<Debate and Ratification

The Federalist Papers: An Essay-by-summary

Part I

Federalist 1: The Challenge and the Outline

Hamilton says Americans have the opportunity and obligation to “decide the important question” can “good government” be established by “reflection and choice,” or is mankind “forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force.”  

To assist “our deliberations,” he provides an outline of topics to be covered “in a series of papers.” 1) “The utility of the union,” 2) the “insufficiency” of the Articles of Confederation, 3) the minimum “energetic” government requirement, 4) “the true principles of republican government,” 5) the analogy of the proposed Constitution to the State governments, 6) and the added security “to republican government, to liberty, and to property” provided by the proposed Constitution. He concludes this essay on the “momentous decision”:  adopt the Constitution or dismember the Union.

To read the entire essay, click here.

Part II
Federalist 2-14:  “The Utility of the Union”

Federalist 2

Jay urges, in the first of four essays, “calm and mature inquiries and reflections” as well as “cool, uninterrupted, and daily consultation.” He supports “sedate and candid consideration” of the Constitution, the product of the “mature deliberation” that took place in the summer of 1787.  He favors the common ties of the Union and rejects the “novel idea” of seeking “safety and happiness” in three or four separate Confederacies.

To read the entire essay, click here.

Federalist 3

Domestic tranquillity and common defense, says Jay, are better served under one “cordial union” directed by “temperate and cool” policies, in accordance with the “wisdom and prudence” of one well-administered government, than under three or four confederacies.

To read the entire essay, click here.

Federalist 4

One government, continues Jay, efficiently run and well administered, discourages foreigners from invading. One good national government will attract competent people.  

To read the entire essay, click here.

Federalist 5

One government, Jay reiterates, discourages internal division and convulsion, as well as dangers from abroad.  He invites the reader to compare England, Scotland, and Wales united—formidable together– and disunited—formidable against each other.

To read the entire essay, click here.

Federalist 6

Hamilton argues that ambition, rage, jealousy, envy, and vicinity are the five causes of war and faction. Such is human nature: “momentary passions, and immediate interests, have a more active and imperious control over human conduct than general or remote considerations of policy, utility, or justice.”  Reject the “visionary” notions of “perpetual peace,” and that separate “commercial republics” are “pacific and well mannered.” 

To read the entire essay, click here.

Federalist 7

Hamilton argues that disunited, we will be drawn into European politics and Europe will be drawn into American politics.  There will be the usual territorial and commercial disputes if separated.  We won’t remain united under the Articles of Confederation.

To read the entire essay, click here.

Federalist 8

Hamilton details the consequences of being disunited, including the presence of vast standing armies at the borders of each State.  A united America, like the United Kingdom, will bring us the “safety from external danger …[which]…is the most powerful director of national conduct,” rather than the disunited and hostile states of Europe.

To read the entire essay, click here.

Federalist 9

Hamilton’s five improvements in “the science of politics” were “either not known at all, or imperfectly understood by the ancients.” They form the “broad and solid” foundation for the claim that America will succeed where previous regimes have failed.  The improvements are 1) legislative checks and balances, 2) the separation of powers, 3) an independent judiciary, 4) a scheme of representation, 5) “the enlargement of the orbit.” 

He suggests that concerning 5) it is not clear that Montesquieu has a definitive and relevant teaching on enlarging the orbit through federal arrangements. His distinctions seem “more subtle than accurate.” And he chooses the Lycian Confederacy as his favorite where there is no equality of suffrage among the members and no sharp line protecting “internal administration.” Anyway, our States are larger than the small republics he had in mind.  Thus, we need to move beyond the “oracle” Montesquieu’s understanding of federalism as a way of a) retaining the independence of small states deemed traditionally necessary for liberty and happiness yet b) joining such pre-existing entities together so that they can pool their resources for such limited goals as common defence.  We need a new and American understanding of “the enlargement of the orbit.” 

To read the entire essay, click here.

Federalist 10

This is the first essay by Madison in The Federalist. It contains twenty-three paragraphs.

β 1. The “violence of faction” is the “mortal disease” of popular governments. The public assemblies have been infected with the vice of majority tyranny: “measures are too often decided, not according to the rules of justice, and the rights of the minor party; but by the superior force of an interested and overbearing majority.”

β 2.  What is a faction?  “A number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adverse to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.” 

β  3. How can we cure “the mischiefs of faction?” We can either cure it by I) “removing its causes,” or II) “controlling its effects.” 

β  4. There are “two methods of removing the causes of faction”: I a) destroy “the liberty essential to its existence,” or I b) give “to every citizen the same opinions, the same passions, and the same interests.” 

β  5. I a) is a “remedy that is worse than the disease,” because it is “unwise.” It entails the abolition of liberty, “which is essential to political life.” 

β  6. I b) is “impracticable.” Opinions, passions, and interests are unlikely to be in harmony. “The diversity in the faculties of men, from which the rights of property originate, is not less an insuperable obstacle to a uniformity of interests. The protection of these faculties is the first object of government.” And that leads to “the division of society into different interests and parties.” 

β  7.  Further consideration of I b).  “The latent causes of faction are thus sown in the nature of man.”  Thus, there are many sources of factions, “but the most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property.”  The “regulation of these various and interfering interests,” that “grow up of necessity in civilized nations…forms the principal task of modern legislation and forms the spirit of party and faction in the necessary and ordinary operations of government.” 

β  8.  Further consideration of I b). Legislators, alas, tend to be “advocates and parties to the causes which they determine.” But “justice and the public good,” require “impartiality.” 

β  9.  Further consideration of I b).  “It is vain to say that enlightened statesmen will be able to adjust these clashing interests and render all subservient to the public good.  Enlightened statesmen will not always be at the helm.” 

β  10. Conclusion to I b) and the introduction to II.  “The inference to which we are brought is that [I] the causes of faction cannot be removed and that relief is only to be sought in the means of [II] controlling its effects.”

β  11. Further consideration of II) “controlling its effects.”  “The republican principle” of majority rule is the solution to minority faction.  But what if we have majority faction?  “To secure the public good and private rights against the danger of such a faction, and at the same time to preserve the spirit and form of popular government, is then the great desideratum by which this form of government can be rescued from the opprobrium under which it has labored and be recommended to the esteem and adoption of mankind.” 

β  12.  The introduction of II a) and II b) as the solutions to majority faction. “Either [II a)] the existence of the same passion or interest in a majority at the same time must be prevented, or [II b)] the majority having such coexistent passion or interest, must be rendered by their number and local situation, unable to concert and carry into effect schemes of oppression.” 

β  13. The introduction of III, the form of government, to implement the solution.  Madison declares that III a) “pure democracy,” works against solutions II a) and II b.

β 14.  III b) “a republic, by which I mean a government in which the scheme of representation takes place, opens a different prospect and promises the cure for which we are seeking.”  

β  15. “The two great points of difference between a democracy and a republic.” 

β  16.  The first difference III b)* is “to refine and enlarge the public views” by way of the election system.  The question is do we choose “small (IVa) or extensive (IVb) republics?” 

β  17. IV b) is better than IV a) because it provides “a greater probability of a fit choice” of representatives.

β  18. IV b) is better than IV a) because it “will be more difficult for unworthy candidates to practice the vicious arts by which elections are too often carried.” 

β  19. The Constitution “forms a happy combination” of IVa) and IVb): “the great and aggregate interests being referred to the national, the local and particular to the State legislatures.”

β  20. The second difference III b)** “is the greater number of citizens and extent of territory which may be brought within the compass of republican than of democratic government.” 

β  21. III b)** clinches the case for IV b) over IV a).

β  22. “The influence of factious leaders may kindle a flame within their particular States but will be unable to spread a general conflagration through the other States.”

β  23.  “In the extent and proper structure of the Union, therefore, we behold a republican remedy for the diseases most incident to republican government.” 

To read the entire essay, click here.

Federalist 11

 “A unity of commercial, as well as political, interests can only result from a unity of government.” There is another advantage to union: “it belongs to us to vindicate the honor of the human race,” in Africa, Asia, and America.  With a strong union, we can restrain “the arrogant pretensions of the Europeans,” and “dictate the terms of the connection between the old and the new world.” They think, “dogs cease to bark in America.” 

To read the entire essay, click here.

Federalist 12

Agriculture, as well as commerce, will benefit from a strong union.  And experience shows that the interests of both are the same.  Besides, taxing agriculture and commerce is where government revenue comes from.  We need to union if we want government revenue.

To read the entire essay, click here.

Federalist 13

Through economies of scale, it is cheaper to run one government than it is to run thirteen governments or three confederacies.

To read the entire essay, click here.

Federalist 14

Madison concludes this section on “the necessity of the Union,” with a response to the Antifederalist critique that “the great extent of country which the Union embraces” exceeds “the practicable sphere of republican administration.”  Madison offers six arguments. 1) The American experiment rests on a) discovering the distinction between a republic and a democracy. This distinction—“the principle of representation” replaces the people meeting and governing on the spot—was unknown to the ancient world, and b) making “the discovery the basis of unmixed and extensive republics.” Thus “the natural limit of a republic” has been extended far beyond what was ever previously envisioned.  2) the general government “is limited to certain enumerated objects, which concern all the members of the republic.” 3) “intercourse throughout the Union will be facilitated by new improvements…[in]…communication.” 4) “Hearken not to the voice which petulantly tells you that the form of government recommended for your adoption is a novelty in the political world.” 5) The greatness of the people of America is that “they have not suffered a blind veneration for the past….To this manly spirit posterity will be indebted.” 6) Let us “deliberate and decide” whether to adopt “a new and more noble course,” namely, “the experiment of an extended republic.”  

