Probably no man in America in 1800 knew more about, or cared more passionately for, republicanism than Thomas Jefferson. It was the common belief that a true republic had to be of a fairly limited size, on the model of the Greek republics, in which Athens, at perhaps 200,000 was the largest, or the Italian republics of the middle ages, which generally numbered no more than 70,000 or 80,000 people. The point was that since these operated not by face-to-face democracy but by representation, the deliberative body to which citizens sent their delegates had to be limited—in the hundreds, but certainly no bigger than the Athenian assembly that was 500 at its largest.
But Jefferson, then President of a nominal republic of 5 million people, still believed that the American system was a republic: first, because each state was sovereign and could nullify Federal laws that it thought unconstitutional, second because the popular legislative body (the House) was limited to one representative for every 30,000 people, so that even the redistricting after the 1800 census would limit the number to about 178 representatives, a workable body.
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