Federalist Papers No. 35 – 51

 

FEDERALIST No. 35

The Same Subject Continued
(Concerning the General Power of Taxation)
For the Independent Journal.

HAMILTON

To the People of the State of New York:
BEFORE we proceed to examine any other objections to an
indefinite power of taxation in the Union, I shall make one general
remark; which is, that if the jurisdiction of the national
government, in the article of revenue, should be restricted to
particular objects, it would naturally occasion an undue proportion
of the public burdens to fall upon those objects. Two evils would
spring from this source: the oppression of particular branches of
industry; and an unequal distribution of the taxes, as well among
the several States as among the citizens of the same State.
Suppose, as has been contended for, the federal power of
taxation were to be confined to duties on imports, it is evident
that the government, for want of being able to command other
resources, would frequently be tempted to extend these duties to an
injurious excess. There are persons who imagine that they can never
be carried to too great a length; since the higher they are, the
more it is alleged they will tend to discourage an extravagant
consumption, to produce a favorable balance of trade, and to promote
domestic manufactures. But all extremes are pernicious in various
ways. Exorbitant duties on imported articles would beget a general
spirit of smuggling; which is always prejudicial to the fair
trader, and eventually to the revenue itself: they tend to render
other classes of the community tributary, in an improper degree, to
the manufacturing classes, to whom they give a premature monopoly of
the markets; they sometimes force industry out of its more natural
channels into others in which it flows with less advantage; and in
the last place, they oppress the merchant, who is often obliged to
pay them himself without any retribution from the consumer. When
the demand is equal to the quantity of goods at market, the consumer
generally pays the duty; but when the markets happen to be
overstocked, a great proportion falls upon the merchant, and
sometimes not only exhausts his profits, but breaks in upon his
capital. I am apt to think that a division of the duty, between the
seller and the buyer, more often happens than is commonly imagined.
It is not always possible to raise the price of a commodity in
exact proportion to every additional imposition laid upon it. The
merchant, especially in a country of small commercial capital, is
often under a necessity of keeping prices down in order to a more
expeditious sale.
The maxim that the consumer is the payer, is so much oftener
true than the reverse of the proposition, that it is far more
equitable that the duties on imports should go into a common stock,
than that they should redound to the exclusive benefit of the
importing States. But it is not so generally true as to render it
equitable, that those duties should form the only national fund.
When they are paid by the merchant they operate as an additional
tax upon the importing State, whose citizens pay their proportion of
them in the character of consumers. In this view they are
productive of inequality among the States; which inequality would
be increased with the increased extent of the duties. The
confinement of the national revenues to this species of imposts
would be attended with inequality, from a different cause, between
the manufacturing and the non-manufacturing States. The States
which can go farthest towards the supply of their own wants, by
their own manufactures, will not, according to their numbers or
wealth, consume so great a proportion of imported articles as those
States which are not in the same favorable situation. They would
not, therefore, in this mode alone contribute to the public treasury
in a ratio to their abilities. To make them do this it is necessary
that recourse be had to excises, the proper objects of which are
particular kinds of manufactures. New York is more deeply
interested in these considerations than such of her citizens as
contend for limiting the power of the Union to external taxation may
be aware of. New York is an importing State, and is not likely
speedily to be, to any great extent, a manufacturing State. She
would, of course, suffer in a double light from restraining the
jurisdiction of the Union to commercial imposts.
So far as these observations tend to inculcate a danger of the
import duties being extended to an injurious extreme it may be
observed, conformably to a remark made in another part of these
papers, that the interest of the revenue itself would be a
sufficient guard against such an extreme. I readily admit that this
would be the case, as long as other resources were open; but if the
avenues to them were closed, HOPE, stimulated by necessity, would
beget experiments, fortified by rigorous precautions and additional
penalties, which, for a time, would have the intended effect, till
there had been leisure to contrive expedients to elude these new
precautions. The first success would be apt to inspire false
opinions, which it might require a long course of subsequent
experience to correct. Necessity, especially in politics, often
occasions false hopes, false reasonings, and a system of measures
correspondingly erroneous. But even if this supposed excess should
not be a consequence of the limitation of the federal power of
taxation, the inequalities spoken of would still ensue, though not
in the same degree, from the other causes that have been noticed.
Let us now return to the examination of objections.
One which, if we may judge from the frequency of its repetition,
seems most to be relied on, is, that the House of Representatives is
not sufficiently numerous for the reception of all the different
classes of citizens, in order to combine the interests and feelings
of every part of the community, and to produce a due sympathy
between the representative body and its constituents. This argument
presents itself under a very specious and seducing form; and is
well calculated to lay hold of the prejudices of those to whom it is
addressed. But when we come to dissect it with attention, it will
appear to be made up of nothing but fair-sounding words. The object
it seems to aim at is, in the first place, impracticable, and in the
sense in which it is contended for, is unnecessary. I reserve for
another place the discussion of the question which relates to the
sufficiency of the representative body in respect to numbers, and
shall content myself with examining here the particular use which
has been made of a contrary supposition, in reference to the
immediate subject of our inquiries.
The idea of an actual representation of all classes of the