To read the entire essay, click here.

Part III
Federalist 15-22:  The “Insufficiency” of the Articles of Confederation

Federalist 15

There is a “great and radical vice in the construction of the existing confederacy,” says Hamilton.  The structural “defect” of the confederacy is that it is a union of, by, for, and over states and not a government based on individuals.  “The great and radical vice in the construction of the existing confederation is the principle of LEGISLATION for STATES OR GOVERNMENTS, in their CORPORATE or COLLECTIVE CAPACITIES, and as contradistinguished from the INDIVIDUALS of whom they consist.”

He then asks the central question undergirding all the essays:  “why has government been instituted at all?”  The answer is:  “because the passions of men will not conform to the dictates of reason and justice without constraint.” Applied to the Articles, this answer suggests that “the ill-informed and prejudicial interference of particular administrators” in national issues ought to be of far greater concern than the other way around.

To read the entire essay, click here.

Federalist 16

The traditional federal principle—legislation over states in their collective political capacity–is anarchistic because it does not “address itself immediately to the hopes and fears of individuals.”  The laws of a Confederacy can only be enforced by a large standing army.  Thus we must adopt the principle of government over individuals for the people ought to be “the natural guardians of the Constitution.”  Hamilton introduces a brief introduction of judicial review and state nullification.

To read the entire essay, click here.

Federalist 17

Hamilton raises a question:  won’t the federal government be so powerful that it will encroach on the States?  No, The real problem is centrifugal and not centripetal.  The States have “a greater degree of influence” in every day matters such as the “ordinary administration of criminal and civil justice” and they are physically closer to the people. “Affections are weak in proportion to distance or diffusiveness of the object.” The objects of the federal government are limited to commerce, finance, negotiation, and war.  In the end, however, the people will throw their loyalty to the level of government that “administer their affairs with uprightness and prudence.”

To read the entire essay, click here.

Federalist 18

The first example of the traditional federal “disease” of anarchism: Greece.

To read the entire essay, click here.

Federalist 19

The second example of the traditional federal “disease” of anarchism:  Germanic.

To read the entire essay, click here.

Federalist 20

The third example of the traditional federal “disease” of anarchism:  Netherlands.

To read the entire essay, click here.

Federalist 21

Three initial “defects” of the Articles of Confederation are examined: 1) all powers of Congress are expressly delegated, 2) no guarantee for state governments and 3) quotas of contribution for raising revenue.

To read the entire essay, click here.

Federalist 22

Five additional “defects” of the Articles of Confederation are examined: 4) no power to regulate interstate commerce, 5) inadequate power to raise troops, 6) the equal representation of states, 7) no judiciary, and 8) inadequate method of ratification. 

To read the entire essay, click here.

Part IV
Federalist 23-36: The minimum “energetic” government requirement

Federalist 23

Hamilton announces the start of several essays dealing with three topics: “the objects to be provided for by a federal government, the quantity of power necessary to the accomplishment of those objects, (and) the persons upon whom that power ought to operate.”  He states that the objects of the federal government encompass, 1) common defense, 2) domestic tranquillity, 3) the regulation of commerce, and 4) relations with foreign nations. And he reminds his readers that it is impossible to foresee future “national exigencies.” Thus we need a degree of power—or energy–commensurate to the end in view.  He begins with 1) the war powers of the nation and declares them to be necessary and proper means to accomplishing the object of common defense. He finds the Antifederalist position to be an “absurdity”:  they support enlarged purposes but want limited powers! If it is safe to delegate the “object,” isn’t it safe to delegate the “power?”

To read the entire essay, click here.

Federalist 24

The object of 1) common defense receives further coverage.  Hamilton critiques, with the help of the observations a fictitious “stranger to our politics,” the objection to the presence of standing armies in time of peace. We live in a hostile world, says Hamilton. Anyway, the power over military establishments is lodged in Congress. The two-year appropriation process, he asserts, is the appropriate protection against the abuse of military power and the creation of “unnecessary military establishments.” He takes the opportunity to note that the Antifederalists have “misled” the electorate by exaggerating the presence of “bills of rights” that are “annexed” to State constitutions. 

To read the entire essay, click here.

Federalist 25

Further coverage of 1) common defense.  Why wait until a formal declaration of war, asks Hamilton, prior to initiating the raising of an army? Anyway, “the formal ceremony of declaring war has fallen into disuse.”  That “we must receive the blow before we could even prepare to return it,” is a “most extraordinary spectacle.” We ought to be “cautious about fettering the government with restrictions that cannot be observed” because “necessity” will prevail over a “parchment barrier.” If a breach, justified by necessity, becomes the norm, it will impair “the sacred reverence” for the “fundamental laws” 

To read the entire essay, click here.

Federalist 26

Further coverage of 1) common defense.  An additional defense of the two-year appropriation process as a check on the abuse of a standing army.  Don’t tie down the legislature with parchment barriers on the means for providing for the common defense. To accept the end, but restrain the means, is to display “a zeal for liberty more ardent than enlightened.”

To read the entire essay, click here.

Federalist 27

Coverage turns to 2) domestic tranquillity by way of 1) common defense.  Hamilton responds to the claim that the Constitution “cannot operate without the aid of a military force to execute its laws.” He lays down “a general rule…of confidence in and obedience to a government.”  The people will support government in “proportion to the goodness or badness of its administration.” He expects the American people will become more and more attached to the general government as it intermingles more in their daily lives.

To read the entire essay, click here.

Federalist 28

Further coverage of 2) domestic tranquillity. Hamilton repeats his maxim “that the means to be employed must be proportioned to the extent of the mischief.” Of course, the rule of law is generally the “admissible principle of republican government.” But there will be emergencies involving domestic insurrection and the general government may have to use force. This conforms to “that original right of self-defense which is paramount to all positive forms of government.” To think otherwise, is to engage in “the reveries” of naïve “political doctors.” But what if the general government or State governments abuse their power?  There are two lines of defense: 1) “the great extent of the country,” and 2) “the people, by throwing themselves into either scale, will infallibly make it preponderate.” 

To read the entire essay, click here.

Federalist 29

Further coverage of 2) domestic tranquillity. Hamilton argues for the existence of a well-regulated militia under the control of the general government.  He accuses the Antifederalists of “a striking incoherence:” they want neither a militia nor an army!  Is this “the inflammatory ravings if chagrined incendiaries or distempered enthusiasts?”

To read the entire essay, click here.

Federalist 30

Hamilton turns to 3) the regulation of commerce.  Once again he states the maxim that “every power ought to be proportionate to its object.” This time, he applies it to taxation: “money is, with propriety, considered the vital principle of the body politic.” He rejects the opposition proposal that the power of internal taxation be given to the States and the power of external taxation be given to the nation. This is romantic poetry.

To read the entire essay, click here.

Federalist 31

Further coverage of 3) the regulation of commerce. He repeats his point that the general government should not be excluded ahead of time from exercising certain means of raising revenue since the world is full of contingency. Moreover, there are certain “maxims in politics”—“first principles,” or “primary truths”– governing the relationship between ends or objects on the one hand and means or powers on the other hand: the government must be given the “requisite” means for the “complete execution” of the objects “for which it is responsible.” But, say the opposition, the States don’t have a guaranteed source of revenue and won’t be able to protect themselves from the usurpations by general government.  More “enchanted castle,” nonsense replies Hamilton.  We should leave the preservation of the “constitutional equilibrium” between the two levels of government “to the prudence and firmness of the people.” 

To read the entire essay, click here.

Federalist 32

Further coverage of 3) the regulation of commerce.  Hamilton reminds the reader that the Constitution is a “partial consolidation” rather than “an entire consolidation.”  Accordingly, he employs the three-pronged “negative pregnant” test to grasp “the whole tenor of the instrument which contains the articles of the proposed constitution.”  He applies the test to the power of taxation: a) is the power exclusively granted to the union? “No.” b) is the power prohibited to the States? “No.” And c) is the power granted to the union and it makes no sense that the states have concurrent jurisdiction? “No.”  He concludes, therefore, that it was the “sense of the convention,” to permit the states to retain the power of concurrent taxation.

To read the entire essay, click here.

Federalist 33

Further coverage of 3) the regulation of commerce.  Hamilton answers the following Antifederalist claim grounded in “virulent invective and petulant declamation,” namely, that the necessary and proper clause and the supremacy clause will enable the general government to completely take over the power of taxation and thus destroy local government and individual liberty.  Not so; nothing would change if these clauses weren’t even there.  Isn’t the power of taxation given to the general government? All clause 18—the so-called “sweeping clause–is saying is that Congress can “pass all laws necessary and proper to carry it into effect.” Why, then, was “the clause introduced?”  The Convention saw this “tautology” as a precautionary protection of the general government against later attempts “to curtail and evade the legitimate authorities of the Union.”   Anyway, in the end, it is the people of America who will decide the meaning of necessary and proper. And without the supremacy clause, the arrangement would be a mere treaty.

