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The Ratification Debates Regarding the Size of the House  

1) Should We Ratify This Proposed Constitution?

Whether or not the Constitution should be ratified by the states was an extremely contentious subject in 1777 and the years that followed. These debates took place both in the press and in the state conventions that met to consider the proposed Constitution. Fortunately for us, a substantial amount of these debates were recorded and preserved.

This section of attempts to present some of the more compelling quotes from those debates related to the issue of the House of Representatives.

Perhaps some of the most striking points from these debates is the prescience of some of the warnings if this issue isn’t resolved. In contrast, defenders of the language leaned heavily on the implied promise of maintaining the ratio at thirty-thousand, and the fact that the federal government was envisioned to be unobtrusive on ordinary life.


2) The New York Debates

The debates in the convention of the state of New York (June 17, 1788) provide some fascinating insights into the concerns and expectations of the time. With respect to the size of the House, the two key protagonists in this debate were Melancton Smith and Alexander Hamilton. Melancton Smith was the principal advocate for a larger House of Representatives, while Alexander Hamilton argued stridently against the concerns raised by Melancton Smith.

Their key arguments can be read in “Quotes Regarding the Size of the House of Representatives.”

“If a nation expects to be ignorant and free ...  
      it expects what never was and never will be.”

– Thomas Jefferson

Last updated: 18September2004
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