed.” [Emphasis added]

He argued further that increasing representation provided greater protection for the people.

By increasing the representation we make it more difficult to corrupt and influence the members; we diffuse them more extensively among the body of the people, perfect the balance, multiply information, strengthen the confidence of the people, and consequently support the laws on equal and free principles.

In his tenth letter dated January 4,, 1788 the Federal Farmer reiterates his contention, writing that “it is certainly unadvisable to lodge in 65 representatives, and 26 senators, unlimited power to establish systems of taxation, armies, navies, model the militia, and to do every thing that may essentially tend soon to change, totally, the affairs of the community.”

He wrote further that comparisons between the new Constitution and the Articles of Confederation in terms of representation didn’t add up (bold emphasis added):

To excuse the smallness of the representation, it is said the new congress will be more numerous than the old one. This is not true; and for the facts I refer you to my letter of the 4th instant, to the plan and confederation; besides there is no kind of similitude between the two plans. The confederation is a mere league of the states….the new plan is totally a different thing: a national government to many purposes administered, by men chosen for two, four, and six years, not recallable, and among whom there will be no rotation; operating immediately in all money and military matters, &c. on the persons and property of the citizens.

We ought, therefore, on every principle now to fix the government on proper principles, and fit to our present condition—when the representation shall become too numerous, alter it; or we may now make provision, that when the representation shall be increased to a given number, that then there shall be one for each given number of inhabitants, &c.

With a “genuine branch of government,” he wrote, the people “have but little to fear, and their liberties will always be secure.”

TJ Martinell

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