To read the entire essay, click here.

Federalist 34

Further coverage of 3) the regulation of commerce. Hamilton repeats his claim that when thinking about the expenses of government we ought not to tie the hands of the general government. “If we mean to be a commercial people, it must form a part of our policy to be able one day to defend that commerce.”  Accordingly, we must be aware of “future contingencies,” in designing a Constitution that is to last into “remote futurity.” In framing a Constitution, as distinguished from writing legislation, we ought to focus on the future and the permanent rather than the current and temporary scene. 

To read the entire essay, click here.

Federalist 35

Further coverage of 3) the regulation of commerce.  This essay explores the relationship between the power of taxation and the right of representation.  Hamilton criticizes the “frequent objection” of the Antifederalists that the House “is not sufficiently numerous” to provide for a complete and sympathetic representation of the people.  He portrays this argument as  “impracticable” and “unnecessary.” First, “an actual representation of all classes of the people by persons of each class is altogether visionary.” Second, the Congress need not be an exact mirror of the society.  Third, a dependency on the people, and being bound by the very laws he makes, are “the strong chords of sympathy between the representative and the constituent.”  Finally, we need representatives capable of exercising “neutrality” and “impartiality” in the clash between the agricultural and mercantile interests. That is the role of the “learned professions.” 

To read the entire essay, click here.

Federalist 36

Further coverage of 3) “of the regulation of commerce.”  Additional emphasis is given to representation and taxation. If we leave things alone, then merchants, landowners, and the learned professions will be elected to Congress.  They “will truly represent all those different interests and views” across the extended republic. He concludes his coverage of the “energy” essays thus:  “Happy will it be for ourselves, and most honorable for human nature, if we have wisdom and virtue enough to set so glorious an example to mankind!”

To read the entire essay, click here.

Part V
Federalist 37-51: “The Great Difficulty of Founding”

Federalist 37-40:  The Difficulty with Demarcations and Definitions 

Federalist 37

This is the first of fifteen essays written by Madison that provide a window on the “work of the convention.”  He says, “a faultless plan was not to be expected.” The “indistinctness of the object, imperfection of the organ of conception, [and] inadequateness of the vehicle of ideas” each made the founding of the Constitution “a great difficulty.” 1) Humans are fallible, 2) the undertaking was “novel,” 3) “mingling…together” and “defining with certainty,” the “vital principles” of liberty, energy, and stability in the legislature, executive, and judiciary was very difficult, 4) drawing the line between the powers of the general government and the state governments was “no less arduous,” 5) the “imperfection of the human faculties” is clear and so “meaning” must be “liquidated and ascertained by a series of particular discussions and adjudications,” and 6) “contending interests and local jealousies” had to be dealt with.  It is astonishing that “so many difficulties should have been surmounted.” Is this the result of the “finger” of “the Almighty hand” at work?

To read the entire essay, click here.

Federalist 38

The creation of the Constitution faced another difficulty. It is an “experiment.” This is the first in the history of the world to have “been committed to an assembly of men.”  But, instead of acknowledging “the improvement made by America on the ancient mode of preparing and establishing regular plans of government,” the Antifederalists criticize the plan in an incoherent and irrelevant manner and demand perfection.  Yet “are they agreed, are any two of them agreed, in their objections to the remedy proposed, or in the proper one to be substituted?”   

To read the entire essay, click here.

Federalist 39

Madison addresses two questions: does the Constitution pass 1) the republicanism test and 2) the federalism test?  The answer depends on how we define republicanism and federalism.  These are the “great difficulties” of definition.

1) The “genius of the people of America,” and “the fundamental principles of the Revolution,” demand that we “rest all our political experiments on the capacity of mankind for self government.” If the Constitution departs from the “strictly republican” standard, or “character,” it must be rejected.  What, then, is the definition of a republic?  It is “a government which derives all its powers directly or indirectly from the great body of the people, and is administered by persons holding office during good behavior.” We learn that a) “it is essential to such a government that it be derived from the great body of the society, not from an inconsiderable proportion or a favored class of it,” and b) it is sufficient for such a government that the persons administering it be appointed, either directly or indirectly, by the people; and that they hold their appointments by either of the tenures just specified.”  Madison announces that the Constitution passes the test.

2) There are three tests to measure the federalism of the Constitution, the first of which—a) “the real character of the government”—is covered in the remainder of the essay. There are five “considerations” to ponder when dealing with the “real character” standard.  

I) “The foundation on which it is to be established.” Who ratifies the Constitution, the states or the people? II) “The sources from which its ordinary powers are to be drawn.” Are the people or the states represented in the Congress?  III) “The operation of those powers.” Does the government “operate” directly on the people in their “individual capacities” or on the states in “their collective and political capacities?”  IV) “The extent of`… the powers.” Does the general government have “an indefinite supremacy over all persons and things,” or does its jurisdiction extend “to certain enumerated objects only?” V)  “The authority by which future changes in the government are to be introduced.” Are amendments secured by a majority of the people or by the unanimity of the States? 

Madison concludes that it is “in strictness, neither a national nor a federal Constitution, but a composition of both.  In its foundation it is federal, not national; in the sources from which the ordinary powers of government are drawn, it is partly federal and partly national; in the operation of these powers, it is national, not federal; in the extent of them, again, it is federal, not national; and, finally in the authoritative mode of introducing amendments, it is neither wholly federal nor wholly national.” 

To read the entire essay, click here.

Federalist 40

Madison turns to the second and third tests, or difficulties, concerning the “federalism” of the Constitution.  b) Was the convention “authorized to propose such a government?”  Madison’s response is that the delegates were authorized to frame a government “adequate to the exigencies of the Union,” and they performed that task, and c) how far did “considerations of duty arising out of the case itself…supply any defect of regular authority?”   Madison acknowledges that there are some doubts that Congress authorized the delegates to devise a plan that totally overhauled, rather than simply amended, the Articles. So he appeals to the Declaration of Independence: “it is the precious right of the people to ‘abolish or alter their governments as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.’” So the really important question is NOT is the plan legal in the narrow sense of the term, but “whether the advice (of the Convention) be good?”

To read the entire essay, click here.

Federalist 41-46: The Difficulty of Federalism

Federalist 41

This is the first of six essays on the difficulty of powers and federalism. This difficulty, in turn, can be divided into two parts around the consideration of two questions. The first difficulty of powers and federalism is this: has any unnecessary and improper power been granted to the general government? This is covered in Federalist 41-44. The answer is “no.” (The second difficulty is this: is the mass of power granted to the federal government dangerous to the exercise of power retained by the states? This is covered in Federalist 45-46.)  Six “classes” [1-6 below] of the first difficulty of power and federalism in the Constitution are examined. 

Federalist 41 examines the 1) “security against foreign danger” class of power.  Madison reiterates Hamilton’s earlier defense of the Constitution with respect to military establishments, standing armies, the militia, the power of taxation, and the war powers of the general government. 

To read the entire essay, click here.

Federalist 42

This essay examines the second and third classes of federal power: 2) “regulation of the intercourse with foreign nations,” and 3) “maintenance of harmony and proper intercourse among the states.” The former covers the implications of the “interstate commerce” clause. The latter focuses on the remaining clauses in Article I, Section 8.  

Madison regrets that 2) the “power of prohibiting the importation of slaves had not been postponed until the year 1808, or rather that it had been suffered to have immediate operation.” Nevertheless, he is optimistic that the “the barbarism of modern policy” will be soon “totally abolished.” He concludes:  “Happy would it be for the unfortunate Africans if an equal prospect lay before them of being redeemed from the oppressions of their European brethren.”  Concerning 3) Madison laments that “the mild voice of reason, pleading the cause of an enlarged and permanent interest, is but too often drowned, before public bodies as well as individuals, by the clamors of an impatient avidity for immediate and immoderate gain.”   

To read the entire essay, click here.

Federalist 43

This essay examines the fourth class of federal power: 4) “certain miscellaneous objects of general utility.” Nine miscellaneous clauses are covered.

Most attention is given to the sixth clause, namely, the republican guarantee clause. The main issues here are a) “to defend the system against aristocratic or monarchical innovations,” and b) to protect the principle of majority rule against the actions of a minority of “adventurers.”  Madison then adds:  “I take no notice of an unhappy species of population abounding in some of the States, who, during the calm of regular government are sunk below the level of men; but who, in the tempestuous scenes of civil violence, may emerge into the human character and give a superiority of strength to any party with which they may associate themselves.” 

The ninth and last clause covered is Article VII. This clause provides for ratification of the Constitution by nine out of thirteen specially called conventions. Madison asks: how can the Articles be “superseded without the unanimous consent of the parties to it?  The answer, anticipated in Federalist 40, is “the great principle of self-preservation: to the transcendent law of nature and nature’s God, which declares that the safety and happiness of the society are the objects at which all political institutions aim and to which all such institutions must be sacrificed.”

To read the entire essay, click here.