people, by persons of each class, is altogether visionary. Unless
it were expressly provided in the Constitution, that each different
occupation should send one or more members, the thing would never
take place in practice. Mechanics and manufacturers will always be
inclined, with few exceptions, to give their votes to merchants, in
preference to persons of their own professions or trades. Those
discerning citizens are well aware that the mechanic and
manufacturing arts furnish the materials of mercantile enterprise
and industry. Many of them, indeed, are immediately connected with
the operations of commerce. They know that the merchant is their
natural patron and friend; and they are aware, that however great
the confidence they may justly feel in their own good sense, their
interests can be more effectually promoted by the merchant than by
themselves. They are sensible that their habits in life have not
been such as to give them those acquired endowments, without which,
in a deliberative assembly, the greatest natural abilities are for
the most part useless; and that the influence and weight, and
superior acquirements of the merchants render them more equal to a
contest with any spirit which might happen to infuse itself into the
public councils, unfriendly to the manufacturing and trading
interests. These considerations, and many others that might be
mentioned prove, and experience confirms it, that artisans and
manufacturers will commonly be disposed to bestow their votes upon
merchants and those whom they recommend. We must therefore consider
merchants as the natural representatives of all these classes of the
community.
With regard to the learned professions, little need be observed;
they truly form no distinct interest in society, and according to
their situation and talents, will be indiscriminately the objects of
the confidence and choice of each other, and of other parts of the
community.
Nothing remains but the landed interest; and this, in a
political view, and particularly in relation to taxes, I take to be
perfectly united, from the wealthiest landlord down to the poorest
tenant. No tax can be laid on land which will not affect the
proprietor of millions of acres as well as the proprietor of a
single acre. Every landholder will therefore have a common interest
to keep the taxes on land as low as possible; and common interest
may always be reckoned upon as the surest bond of sympathy. But if
we even could suppose a distinction of interest between the opulent
landholder and the middling farmer, what reason is there to
conclude, that the first would stand a better chance of being
deputed to the national legislature than the last? If we take fact
as our guide, and look into our own senate and assembly, we shall
find that moderate proprietors of land prevail in both; nor is this
less the case in the senate, which consists of a smaller number,
than in the assembly, which is composed of a greater number. Where
the qualifications of the electors are the same, whether they have
to choose a small or a large number, their votes will fall upon
those in whom they have most confidence; whether these happen to be
men of large fortunes, or of moderate property, or of no property at
all.
It is said to be necessary, that all classes of citizens should
have some of their own number in the representative body, in order
that their feelings and interests may be the better understood and
attended to. But we have seen that this will never happen under any
arrangement that leaves the votes of the people free. Where this is
the case, the representative body, with too few exceptions to have
any influence on the spirit of the government, will be composed of
landholders, merchants, and men of the learned professions. But
where is the danger that the interests and feelings of the different
classes of citizens will not be understood or attended to by these
three descriptions of men? Will not the landholder know and feel
whatever will promote or insure the interest of landed property?
And will he not, from his own interest in that species of property,
be sufficiently prone to resist every attempt to prejudice or
encumber it? Will not the merchant understand and be disposed to
cultivate, as far as may be proper, the interests of the mechanic
and manufacturing arts, to which his commerce is so nearly allied?
Will not the man of the learned profession, who will feel a
neutrality to the rivalships between the different branches of
industry, be likely to prove an impartial arbiter between them,
ready to promote either, so far as it shall appear to him conducive
to the general interests of the society?
If we take into the account the momentary humors or dispositions
which may happen to prevail in particular parts of the society, and
to which a wise administration will never be inattentive, is the man
whose situation leads to extensive inquiry and information less
likely to be a competent judge of their nature, extent, and
foundation than one whose observation does not travel beyond the
circle of his neighbors and acquaintances? Is it not natural that a
man who is a candidate for the favor of the people, and who is
dependent on the suffrages of his fellow-citizens for the
continuance of his public honors, should take care to inform himself
of their dispositions and inclinations, and should be willing to
allow them their proper degree of influence upon his conduct? This
dependence, and the necessity of being bound himself, and his
posterity, by the laws to which he gives his assent, are the true,
and they are the strong chords of sympathy between the
representative and the constituent.
There is no part of the administration of government that
requires extensive information and a thorough knowledge of the
principles of political economy, so much as the business of taxation.
The man who understands those principles best will be least likely
to resort to oppressive expedients, or sacrifice any particular
class of citizens to the procurement of revenue. It might be
demonstrated that the most productive system of finance will always
be the least burdensome. There can be no doubt that in order to a
judicious exercise of the power of taxation, it is necessary that
the person in whose hands it should be acquainted with the general
genius, habits, and modes of thinking of the people at large, and
with the resources of the country. And this is all that can be
reasonably meant by a knowledge of the interests and feelings of the
people. In any other sense the proposition has either no meaning,
or an absurd one. And in that sense let every considerate citizen
judge for himself where the requisite qualification is most likely
to be found.
PUBLIUS.

