To William Widgery

    Philadelphia        11 November 1791

    Dear Sir,

    Yours of the twentieth of October came to hand some time ago; but my being unsetled, as to lodgings, for a considerable time after my arrival to this place has prevented my noticing that, and some other Letters from Correspondents; However, as this difficulty is removed, I shall now begin to write my friends1

    The subject of a Militia Bill is refered to a special Committee, who have not reported; And tho there appears a general sense, among the members, of the pressing importance of a uniform Regulation thro the U. States upon the subject, yet I have my doubts whether any thing will be done this Session.

    On the appointment of Militia Officers I approve of your idea, “that Creation should come from above” But does not the Constitution of Massachusetts declare it shall come from below? What shall be done in this case? The Constitution must not be infringed.2

    The Census, except as to South Carolina and some part of the Western Territory, has been laid before Congress, by the President: it has already been the subject of discussion, several days before in a Committee of the whole; but nothing decisive is agreed upon. No one has expressed an idea that any new members will be elected to serve during the present two years—And there appears a great diversity of sentiments relative to the future ratio between the number of Representatives & the people represented. The extreams are Forty five, and thirty thousand—It is probable that some middle number will finally be fixed upon for the ratio till another Census is taken.

    I honestly confess, that I never could see the necessity of a large representation in order to secure the Liberty of the people or to enable Congress to go through the national business with proper dispatch: indeed I know of no reason why the political Liberty of a people, circumstanced as we are in America, may not be equally if not more safely secure when the house of Representatives in Congress consists, as at present, of about sixty five, as when it doubles or threbles that number. It is contended, by some, that there ought to be one representative to every thirty thousand—but since I find no such precept in the Constitution, & being persuaded a less number will perform the business much better I shall be for establishing some other ratio. It always appeared to me not altogether so much the number of Representatives, as their knowledge & honest intentions the people must look to for their safe-guard against tyrannical encroachments. Sixty, seventy or eighty men may turn Traitors; and so may any larger number—There is no guarding against all possibilities. The Consuls of Rome, tho but two, were never considered as very dangerous; while the Decemviri in a few years had nearly prostrated Law and Liberty3—Put not your confidence in numbers, america has nothing to fear so long as her Rules combine combine, in their characters, integrity and firmness with a competent share [of] knowledge4

    I am, dear Sir, yours. &c

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    FC, TFP