Federalist 44

This essay examines the fifth and six classes of federal power: 5) “restraint of the States from certain injurious acts,” and 6) “provisions for giving due efficacy to these powers.” The latter revisits the necessary and proper clause.  “Few parts of the Constitution have been assailed with more intemperance than this; yet on a fair investigation of it, as has been elsewhere shown, no part can appear more completely invulnerable.  Without the substance of this power, the whole Constitution would be a dead letter.” He examines, and rejects, the four choices, other than the one stated in Article 1, Section 8, clause 18, that were available to the convention: a) adopt the “expressly” delegated language of the Articles, b) list a “positive enumeration of the powers” attached to the necessary and proper clause, c) list a “negative enumeration” of the powers not attached, and d) remain “altogether silent on the subject, leaving these necessary and proper powers to construction and inference.”  All the clause is saying is that “wherever a general power to do a thing is given, every particular power necessary for doing it is included.”  And if Congress should abuse this power? “The people…can, by the election of more faithful representatives, annul the acts of the usurpers.”  

To read the entire essay, click here.

Federalist 45

This essay starts the consideration of the second difficulty of power and federalism: is the mass of power granted to the federal government dangerous to the exercise of power retained by the states? The answer is “no.” 

Federalist 45 begins with the question: was the revolution fought to secure the peace, liberty, safety, and public good of the American people or to secure the sovereignty of the states?  Madison says, the former, and he is willing, if necessary, to sacrifice the states for the “public happiness.” But it will be difficult to do away with the states even if one wanted to because they are “ constituent and essential parts of the federal government.” Besides, “the powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined.  Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite.” Actually, he concludes, the Constitution doesn’t enlarge the powers of the federal government; “it only substitutes a more effectual mode of administering them.” But the federal government will grow in importance during wartime.

To read the entire essay, click here.

Federalist 46

This essay concludes the consideration of the second difficulty of power and federalism: is the mass of power granted to the federal government dangerous to the exercise of power retained by the states? The answer, again, is “no.” 

Madison suggests that the federal government has more to fear from the encroachment of the state governments than vice versa. And the state governments are capable of defending themselves. The sentiments of the people are naturally closer to the state governments and things will stay that way unless the federal government is better administered.  In which case, “the people ought not surely to be precluded from giving most of their confidence where they may discover it to be the most due.”  

To read the entire essay, click here.

Federalist 47-51:  The Difficulty of Republicanism

Federalist 47

This is the first of five essays on the difficulty of republicanism. He is interested in “the structure” of the government.  Madison begins with a “political truth”: “the accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands…may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.” The Antifederalists, relying on Montesquieu the “oracle” on the doctrine of separation of powers, claim that the Constitution violates the political truth or maxim, because the branches are not separate and “distinct.” Madison argues 1) that Montesquieu wasn’t advocating a complete “wall of separation” between the branches, but endorsed “partial agency,” b) there isn’t a strictly “distinct” separation of powers in the state constitutions and 3) the “political truth” really means that the separation of powers is violated when “the whole power of one department is exercised by the same hands which possess the whole power of another department,” and not when one branch has a partial agency in another branch. In fact, partial agency in practice is needed to accomplish the separation of powers in theory. 

To read the entire essay, click here.

Federalist 48

Madison declares that “the most difficult task” is to provide “some practical” security for each branch against “the invasion of the others.”  The Madison “correction” of “the founders of our early republics,” is this:  Legislative tyranny is far more likely than executive tyranny “in a democracy.” Virginia and Pennsylvania in the 1780s are proof for Madison that their Constitutions actually encourage the emergence of this new kind of tyranny. And, says Madison, Jefferson, in his Notes on the State of Virginia, came to recognize the reality of “elective despotism”: “One hundred and seventy-three despots would surely be as oppressive as one.” What “precautions” then shall be taken against this dangerous branch?  More is needed than “a mere demarcation on parchment of the constitutional limits of the several departments.” 

To read the entire essay, click here.

Federalist 49

Madison opens with a critique of Jefferson: he understands the problem, but not the solution. Jefferson proposes that when violations of the separation of powers occur, “a convention shall be called for the purpose” of “correcting breaches.” But, asks Madison, won’t it be the executive and judiciary appealing to the people to call a convention to restrain the legislature?  And who would most likely be elected to the convention than the very legislators who caused the problem?   “The passions, therefore, not the reason, of the public would sit in judgment.  But it is the reason, alone, of the public, that ought to control and regulate the government. The passions ought to be controlled and regulated by the government.” Even if these conventions are called only for “certain great and extraordinary occasions,” we must remember “that all governments rest on opinion,” and the calling of a correcting convention would “deprive the government of that veneration which time bestows on everything, and without which perhaps the wisest and freest governments would not possess the requisite stability.” 

To read the entire essay, click here.

Federalist 50

Madison says the same objections apply to “periodical appeals” as they do to “occasional appeals to the people” to correct infractions of the Constitution.

To read the entire essay, click here.

Federalist 51

This is the last of fifteen essays written by Madison on “the great difficulty” of founding. There are ten paragraphs in the essay.

β 1. The way to implement the theory of separation of powers in practice is to so contrive “the interior structure of the government as that its several constituent parts may, by their mutual relations, be the means of keeping each other in their proper places.” 

β 2. Accordingly, “each department should have a will of its own; and consequently should be so constituted that the members of each should have as little agency as possible in the appointment of the members of the others.” 

β 3.  “It is equally evident that the members of each department should be as little dependent as possible on those of the others for the emoluments annexed to their offices.”

β 4. A.“The Great Security”

“The great security against a gradual concentration of the several powers in the same department consists in giving to those who administer each department the necessary constitutional means and personal motives to resist encroachments of the others…Ambition must be made to counteract ambition.  The interests of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place.”  

B:  “A Reflection on Human Nature”

Isn’t relying on ambition and interest, “a reflection on human nature?” But, adds Madison, what is government itself but the greatest reflection on human nature?  If men were angels, no government would be necessary.” 

C:  “The Great Difficulty” of Founding

“You must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government, but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.”  

β 5.  “This policy of supplying, by opposite and rival interests, the defect of better motives, might be traced through the whole system of human affairs, private as well as public.” Madison calls this policy “inventions of prudence.”

β 6.  “In republican government, the legislative authority necessarily predominates.” Thus, it is “not possible to give to each department an equal power of self-defense.” Accordingly, we need to add here and subtract there. We can divide the legislature into two branches and fortify the executive a) with the power of a conditional veto and b) “some qualified connection” with the Senate.

β 7. The general government comes closer to passing the “self-defense” of each branch test than do the State governments.

β 8. “There are, moreover, two considerations particularly applicable to the federal system of America, which place that system in a very interesting point of view.” 

β 9.  First, America is a “compound republic,” rather than a “single republic.” This provides for a “double security…to the rights of the people.  The different governments will control each other, at the same time that each will be controlled by itself.” 

β 10. Second, there are only two ways to combat “the evil” of majority faction, a) “by creating a will in the community independent of the majority,” or b) creating an authoritative source “dependent on the society,” but, and here is the essence of the American experiment, the society “will be broken down into so many parts,” that it contain a vast number and variety of interests. 

To repeat, the American society will “be broken down into so many parts, interests and classes of citizens, that the rights of individuals, or the minority, will be in little danger from interested combinations of the majority.”  Echoing Federalist 10, Madison says “the security for civil rights must be the same as that for religious rights.  It consists in the one case in the multiplicity of interests, and in the other in the multiplicity of sects.” And both depend on “the extended republic.”  Let us not forget, adds Madison, that “justice is the end of government.  It is the end of civil society.  It ever has been and ever will be pursued until it be obtained, or until liberty be lost in the pursuit.”  Fortunately, in “the extended republic…a coalition of a majority of the whole society could seldom take place on any other principles than those of justice and the general good.”  We have rejected the “precarious security” provided by the “hereditary or self-appointed” alternative of “introducing into the government…a will independent of the society itself.”  

To read the entire essay, click here.

Part VI
Federalist 52-84: “The True Principles of Republican Government”

Federalist 52-61:  The House of Representatives

Federalist 52

Madison introduces the “more particular examination of the several parts of the government,” with ten essays on the House of Representatives. He organizes the treatment around “five views.” 1) “The qualification of electors” is completely covered and 2) the duration in office is partially covered in Federalist 52.  With regard to the former, he says the electoral “door” is wide “open to merit of every description,” regardless of place of birth, “young or old, and without regard to poverty or wealth, or to any particular profession of religious faith.” Concerning the latter, he reminds the reader that “the scheme of representation as a substitute for a meeting of the citizens in person being at most but very imperfectly known to ancient polity, it is in more modern times only that we are to expect instructive examples.” 

To read the entire essay, click here.

Federalist 53

Further coverage of 2) duration in office. One of the “instructive examples” derived from the modern understanding of constitutionalism, says Madison, is that we can safely discard the notion “that where annual election end, tyranny begins.”  The only “reason on which this proverbial observation is founded” can be traced to Britain where the Parliament can, and has, “by ordinary power of government…changed the period of election.” But no such security “for the liberty of the people” against “these dangerous practices” is necessary in America because the government is “limited…by the authority of a paramount Constitution.”  Besides which, a two year “unalterably fixed” biennial elections provides more time for representatives to acquire the “practical knowledge…useful to the affairs of the public.” 

