The Federalist Papers 8

Madison replied to the fears of federal taxation by turning to the wording of the empowering clause in Article I, Section 8. One finds there, he said, no limitless authorization to tax. Yes, Congress is empowered to lay and collect taxes—that was one of the main rea¬sons for writing the Constitution—but only “to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States.” And as for the phrase “general welfare,” it is no open-ended license to prey on the community. It is specifically explained and qualified, Madison wrote, by the enumerated particulars in the clauses that immediately follow. Shall these “clear and precise expressions,” Madison asked, “be denied any signification” and only “the more doubtful and indefinite terms be retained in their full extent”? That, he said, would be absurd.
The real question, Madison and Hamilton both concluded, is not whether federal taxation would impoverish the nation but whether the natural bias against any and all taxation, the difficulty of collect¬ing federal taxes, and the competing financial needs of the states would not prevent the general government from ever raising the funds it needed to do its work.
But financially oppressive or not, how could such a continental¬sized government actually work? How could the myriad interests in such a nation—at its birth five times the size of Britain, and likely to grow—how could such an immense nation possibly be represented in a single legislature of manageable size? Would not the great diver-sity of factions, private ambitions, and passionate causes, all of them entirely free to flourish in any way they could, lead to a chaotic struggle of all against all? Would not the sheer size of the country make it impossible to achieve the consensus needed to sustain the government?
To this fundamental question The Federalist replied calmly, cogently, clearly, and concisely. Direct representation of the innu¬merable interests of the people, many of them passionate and extreme in their partisan ambitions, was neither desirable nor possi¬ble; it was, Hamilton wrote, “altogether visionary.” The combination of large electoral districts and a relatively small House of Represen¬tatives would necessarily lead to the selection of moderate repre¬sentatives agreeable to many factions and cross-sections of the population. Further, the institutional complexity of the national gov¬ernment would tend to neutralize conflicts among factions as they attempted to work through the government, and draw them together into moderated coalitions. But beyond all of that, the system would lead to the selection as representatives those who would be likely to stand above special interests and pursue the true interests of all their constituents, as well as the common good of society. Thus, Hamilton wrote, mechanics and tradesmen would have mutual interests in selecting merchants, their natural patrons and economic allies, to represent them, and these would be men of “influence and weight and superior acquirements.” For landholders, rich and poor, “mid¬dling farmers,” “moderate proprietors of land,” would be the nat¬ural, sensible representatives. And above all, members of the learned professions, especially lawyers, “who truly form no distinct interest in society,” were likely to be “the objects of the confidence and choice of each other and of other parts of the country.” The goal of repre¬sentation, Hamilton wrote, was not to mirror the infinity of private interests in the way a pure democracy would do, but to meld the con¬testing forces into the permanent and collective interests of the nation. The proper representatives, he wrote, were not those who understood only their home districts’ local interests but those who, while informed and respectful of their constituents’ “dispositions and inclinations,” could grasp the technical issues of public policy and the logic of the nation’s welfare, which in the end would benefit all. For this, the best-qualified people- -in terms of education, inde¬pendence, judgment, and breadth of vision—would be needed, and such representatives, he believed, would be forthcoming.
To some degree the whole issue had been misunderstood, The Fed¬eralist argued. The destabilizing effect of clashing factions—a notori¬ous flaw in popular governments—did not apply in such a large-scale republican nation as the United States. In fact the opposite was true. For the larger the society, Madison most famously wrote, “provided it lie within a practicable sphere” in which the bond between ruler and ruled could be maintained, the safer all would be. The multiplicity of factions would make it unlikely that any one group or combination of groups could overwhelm the others. In a large republican nation the grinding struggle of interests will tend to splinter factional coalitions; fragmentation would deflect what he called “plans of oppression.” In effect passion and interest would create their own remedy. “Extend the sphere,” Madison wrote in the most famous passage of the Federalist papers, and you take in a greater variety of parties and interests; you make it less probable that a majority of the whole will have a common motive to invade the rights of other citizens; or if such a common motive exists, it will be more difficult for all who feel it to discover their own strength, and to act in unison with each other.

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