FEDERALIST No. 36

The Same Subject Continued
(Concerning the General Power of Taxation)
From the New York Packet.
Tuesday January 8, 1788.

HAMILTON

To the People of the State of New York:
WE HAVE seen that the result of the observations, to which the
foregoing number has been principally devoted, is, that from the
natural operation of the different interests and views of the
various classes of the community, whether the representation of the
people be more or less numerous, it will consist almost entirely of
proprietors of land, of merchants, and of members of the learned
professions, who will truly represent all those different interests
and views. If it should be objected that we have seen other
descriptions of men in the local legislatures, I answer that it is
admitted there are exceptions to the rule, but not in sufficient
number to influence the general complexion or character of the
government. There are strong minds in every walk of life that will
rise superior to the disadvantages of situation, and will command
the tribute due to their merit, not only from the classes to which
they particularly belong, but from the society in general. The door
ought to be equally open to all; and I trust, for the credit of
human nature, that we shall see examples of such vigorous plants
flourishing in the soil of federal as well as of State legislation;
but occasional instances of this sort will not render the reasoning
founded upon the general course of things, less conclusive.
The subject might be placed in several other lights that would
all lead to the same result; and in particular it might be asked,
What greater affinity or relation of interest can be conceived
between the carpenter and blacksmith, and the linen manufacturer or
stocking weaver, than between the merchant and either of them? It
is notorious that there are often as great rivalships between
different branches of the mechanic or manufacturing arts as there
are between any of the departments of labor and industry; so that,
unless the representative body were to be far more numerous than
would be consistent with any idea of regularity or wisdom in its
deliberations, it is impossible that what seems to be the spirit of
the objection we have been considering should ever be realized in
practice. But I forbear to dwell any longer on a matter which has
hitherto worn too loose a garb to admit even of an accurate
inspection of its real shape or tendency.
There is another objection of a somewhat more precise nature
that claims our attention. It has been asserted that a power of
internal taxation in the national legislature could never be
exercised with advantage, as well from the want of a sufficient
knowledge of local circumstances, as from an interference between
the revenue laws of the Union and of the particular States. The
supposition of a want of proper knowledge seems to be entirely
destitute of foundation. If any question is depending in a State
legislature respecting one of the counties, which demands a
knowledge of local details, how is it acquired? No doubt from the
information of the members of the county. Cannot the like knowledge
be obtained in the national legislature from the representatives of
each State? And is it not to be presumed that the men who will
generally be sent there will be possessed of the necessary degree of
intelligence to be able to communicate that information? Is the
knowledge of local circumstances, as applied to taxation, a minute
topographical acquaintance with all the mountains, rivers, streams,
highways, and bypaths in each State; or is it a general
acquaintance with its situation and resources, with the state of its
agriculture, commerce, manufactures, with the nature of its products
and consumptions, with the different degrees and kinds of its
wealth, property, and industry?
Nations in general, even under governments of the more popular
kind, usually commit the administration of their finances to single
men or to boards composed of a few individuals, who digest and
prepare, in the first instance, the plans of taxation, which are
afterwards passed into laws by the authority of the sovereign or
legislature.
Inquisitive and enlightened statesmen are deemed everywhere best
qualified to make a judicious selection of the objects proper for
revenue; which is a clear indication, as far as the sense of
mankind can have weight in the question, of the species of knowledge
of local circumstances requisite to the purposes of taxation.
The taxes intended to be comprised under the general
denomination of internal taxes may be subdivided into those of the
DIRECT and those of the INDIRECT kind. Though the objection be made
to both, yet the reasoning upon it seems to be confined to the
former branch. And indeed, as to the latter, by which must be
understood duties and excises on articles of consumption, one is at
a loss to conceive what can be the nature of the difficulties
apprehended. The knowledge relating to them must evidently be of a
kind that will either be suggested by the nature of the article
itself, or can easily be procured from any well-informed man,
especially of the mercantile class. The circumstances that may
distinguish its situation in one State from its situation in another
must be few, simple, and easy to be comprehended. The principal
thing to be attended to, would be to avoid those articles which had
been previously appropriated to the use of a particular State; and
there could be no difficulty in ascertaining the revenue system of
each. This could always be known from the respective codes of laws,
as well as from the information of the members from the several
States.
The objection, when applied to real property or to houses and
lands, appears to have, at first sight, more foundation, but even in