To read the entire essay, click here.

Federalist 54

This essay covers 3) “the apportionment of its members.” Madison says that the rule for apportionment is to be the “same rule with that of direct taxes.” There is no inherent reason, he says, why the rule should not be “numbers” for both.  However, property has “recently obtained the general sanction of America” as the rule for direct taxes.  Does it then follow “that slaves ought to be in the numerical rule of representation?”  He lets an unidentified defender of “southern interests” make the case—articulate in quotation marks over four pages–for the modification in “the census of persons” rule for apportionment.  Madison concludes: “it may appear a little strained in some points, yet on the whole, I must confess that it fully reconciles me to the scale of representation which the convention have established.” 

To read the entire essay, click here.

Federalist 55

This is the first of four essays on 4) “the number of which the House of Representatives is to consist.” The apparently small size of the House, says Madison, has been given extensive attention by the most worthy of the opponents.  He outlines four “charges” concerning the small number:  the House will a) be “an unsafe depository of the public interests,” b) fail to “possess a proper knowledge” of the interests of their constituents, c) be “taken from” the class least sympathetic to the “mass of the people,” and most disposed to sacrifice their interest, and d) the defect in numbers of representatives will become “more disproportionate” as the population increases.  This essay discusses a) and makes the following two points i) “Had every Athenian been a Socrates, every Athenian assembly would still have been a mob,” and ii) there is a decent side to human nature that balances the depraved side. In fact, “republican government presupposes the existence of these [better] qualities in a higher degree than any other form.” 

To read the entire essay, click here.

Federalist 56

This is the second essay on 4) “the number of which the House of Representatives is to consist.”  It addresses the “second charge”:  b) the House “will be too small to possess a due knowledge of the interests of its constituents.” The essay says that the kind of information the representatives need to assist their constituents, echoing Federalist 35 and 53, is knowledge about “commerce, taxation, and the militia,” rather than “particular knowledge of their affairs.” 

To read the entire essay, click here.

Federalist 57

This is the third essay on 4) “the number of which the House of Representatives is to consist.”  It addresses the “third charge”:  c) the chosen representatives will “have least sympathy with the mass of the people,” and be inclined to “sacrifice” the interests of the people.  Madison describes this objection as “extraordinary,” because “the principle of it strikes at the very root of republican government.”  The objective, says Madison, is to elect wise and virtuous representatives and then adopt “precautions” to keep them that way whilst in office.  The primary method of keeping the representatives virtuous is a “habitual recollection of their dependence on the people.” But “human prudence” has “devised” four “cords by which they will be bound to fidelity and sympathy with the great mass of the people”: “duty, gratitude, interest, ambition.” 

To read the entire essay, click here.

Federalist 58

This is the fourth and final essay on 4) “the number of which the House of Representatives is to consist.”  It addresses the “remaining charge”:  “the number of representatives will not be augmented” as the population increases.  Madison admits, “this objection, if well supported, would have great weight.” But, he continues,  “there is a peculiarity in the federal Constitution which insures a watchful attention…to a constitutional augmentation.” The four largest states “will have a majority of the whole votes in the House,” and since they hold the power of the purse, “the most complete and powerful weapon with which any constitution can arm the immediate representatives of the people, for obtaining a redress of every grievance, and for carrying into effect every just and salutary measure,” these states can defeat “unfriendly” opposition in the Senate. Madison, in conclusion, warns about increasing the size of the House “beyond a certain limit.”  Experience demonstrates “that the countenance of the government may become more democratic, but the soul that animates it will be more oligarchic.”

To read the entire essay, click here.

Federalist 59

This is the first of three essays on 5) “the times, places, and manner” clause.  Hamilton states the case for this clause:  “every government ought to contain in itself the means of its own preservation.” What if “the leaders of a few of the most important States should have entered into a previous conspiracy to prevent an election?”

To read the entire essay, click here.

Federalist 60

This is the second of three essays on 5) “the times, places, and manner” clause.  Couldn’t this clause be manipulated to confine “the places of election to particular districts and rendering it impracticable to the citizens at large to partake in the choice?” This, says Hamilton, is “the most chimerical” of  “all chimerical propositions.”  Hamilton continues: “to speak in the fashionable language of the adversaries of the Constitution,” will this clause “court the elevation of the ‘wealthy and the well-born,’ to the exclusion and debasement of all the rest of the society?” “No,” because of the multiplicity of interests, the separation of powers, and the scheme of representation.

To read the entire essay, click here.

Federalist 61

This is the third of three essays on 5) “the times, places, and manner” clause. Here the defense of the clause moves beyond the argument that it is necessary and proper to “a positive advantage.” In conclusion, “I allude to the circumstance of uniformity in the time of elections for the federal House of Representatives.” 

To read the entire essay, click here.

Federalist 62-66: The Senate

Federalist 62

Madison “enters next on the examination of the Senate.”  He organizes the five essays on the Senate around five “heads.” Federalist 62 covers four of the “heads.” 

The first three are “1) the qualification of Senators, 2) the appointment of them by the state legislatures, 3) the equality of representation in the Senate. ” It is “unnecessary to dilate,” says Madison, on 1) and 2).  Concerning 3) this is the result of the compromise, which renders us a “compound republic, partaking of both the national and federal,” and, accordingly, “ does not call for much discussion.” But, he does say that it is “a advantageous consequence” that “no law or resolution can now be passed without the concurrence, first, of a majority of the people, and then of a majority of the States.” 

The remainder of Federalist 62 introduces 4) “the number of Senators and the term for which they are to be elected.” Madison divides the coverage of 4) into six parts. The treatment of the first four of these six “defects” and six “remedies,” occurs in this essay and are directed to checking the House, that “numerous and changeable body.”  

First.  The Senate operates as “a salutary check” on efforts by representatives in the House to betray the public trust. Second. The smaller numerical size, and the longer duration in office, provides a healthy restraint “to the impulse of sudden and violent passions.” Third. A Senate is vital to overcoming “the blunders” of popular legislation.  “A good government implies two things; first, fidelity to the object of government, which is the happiness of the people; secondly, a knowledge of the means by which that object can be best attained….I scruple not to assert that in American Governments too little attention has been paid to the last. The federal Constitution avoids this error; and what merits particular notice, it provides for the last mode which increases the security for the first.” Fourth. A Senate helps overcome the “mutability in the public councils.” A frequent change of the representatives in the lower House causes a “change in opinions,” and then a “change in measures.”  

Madison outlines five “mischievous effects of mutable government.” A) “It forfeits the respect and confidence of other nations, and all the advantages connected with national character.” B) At home, it “poisons the blessings of liberty itself…if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood.” C) “Public instability” favors “the sagacious, the enterprising, and the moneyed few over the industrious and uninformed mass of the people.” D) “No great improvements or laudable enterprises can go forward” without the presence of “a steady system of national policy.”  E) It robs the system of “attachment and reverence.” 

To read the entire essay, click here.

Federalist 63

This essay contains twenty-one paragraphs.  The first six paragraphs of the essay concludes the fifth and sixth part of 4) “the number of Senators and the term for which they are to be elected.” Madison then turns in paragraph seven to protecting the people “against their own temporary errors and delusions.” Paragraphs 8 through 14 revisit the sufficiency of the extended orbit and what the ancients knew about the principle of representation. The essay concludes with a consideration of the Antifederalist claim that the Senate will become a “Tyrannical Aristocracy.” 

The Idea of “Due Responsibility”

β 1. Fifth. A Senate is valuable because it provides “ a due sense of national character.” 

β 2 and 3. In particular, it is wise to listen to the “opinion of the impartial world,” and the “unbiased part of mankind” lest the “numerous and changeable” House of Representatives “be warped by some strong passions or momentary interest.”

 β 4.  Sixth.  Madison introduces a “new, but paradoxical, understanding” of “the due responsibility in the government to the people.”  

β 5.  Instead of understanding “responsibility” exclusively in terms of “dependence on the people” through “the frequency of elections, ” Madison puts forth the idea of the “responsibility” of the representatives to the long run interests of the community.

β 6.  This is the “responsibility” of the Senate.

“The Cool and Deliberate Sense of the Community”

β 7. The Senate is valuable at certain “critical moments” in “public affairs.” It is “salutary” to have a Senate that can check the “temporary errors and delusions of the people,” until reason, justice, and truth can regain their authority over the public mind.” The vital role of the Senate in the institutional framework, then, is to secure the principle of “the cool and deliberate sense of the community.”

The “Extension of the Orbit” Revisited

β 8.  Madison revisits the importance of  “the extension of the orbit” element in the science of politics introduced in Federalist 9 and explicated in Federalist 10.  He admits that the extended orbit theory of Federalist 10 is necessary but insufficient and, may in fact, be counterproductive.  Once again, we need further “auxiliary precautions” to make the American experiment succeed.

β 9.  To be sure, America is different from other governments, both “ancient and modern.“ Yet, it is instructive to note that “history informs us of no long-lived republic which had not a senate.” 

The “Principle of Representation” Revisited

β 10. Madison repeats the claim of Federalist 9 that “the principle of representation” is the pivotal difference between the American model and those found in antiquity. He revisits the claim that the principle of representation was “unknown” to the ancients. 

