The House of Representatives is capped at 435, or several hundred thousand people per representative. If the Framers had used the same guidelines on proportional representation (a few hundred...

The House of Representatives is capped at 435, or several hundred thousand people per representative. If the Framers had used the same guidelines on proportional representation (a few hundred thousand citizens per representative), then the First Congress meeting would've had only five members. What does that tell us about the Framers views of self-government?

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jpgwolf37 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Framers believed that in order for a government to be truly answerable to its constituents, it needed to make its representatives easily accessible to the people who voted them in and out of office. One of the main reasons that Jefferson, Adams, Washington and the other Framers objected to being ruled by England was that the parliament was thousands of miles away, and therefore hard to reach, and detached from the day to day lives of American colonists.

Jefferson said (and wrote) many times that for a government official to serve effectively, that official needed to fear the wrath of those he governed. In other words, if the people being governed got angry at the policies enacted by their representatives, then those people should be able to physically accost their representatives, and if necessary, forcibly remove them from office.

The only way to guard against corruption and tyranny, according to the more radical Framers like Jefferson, was to ensure that the government was responsive to the people, and to achieve that responsiveness, the people needed to be able to overthrow the government by any means necessary, including violence. If the representatives could seclude themselves far away from the people that they were supposed to govern, then those representatives would not be able to know what it was that the citizens wanted and needed. Constituents were supposed to be able to air their grievances and seek redress from their representatives whenever there was a problem. That is why Jefferson and the anti-Federalists were horrified by the proposal to create a strong central government, far away from the prying eyes of most of its citizens.

Jefferson, Burr, Samuel Adams and other anti-Federalist Framers believed that only local governments could be responsive to their citizenry. The creation of a bicameral legislature, with the more frequently elected house, and less frequently, indirectly-elected senate, was supposed to balance the need for stability with the need for responsiveness.

By making our representatives speak for hundreds of thousands of citizens, we have effectively diluted each individual citizen's power and influence over government policy. Even the Federalists acknowledged the need for a more directly line of communication between citizens and their elected officials. Yet none of the Framers could have imagined that the small, relatively homogenous, loosely federated state they founded in the late 1800s would grow to become the gargantuan polyglot nation it is today.