this view it will not bear a close examination. Land taxes are co
monly laid in one of two modes, either by ACTUAL valuations,
permanent or periodical, or by OCCASIONAL assessments, at the
discretion, or according to the best judgment, of certain officers
whose duty it is to make them. In either case, the EXECUTION of the
business, which alone requires the knowledge of local details, must
be devolved upon discreet persons in the character of commissioners
or assessors, elected by the people or appointed by the government
for the purpose. All that the law can do must be to name the
persons or to prescribe the manner of their election or appointment,
to fix their numbers and qualifications and to draw the general
outlines of their powers and duties. And what is there in all this
that cannot as well be performed by the national legislature as by a
State legislature? The attention of either can only reach to
general principles; local details, as already observed, must be
referred to those who are to execute the plan.
But there is a simple point of view in which this matter may be
placed that must be altogether satisfactory. The national
legislature can make use of the SYSTEM OF EACH STATE WITHIN THAT
STATE. The method of laying and collecting this species of taxes in
each State can, in all its parts, be adopted and employed by the
federal government.
Let it be recollected that the proportion of these taxes is not
to be left to the discretion of the national legislature, but is to
be determined by the numbers of each State, as described in the
second section of the first article. An actual census or
enumeration of the people must furnish the rule, a circumstance
which effectually shuts the door to partiality or oppression. The
abuse of this power of taxation seems to have been provided against
with guarded circumspection. In addition to the precaution just
mentioned, there is a provision that “all duties, imposts, and
excises shall be UNIFORM throughout the United States.”
It has been very properly observed by different speakers and
writers on the side of the Constitution, that if the exercise of the
power of internal taxation by the Union should be discovered on
experiment to be really inconvenient, the federal government may
then forbear the use of it, and have recourse to requisitions in its
stead. By way of answer to this, it has been triumphantly asked,
Why not in the first instance omit that ambiguous power, and rely
upon the latter resource? Two solid answers may be given. The
first is, that the exercise of that power, if convenient, will be
preferable, because it will be more effectual; and it is impossible
to prove in theory, or otherwise than by the experiment, that it
cannot be advantageously exercised. The contrary, indeed, appears
most probable. The second answer is, that the existence of such a
power in the Constitution will have a strong influence in giving
efficacy to requisitions. When the States know that the Union can
apply itself without their agency, it will be a powerful motive for
exertion on their part.
As to the interference of the revenue laws of the Union, and of
its members, we have already seen that there can be no clashing or
repugnancy of authority. The laws cannot, therefore, in a legal
sense, interfere with each other; and it is far from impossible to
avoid an interference even in the policy of their different systems.
An effectual expedient for this purpose will be, mutually, to
abstain from those objects which either side may have first had
recourse to. As neither can CONTROL the other, each will have an
obvious and sensible interest in this reciprocal forbearance. And
where there is an IMMEDIATE common interest, we may safely count
upon its operation. When the particular debts of the States are
done away, and their expenses come to be limited within their
natural compass, the possibility almost of interference will vanish.
A small land tax will answer the purpose of the States, and will be
their most simple and most fit resource.
Many spectres have been raised out of this power of internal
taxation, to excite the apprehensions of the people: double sets of
revenue officers, a duplication of their burdens by double
taxations, and the frightful forms of odious and oppressive
poll-taxes, have been played off with all the ingenious dexterity of
political legerdemain.
As to the first point, there are two cases in which there can be
no room for double sets of officers: one, where the right of
imposing the tax is exclusively vested in the Union, which applies
to the duties on imports; the other, where the object has not
fallen under any State regulation or provision, which may be
applicable to a variety of objects. In other cases, the probability
is that the United States will either wholly abstain from the
objects preoccupied for local purposes, or will make use of the
State officers and State regulations for collecting the additional
imposition. This will best answer the views of revenue, because it
will save expense in the collection, and will best avoid any
occasion of disgust to the State governments and to the people. At
all events, here is a practicable expedient for avoiding such an
inconvenience; and nothing more can be required than to show that
evils predicted to not necessarily result from the plan.
As to any argument derived from a supposed system of influence,
it is a sufficient answer to say that it ought not to be presumed;
but the supposition is susceptible of a more precise answer. If
such a spirit should infest the councils of the Union, the most
certain road to the accomplishment of its aim would be to employ the
State officers as much as possible, and to attach them to the Union
by an accumulation of their emoluments. This would serve to turn