β 11, 12, & 13. The extent to which the principle of representation was used in antiquity.

β 14. Thus, “it is clear that the principle of representation was neither unknown to the ancients nor wholly overlooked in their political institutions.” The unique feature of the American experiment is, that for the first time, we have “the total exclusion of the people in their collective capacity, from any share” in the government,” rather than “ the total exclusion of the representatives of the people from the administration” of the government.”  Madison then concludes “that to insure this advantage its full effect, we must be careful not to separate it from the other advantage, of an extensive territory.” 

The Senate as a “Tyrannical Aristocracy”

β 15. The opposition will claim that the Senate will become, by “gradual usurpations,” an independent and  “tyrannical aristocracy.”

β 16.  One response to the Antifederalists is “that liberty may be endangered by the abuses of liberty as well as by the abuses of power.” 

β 17.  A second response is that the claim defies reason: for the alleged “tyrannical aristocracy” to take place, the Senate must “in the first place, corrupt itself,” and ultimately corrupt “the people at large.”  

β 18.  A third response: the claim defies experience of the state governments.

β 19.  A fourth response: even the British example fails to lead to “tyrannical aristocracy.”

β 20.  A fifth response: there are no examples from antiquity of  “tyrannical aristocracy.” 

β 21.  Finally, the House of Representatives will never allow this to happen.

To read the entire essay, click here.

Federalist 64

This is the first of three essays on 5) “the powers vested in the Senate.”  The essay covers the “advise and consent” clause concerning the treaty making power that the Senate shares with the President. Jay asks why is it better for national policy to involve the Senate and not the whole Congress?  “The Constitution has taken the utmost care” by the size of the Senate, the need for “secrecy and dispatch,” and the age and duration in office provisions that the Senators “shall be men of talents, and integrity.” Thus “the treaties they make will be as advantageous as…could be made.” 

To read the entire essay, click here.

Federalist 65

This is the second of three essays on 5) “the powers vested in the Senate” The remaining powers of the Senate involve the participation of the Senate “with the executive in the appointment to offices, and in their judicial character as a court for the trial of impeachments.” The former is covered in the executive essays; here, Hamilton explains “the judicial character of the Senate.” In short, this essay covers the impeachment-conviction power.  The Senate, and neither the House nor the Supreme Court, is the “tribunal sufficiently dignified” and “sufficiently independent” to render the sentence of “perpetual ostracism from the esteem and confidence and honors and emoluments of his country” for official “POLITICAL” misconduct.  

To read the entire essay, click here.

Federalist 66

This is the last of three essays on 5) “the powers vested in the Senate.”  This essay concludes the defense of locating of the “determining in all cases of impeachment” power alone in the Senate. This power does not 1) violate the doctrine of the separation of powers, 2) “give to the government a countenance too aristocratic,” or produce a conflict of interest with the Senate-Executive 3) appointment power, or 4) treaty making power. 

To read the entire essay, click here.

Federalist 67-77:  The Presidency

Federalist 67

This is the first of eleven essays written by Hamilton defending the Presidency against the “unfairness” of the Antifederalist “representations.” This is the first of six essays in The Federalist that identify specific authors of Antifederalist writings. Here it is Cato V. 

“Scarcely any other part of the Constitution,” says Hamilton, has been “inveighed against with less candor or criticized with less judgment.”  The opposition portray the Presidency as a full-grown progeny of monarchy, and Cato claims that, under the Constitution, the President can fill temporary vacancies in the Senate.  This is utter nonsense, since this power is “expressly allotted to the executives of the individual States.”  Yet, this is typical of the “shameless” exercise of “their talent of misrepresentations,” and “an unequivocal proof of the unwarrantable arts which are practised to prevent a fair and impartial judgement of the real merits of the Constitution.”

To read the entire essay, click here.

Federalist 68

This is the second of eleven essays written by Hamilton defending the Presidency Presidency against the “unfairness” of the Antifederalist “representations.” This is the second of six essays in The Federalist that identify specific authors of Antifederalist writings. Here it is the Federal Farmer.

He remarks that the “mode of appointment” by the Electoral College “is almost the only part of the system, of any consequence, which has escaped without severe censure.”  He reminds the reader that “this process of election affords a moral certainty that the office of President” will be “filled by characters pre-eminent for ability and virtue.”  This is important since “the true test of a good government is its aptitude and tendency to produce a good administration.” And a good executive is central to a good administration.

To read the entire essay, click here.

Federalist 69

This is the third of eleven essays written by Hamilton defending the Presidency against the “unfairness” of the Antifederalist “representations.” This is third of six essays in The Federalist that identify specific authors of Antifederalist writings. Here it is Tamony. 

The “real character of the proposed executive” is revealed in terms of the organization and powers tests. The tests are 1) “single magistrate,” 2) “four years; and is to be re-eligible,” 3) impeachment and removal from office, 4) “qualified negative of the Presidency,” 5) “occasional…commander-in-chief” power which “would amount to nothing more than the supreme command and direction” of the armed forces, 6) power to pardon, 7) power to “adjourn the legislature,” 8) with the “advice and consent of the Senate, to make treaties,” 9) power to “receive ambassadors and public ministers,” 10) “the power to nominate and appoint.”  Hamilton concludes that putting the Constitution to these tests, the Presidency is closer to the Governor of New York than to the Monarch of Great Britain. In fact, with the exception of the treaty-making power, “it would be difficult to determine whether that magistrate would in the aggregate, possess more or less power than the governor of New York.” 

To read the entire essay, click here.

Federalist 70

This is the fourth of eleven essays written by Hamilton defending the Presidency against the “unfairness” of the Antifederalist “representations.”  The essay opens with the Antifederalist concern “that a vigorous executive is inconsistent with the genius of republican government.” Hamilton’s response is that “energy in the executive is a leading character in the definition of good government.”  He explores two questions. A) What are the “ingredients which constitute energy in the executive?”  B) How far can these ingredients be combined with other ingredients which constitute safety in the republican sense? A) There are four ingredients of energy: I Unity, II Duration, III Adequate Provision for Support, and IV Competent Powers. B) There are two ingredients of republican safety: I “A due dependence on the people,” and II “A due responsibility.”

A) I Unity is “conducive to energy.”  “The dictates of reason and good sense,” demonstrate that unity in the executive better secures the goals of “decision, activity, secrecy, and dispatch.” A “plurality in the executive” also destroys “responsibility.”

To read the entire essay, click here.

Federalist 71

This is the fifth of eleven essays written by Hamilton defending the Presidency against the “unfairness” of the Antifederalist “representations.” It covers A) II Duration as it pertains to “the personal firmness of the executive.

β 1.  “It is a general principle of human nature that a man will be interested in what he possesses, in proportion to the firmness or precariousness of the tenure by which he holds it.”  The duration provision helps the President to be “interested” in resisting the “ill-humors” of society and a “predominant faction in the legislative body.”

β 2.  “The servile pliancy of the executive to a prevailing current in the community or in the legislature” is NOT “its best recommendation.”  The President must resist a “complaisance to every sudden breeze of passion” that might emerge in the society contrary to the true interests of the people, and, instead be “the guardians of those interests to withstand the temporary delusions in order to give them time and opportunity for more cool and sedate reflection.”  It is the duty of the executive to secure the “republican principle”:  “the deliberate sense of the community should govern.” 

 β 3.  “The executive should be in a situation to dare to act…with vigor and decision.”

β 4.  “The fundamental principles of good government” requires a fortification of the executive against the “almost irresistible” tendency in “governments purely republican” for the “legislative authority to absorb every other.” 

β 5- β7.  “It may be asked whether a duration of four years” is sufficient. It may not “completely answer the end proposed; but it would contribute towards it in a degree which would have a material influence upon the spirit and character of the government.” 

To read the entire essay, click here.

Federalist 72

This is the sixth of eleven essays written by Hamilton defending the Presidency against the “unfairness” of the Antifederalist “representations.” This essay concludes the coverage of A) II Duration pertaining to “the stability of the system of administration.” He lists five “pernicious” “ill effects” that will occur as a result of “exclusion.” 

β 1. “There is an intimate connection between the duration of the executive magistrate in office and the stability of the administration of government” which includes “foreign negotiations,” public finance, and “the directions of the operations of war.”  

β 2. “With a positive duration of considerable extent, I connect the circumstance of re-eligibility.” The former is vital for individual firmness; the latter for a “wise system of administration.”  

β 3.  “Exclusion” from office, or term limits, for the President is “pernicious.”

β 4.  “One ill effect of the exclusion would be a diminution in inducements to good behavior.” “The desire of reward is one of the strongest incentives of human conduct.   Even the love of fame, the ruling passion of the noblest minds” is not strong enough to motivate “the generality of men” toward “the positive merit of doing good.”  

β 5, 6, 7. “Another ill effect of the exclusion would be the temptation to sordid views, to peculation, and, in some instances, to usurpation.”  It is contrary “to the stability of government, to have half a dozen men who had credit enough to raise themselves to the seat of the supreme magistracy wandering among the people like discontented ghosts and sighing for a place which they were destined never more to possess.”

β 8.  “A third ill effect of the exclusion would be the depriving the community of the advantage of the experience gained by the Chief Magistrate in the exercise of his office.”  Remember, “experience is the parent of wisdom.” 

