In the years leading up to the ratification of the Constitution there was many arguments going back and forth between the anti-federalists and the federalists. One of the biggest and strongest arguments for both sides came when they argued over legislative representation. For the anti-federalists under a false name to protect his identify John Francis Mercer spoke strongly about his political objections to the federalists under the name “A Maryland Farmer”.
Melancton Smith, another antifederalist who spoke very strongly against the Federalists and brought up many important points in his speeches. Both Mercer and Smith feared that the power of legislative representation would fall into the hands of what they call the elites of society. With that happening the middle and lower classes will be a second thought and legislation would focus around making the wealthy even wealthier. For the federalists James Madison took it upon himself to answer back to the arguments by the antifederalists in his Federalist papers #54,55,57,62, and 63.
In his Federalist papers Madison under the pen name Publius he gave strong arguments to everything that Smith and Mercer threw at him. Madison defended the size of legislative representation and fought back against the argument that only elites would be elected. With the constant battles between the anti-federalists and the federalists it made sure that the American government would be a strong nation for the many years to come. The anti-federalist was against a strong federal government right from the start.
They believed if the federal government got too strong it would just take all the power away from each individual state. The anti-federalists fought to expand the amount of representation and felt that on a larger scale corruption would be less likely to go on. Smith in his speeches states, “In so small a number of representatives, there is great danger from corruption and combination” (Melancton Smith, Speeches pg 583). Smith and the rest of the anti-federalists felt that if the representation was too small then factions will form.
Factions within a government will form no matter what but factions within the most elites of society can be very detrimental to a government. John Mercer goes on too in his essays to say “The few representatives can always corrupt themselves by legislative speculations, from the pockets of their numerous constituents, quick rotation like a succession of terms tenants on a farm”(A Maryland Farmer, Essay V). Mercer in this quote is saying the men elected to office will easily be corrupted and since there are such quick rotations they will only care about being reelected.
This is what the anti-federalist feared the most that the elected officials will only care about the wealthiest class and the middle and lower class will be forgotten. John Mercer went on to give an example using Switzerland’s direct democracy as the best option for the American government. In his essay he stated, “Every Swiss farmer is by birth a legislator, and he becomes a voluntary soldier to defend his power and his property; their fathers have been so before them for near 500 years, without revolution, and almost without commotion” (A Maryland Farmer, Essay V).
What Mercer finds so appealing about the Swish government is that each man has a say in what the government should do. They do not have elected officials that are supposed to make decisions based on what they feel their constituents want. This would eliminate any bias coming from what social class you belong to and would allow for the government to really be ran by the citizens. The anti-federalist feel that the elected officials in government should look and act like the people who elected them into office.
All types of occupations should be represented in the legislative especially farmers and people in the lower and middle class. These are the types of people who would look out for the good of the overall country not themselves. The federalists had to answer all of the problems that the antifederalists were raising about the representation. James Madison did just that and was able to show why a representative republic would be the right direction for our country.
Madison defends the federalists by fighting back against the claim that the elected officials would be representing too many people and there is no way that they voice the wants and desires of his constituents. Madison claims how its very hard for one group of people to come together on every subject and all feel the same way. He stresses the importance of the public to elect officials who they feel has similar views on important subjects and if they are not getting the job done they will be replaced in the next election.
The quick rotation in the House of Representatives allows for the public to remove any official who is not doing their job to the best of their abilities. The officials who are elected must have a strong public spirit and little self-interest for the government to really strive. Madison also fires back at the anti-federalists saying that the citizens that are elected into office will be elites but in a good way. They will have little self-interest and should only care about what there constituents want because that is how they were elected in the first place.
These men who will be elected will have the highest education, good reputation, and must important the publics trust. One the best points Madison makes is that the representatives will only be as wise as the people who elected them. Both the anti-federalist and federalist have made some very important points and have raised some influential questions that needed to be answered. Smith and Mercer feel that the representation of our citizens must be on a large scale to protect from the will of the elites.
Madison counters this argument by stating that a smaller scale will better voice the opinions of the many. These types of arguments and discussions are what allowed for the American government to build a very strong foundation. This foundation would hold the American government together for hundreds of years and turn America into the best country in the world. Without characters such as Melancton Smith, John Mercer, and James Madison to argue both sides of every little aspect of government I do not think our government would have endured for this long.