β 9.  “A fourth ill effect of the exclusion would be the banishing men from stations in which, in certain emergencies of the State, their presence might be of the greatest moment to the public interest or safety.”

β 10. “ A fifth ill effect” is that “by necessitating a change of men, in the first office of the nation, it would necessitate a mutability of measures.” 

β 11. These “disadvantages” are worse under a “scheme of perpetual exclusion.” 

β 12, 13.  “What are the advantages promised to counterbalance these disadvantages?…1st, greater independence in the magistrate; 2nd, greater security to the people.” 

β 14.  The disadvantages of exclusion outweigh the advantages.

To read the entire essay, click here.

Federalist 73

This is the seventh of eleven essays written by Hamilton defending the Presidency against the “unfairness” of the Antifederalist “representations.” This is the fourth of six essays in The Federalist that identify specific authors of Antifederalist writings. Here it is Abraham Yates. This essay covers the third and fourth, and the last, of the “ingredients”: A) III:  Adequate Provision for Support, and A) IV:  Competent Powers.  The essay focuses on A) IV.  Attention is given to A) IV a, the veto power. 

Hamilton defends the “qualified negative of the President” as 1) “a shield to the executive,” to protect its “constitutional rights,” and as 2) an “additional security against the enaction of improper laws.” Sometimes, instead of adhering to the principle of “due deliberation,” the Congress passes laws through “haste, inadvertence, or design.” Thus the   “public good” is “evidently and palpably sacrificed.” The presidential veto, moreover, “will often have a silent and unperceived, though forcible, operation.” 

To read the entire essay, click here.

Federalist 74

This is the eighth of eleven essays written by Hamilton defending the Presidency against the “unfairness” of the Antifederalist “representations.” This essay continues the coverage of A) IV.  Attention is given to A) IV b, the commander-in-chief clause, and A) IV c, the power to pardon and reprieve clause. Concerning the former, Hamilton observes “the direction of war most peculiarly demands those qualities which distinguish the exercise of power by a single hand.”  As to the latter, the Congress may not always be in session; “there are often critical moments when a well-timed offer of pardon…may restore tranquillity to the commonwealth; and which, if suffered to pass unimproved, it may never be possible afterwards to recall.”

To read the entire essay, click here.

Federalist 75

This is the ninth of eleven essays written by Hamilton defending the Presidency against the “unfairness” of the Antifederalist “representations.” This essay continues the coverage of A) IV.  Attention is given to A) IV d, the treaty making power.  Hamilton claims that this “is one of the best digested and most unexceptional parts of the plan.”  Human nature demonstrates the wisdom of 1) joining the Senate and the President in the “possession of the power,” and 2) excluding the “fluctuating,” and “multitudinous,” House. Furthermore, it is republican to have 2/3 of the Senators present concur, rather than require the concurrence of 2/3 of the whole Senate.    

To read the entire essay, click here.

Federalist 76

This is the tenth of eleven essays written by Hamilton defending the Presidency against the “unfairness” of the Antifederalist “representations.” This essay continues the coverage of A) IV.  Attention is given to A) IV e, the appointing power. He argues that the mode proposed advances the premise that “the true test of a good government is its aptitude and tendency to produce a good administration.” The critical question is why require “the co-operation of the Senate” in what is traditionally viewed as an exclusively executive function?  “Their concurrence would have a powerful, though in general, a silent operation.  It would be an excellent check upon a spirit of favoritism in the President.” Furthermore, “it would be an efficacious source of stability in the administration.” 

Won’t the Senate simply “rubber stamp” Presidential nominations? “This supposition of universal venality in human nature is little less an error in political reasoning than the supposition of universal rectitude. The institution of delegated power implies that there is a portion of virtue and honor among mankind, which may be a reasonable foundation of confidence.” We should “view human nature as it is, without either flattering its virtues or exaggerating its vices.”  The Senate will live up to its assigned duty.

To read the entire essay, click here.

Federalist 77

This is the last of eleven essays written by Hamilton defending the Presidency against the “unfairness” of the Antifederalist “representations.” This essay concludes the coverage of A) IV, the issue of energy, and turns, finally, but in only a concluding paragraph, to B) how these ingredients can be combined with others that are safe in the republican sense? 

A) Hamilton claims that an added advantage “to the stability of the administration,” is that the consent of the Senate “would be necessary to remove as well as to appoint.” He approves of “this union of the Senate with the President” in the nomination, appointment, and removal process. He endorses the exclusion of the House from the process:  “A body so fluctuating and at the same time so numerous can never be deemed proper for the exercise of that power. Its unfitness will appear manifest to all when it is recollected that in half a century it may consist of three or four hundred persons.” 

B) In Federalist 70, Hamilton introduced B) and stated that there were “two ingredients of republican safety”: I “A due dependence on the people,” and II “A due responsibility.”  Here he says, “The answer to this question has been anticipated in the investigation of its other characteristics.”  

To read the entire essay, click here.

Federalist 78-82:  The Judiciary

Federalist 78

This is the first of five essays written by Hamilton on the Judiciary. In this essay, we also find the fifth of six essays in The Federalist that identify specific authors of Antifederalist writings. Here it is the “Protest of the Minority of the Convention of Pennsylvania, Martin’s speech, etc.” 

β 1. “We proceed now to an examination of the judiciary department.” 

β 2.  The coverage of the judiciary is in two parts: A) “the manner of constituting it” and B) “its extent.”

β 3.  There are three A) “objects.”  “1st.  The mode of appointing the judges. 2nd. The tenure by which they are to hold their places.  3rd. The partition of the judicial authority between different courts and their relations to each other.” [See Federalist 81.]

β 4. A) 1st.  See Federalist 76 and 77. 

β 5. A) 2nd.  “As to tenure by which the judges are to hold their places: this chiefly concerns [1] their duration in office, [II] the provisions for their support, [III] the precaution for their responsibility.”  The remainder of the essay covers the case for [I] their duration in office. {Article III, Section 1.}

β 6. “The standard of good behavior…is certainly one of the most valuable of the modern improvements in the practice of government.”  It helps the judiciary to resist “legislative encroachment.” β 7-β 17 makes the case for “permanent tenure” to resist the encroachment of the legislature.

β 7. The judiciary “will always be the least dangerous to the political rights of the Constitution….It may truly be said to have neither FORCE nor WILL but merely judgment.”

β 8.  The judiciary is “the weakest of the three departments of power,” and its “natural feebleness” needs fortification.  

β 9.  “The complete independence of the courts of justice is peculiarly essential in a limited Constitution.  By a limited Constitution, I understand one which contains certain specified exceptions to the legislative authority.”  It is the “duty” of the courts, “to declare all acts contrary to the manifest tenor of the constitution void.”  

β 10.  The opposition thinks that this “doctrine would imply a superiority of the judiciary to the legislative power.”  

β 11.  But “every act of a delegated authority, contrary to the tenor of the commission under which it is exercised, is void.”

β 12.  The courts are an “intermediate body between the people and the legislature” to keep the latter within their proper sphere. The legislature cannot be “the constitutional judges of their own powers.” The Constitution is the fundamental law and it belongs to the courts to “ascertain its meaning” and to secure “the intention of the people” over “the intention of their agents” whenever there is “an irreconcilable variance between the two.”  “The interpretation of the laws is the proper and peculiar province of the courts.” Since the Constitution is the “fundamental law,” it therefore belongs to the Supreme Courts “to ascertain its meaning.” 

β 13.  This does not “suppose a superiority of the judicial to the legislative power.”

β 14.  “In determining between two contradictory laws…it is the province of the courts to liquidate and fix their meaning and operation.  So far as they can, by any fair construction” they ought to “be reconciled to each other.” When “impracticable, it becomes a matter of necessity to give effect to one in exclusion of the other.”

β 15.  “Whenever a particular statute contravenes the Constitution, it will be the duty of the judicial tribunals to adhere to the latter and disregard the former.”

β 16.  “It can be of no weight to say that the courts, on the pretense of a repugnancy, may substitute their own pleasure for the constitutional intentions of the legislature…. The courts must declare the sense of the law,” and not “be disposed to exercise WILL instead of JUDGMENT.”

β 17. “The permanent tenure of judicial offices” is critical if the courts are to be “the bulwarks of a limited Constitution against legislative encroachments.”

β 18. “Permanent tenure” can help to resist the “ill humors” that may momentarily “lay hold” of the people to violate the Constitution.  “As faithful guardians of the Constitution,” the courts must restore the norm of “more deliberate reflection.”

β 19. “Permanent tenure” can also help to resist legislative efforts to injure “the private rights of particular classes of citizens, by unjust and partial laws.”

β 20. “Permanent tenure” is needed so that courts provide “inflexible adherence to the rights of the Constitution, and of individuals.”

β 21. “Permanent tenure” is needed to attract individuals with the “requisite integrity,” and the “requisite knowledge” to handle the “variety of controversies which grow out of the folly and wickedness of mankind.”  But “to avoid an arbitrary discretion in the courts, it is indispensable that they should be bound down by strict rules and precedents which serve to define and point out their duty in every particular case that comes before them.”

β 22. “Good behavior” for justices has the added benefit of securing “good government.”

To read the entire essay, click here.

Federalist 79

This is the second of five essays written by Hamilton on the Judiciary.  This essay continues A) 2nd.  “As to tenure by which the judges are to hold their places,” and covers: “[II] the provisions for their support,” and [III] the precaution for their responsibility.” {Article III, Section 1.}

With respect to [II] we should remember “that in the general course of human nature, a power over a man’s subsistence amounts to a power over his will.” A “fixed provision for their support” enhances judicial independence. And to be impeached “for malconduct” is the constitutional “precaution” for securing “their responsibility.” He rejects the call for a mandatory retirement age. 

To read the entire essay, click here.

Federalist 80

This is the third of five essays written by Hamilton on the Judiciary.  He turns to B) “the proper extent of the federal judiciary.”  He examines, first, the five “proper objects” of the judicial authority. He then turns to an examination of the cases and controversies covered by the judicial power {Article III, section 2} and especially it extension “to all cases, in law and equity, a) arising under the (sic) Constitution and b) the laws of the United States.”  As a “sample” of a), as distinguished from b), Hamilton includes “all the restrictions upon the authority of the State legislatures.” {See Article I, Section 9.} Thus the federal courts ought to “overrule” state laws that are “in manifest contradiction of the articles of Union.”  What are “equity causes” that “can grow out” of a) and b)?  “There is hardly a subject of litigation,” that does not involve “fraud, accident, trust, or hardship.” And if “inconveniences” should emerge in the implementation of the various judicial powers, “the national legislature will have ample authority to make such exceptions and to prescribe such regulations as will be calculated to obviate or remove these inconveniences.”  

To read the entire essay, click here.

Federalist 81

This is the fourth of five essays written by Hamilton on the Judiciary.  In Federalist 78, we learned that three A) “objects” to the coverage of the judiciary. Here, he turns to A) 3rd. “The partition of the judicial authority between different courts and their relations to each other.” {Article III, Sections 1 and 2.} 

He examines the claim that the Supreme Court will become the supreme branch because it has the power “to construe the laws according to the spirit of the Constitution.” There is “not a syllable in the plan under consideration, which directly empowers the national courts to construe the laws according to the spirit of the constitution.”  It is true, however, that “the general theory of a limited Constitution” requires the courts to over turn a law in “evident opposition” to the Constitution.  But it is a “phantom” to expect judicial supremacy: judicial “misconstructions and contraventions of the will of the legislature may now and then happen, but they can never be so extensive as to amount to an inconvenience, or in any sensible degree to affect the order of the political system.” A second “phantom” is that the Congressional power to constitute “inferior courts” is intended to abolish state and local courts. And there is a third “phantom,” that the clause, “the Supreme court shall have appellate jurisdiction, both as to law and fact, with such exceptions, and under such regulations, as the Congress shall make,” is not an attempt to abolish the trial by jury at the state level.  Hamilton observes that the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court “is confined to two classes of cases.”  

To read the entire essay, click here.

Federalist 82

This is the last of five essays written by Hamilton on the Judiciary. He continues A) 3rd. “The partition of the judicial authority between different courts and their relations to each other.” Here, he discusses exclusive and concurrent jurisdictions between the general and state governments and invites the reader to consult Federalist 32.  In the process, he reiterates Madison’s remarks about “liquidation” in Federalist 37: It’s “time only that can mature and perfect so compound a system, can liquidate the meaning of all the parts, and can adjust them to each other in a harmonious and consistent WHOLE.”  

To read the entire essay, click here.

Federalist 83-84: Five Miscellaneous Republican Issues

Federalist 83

1) Hamilton discusses the objection that “has met with most success”:  “the want of a constitutional provision for the trial by jury in civil cases.”  This is the longest essay in The Federalist and the last of six essays in The Federalist that identify specific authors of Antifederalist writings.  Here, it is the “absolutely senseless” Report of the Pennsylvania Minority and the propositions of the Massachusetts Convention on trial by jury.  

The issue turns on how to interpret silence.  The Constitution provides for “the trial by jury in criminal cases,” but “is silent in respect to civil.” It is “absurd,” says Hamilton, to interpret “this silence” as “an implied prohibition of trial by jury in regard to the latter.”  There is a “material diversity” from state to state concerning trial by jury in civil cases for “the plan of the convention” to have imposed one uniform standard on all the states. Besides, the opposition grossly exaggerates “the inseparable connection between the existence of liberty and the trial by jury in civil cases.”  

To read the entire essay, click here.

Federalist 84

This second longest essay in The Federalist contains twenty-four paragraphs. Hamilton begins with a discussion of 2) “the most considerable” of the “remaining objections”:  “the plan of the convention contains no bill of rights.” This is contained in β 1- β 12.  He then turns in β 13-β 15 to 3) the location of the seat of government. An “extraordinary” objection is 4) “the want of some provision respecting the debts due to the United States.” This is covered in β 16. He turns, finally, in β 17- β 24, to the claim that 5) “the adoption of the proposed government would occasion a considerable increase of expense.”  

β 1, 2. “The most considerable of these remaining objections is that 2) the plan of the convention contains no bill of rights.” True, New York doesn’t have a “prefixed” bill of rights, but the opposition claim that the New York Constitution contains the “substance” of a bill of rights “in the body of it” and “adopts” the British “common and statute law.”  

β 3. “The Constitution proposed by the convention contains…a number of such provisions.” 

β 4.  He lists eight rights located “in the body” of the U. S.  Constitution: a) The post impeachment-conviction provision of Article I, Section 3; b) four rights from Article I, Section 9—the privilege of habeas corpus, no bill of attainder, no ex-post facto laws, and “no title of nobility;”–and c) three rights from Article III, Sections 2–the provision for trial by jury in criminal cases and the two parts of the treason clause. 

β 5. These are “of equal importance with any which are to be listed found in the constitution of this State.”  Blackstone, for example, thinks “the habeas corpus act” is “the BULWARK of the British Constitution.”

β 6. The prohibition on titles of nobility “may truly be denominated the cornerstone of republican government.”

β 7. The claim that the New York Constitution “adopts, in their full extent, the common and statute law of Great Britain” is simply false.  “They are expressly made subject ‘to such alterations and provisions as the legislature shall from time to time make concerning the same.’”

β 8.  “Bills of Rights are, in their origin, stipulations between kings and their subjects.” The “We the people” clause in the Preamble to the Constitution “is a better recognition of popular rights than volumes of those aphorisms which make the principle figure in several of our State bills of rights and which would sound much better in a treatise of ethics than in a constitution of government.” 

β 9, 10. “Bills of Rights…are not only unnecessary in the proposed Constitution but would even be dangerous.”  

β 11. A declaration protecting liberty of the press is “impracticable.”  We must seek its security “on public opinion, and on the general spirit of the government.” 

β 12. “The Constitution is itself, in every rational sense, and to every useful purpose, A BILL OF RIGHTS.” It meets two vital objects of a bill of rights: it 1) declares and specifies “the political privileges of the citizens in the structure and administration of the government,” and 2) defines “certain immunities and modes of proceeding, which are relative to personal and private concerns.”

β 13-15.  Hamilton answers objection 3) that the citizens will lack the “proper knowledge” to judge the conduct of a government so far removed from the people. This will be “overbalanced by the effects of the vigilance of the State governments” on the conduct of  “persons employed in every department of the national administration.”  Moreover, “the public papers will be expeditious messengers of intelligence to the most remote inhabitants of the Union.”

β 16. An “extraordinary” objection is 4) “the want of some provision respecting the debts due to the United States.” This, says Hamilton, is simply “inflammatory.”

β 17- β 24.  He turns, finally, to the claim that 5) “the adoption of the proposed government would occasion a considerable increase of expense.” But look what we gain from the increase:  a new and improved system of government; “it is certain that a government less expensive would be incompetent to the purposes of the Union.”  One observer suggests that “the dreaded augmentation of expense” will spring from “the multiplication of offices under the new government.” This is ridiculous since there are few new offices.  True, the judges will be an added expense, but this will be of no “material consequence.” And this will “counterbalance” the decline in the expenses of a) Congress since “a great part” of their business “will be transacted by the President,” and b) the State legislatures since “the Congress under the proposed government will do all the business of United States themselves, without the interference of the State legislatures.”  But won’t there be an increase in the expense of running the House with an augmentation in the number of representatives? “No.” Currently, there are “sixty-five persons, and probably at no future period by above a fourth or a fifth of that number.”   

To read the entire essay, click here.

Part VII 

Federalist 85: Analogy to State Governments and Added Security to Republicanism

Hamilton informs his readers that “that there would appear still to remain for discussion two points {outlined in Federalist 1}: ‘the analogy of the proposed government to your own State constitution.’ And ‘the additional security which its adoption will afford to republican government, to liberty, and to property.’`’ These topics have been “exhausted” in previous essays. “I never expect to see a perfect work from imperfect man.” Surely the plan of the convention is more perfect than what we have under the Articles? Let’s not call for another convention.  Furthermore, isn’t it better to “obtain subsequent amendments than previous amendments to the Constitution?”  Remember, “seven out of the thirteen States” have already ratified the plan of the convention.  

To read the entire essay, click here.