the tide of State influence into the channels of the national
government, instead of making federal influence flow in an opposite
and adverse current. But all suppositions of this kind are
invidious, and ought to be banished from the consideration of the
great question before the people. They can answer no other end than
to cast a mist over the truth.
As to the suggestion of double taxation, the answer is plain.
The wants of the Union are to be supplied in one way or another;
if to be done by the authority of the federal government, it will
not be to be done by that of the State government. The quantity of
taxes to be paid by the community must be the same in either case;
with this advantage, if the provision is to be made by the
Union that the capital resource of commercial imposts, which is the
most convenient branch of revenue, can be prudently improved to a
much greater extent under federal than under State regulation, and
of course will render it less necessary to recur to more
inconvenient methods; and with this further advantage, that as far
as there may be any real difficulty in the exercise of the power of
internal taxation, it will impose a disposition to greater care in
the choice and arrangement of the means; and must naturally tend to
make it a fixed point of policy in the national administration to go
as far as may be practicable in making the luxury of the rich
tributary to the public treasury, in order to diminish the necessity
of those impositions which might create dissatisfaction in the
poorer and most numerous classes of the society. Happy it is when
the interest which the government has in the preservation of its own
power, coincides with a proper distribution of the public burdens,
and tends to guard the least wealthy part of the community from
oppression!
As to poll taxes, I, without scruple, confess my disapprobation
of them; and though they have prevailed from an early period in
those States [1] which have uniformly been the most tenacious of
their rights, I should lament to see them introduced into practice
under the national government. But does it follow because there is
a power to lay them that they will actually be laid? Every State in
the Union has power to impose taxes of this kind; and yet in
several of them they are unknown in practice. Are the State
governments to be stigmatized as tyrannies, because they possess
this power? If they are not, with what propriety can the like power
justify such a charge against the national government, or even be
urged as an obstacle to its adoption? As little friendly as I am to
the species of imposition, I still feel a thorough conviction that
the power of having recourse to it ought to exist in the federal
government. There are certain emergencies of nations, in which
expedients, that in the ordinary state of things ought to be
forborne, become essential to the public weal. And the government,
from the possibility of such emergencies, ought ever to have the
option of making use of them. The real scarcity of objects in this
country, which may be considered as productive sources of revenue,
is a reason peculiar to itself, for not abridging the discretion of
the national councils in this respect. There may exist certain
critical and tempestuous conjunctures of the State, in which a poll
tax may become an inestimable resource. And as I know nothing to
exempt this portion of the globe from the common calamities that
have befallen other parts of it, I acknowledge my aversion to every
project that is calculated to disarm the government of a single
weapon, which in any possible contingency might be usefully employed
for the general defense and security.
I have now gone through the examination of such of the powers
proposed to be vested in the United States, which may be considered
as having an immediate relation to the energy of the government;
and have endeavored to answer the principal objections which have
been made to them. I have passed over in silence those minor
authorities, which are either too inconsiderable to have been
thought worthy of the hostilities of the opponents of the
Constitution, or of too manifest propriety to admit of controversy.
The mass of judiciary power, however, might have claimed an
investigation under this head, had it not been for the consideration
that its organization and its extent may be more advantageously
considered in connection. This has determined me to refer it to the
branch of our inquiries upon which we shall next enter.
PUBLIUS.
FNA1-@1 The New England States.

FEDERALIST No. 37

Concerning the Difficulties of the Convention in Devising a Proper
Form of Government
From the Daily Advertiser.
Friday, January 11, 1788.

MADISON

To the People of the State of New York:
IN REVIEWING the defects of the existing Confederation, and
showing that they cannot be supplied by a government of less energy
than that before the public, several of the most important
principles of the latter fell of course under consideration. But as
the ultimate object of these papers is to determine clearly and
fully the merits of this Constitution, and the expediency of
adopting it, our plan cannot be complete without taking a more
critical and thorough survey of the work of the convention, without
examining it on all its sides, comparing it in all its parts, and
calculating its probable effects.
That this remaining task may be executed under impressions
conducive to a just and fair result, some reflections must in this
place be indulged, which candor previously suggests.
It is a misfortune, inseparable from human affairs, that public
measures are rarely investigated with that spirit of moderation
which is essential to a just estimate of their real tendency to
advance or obstruct the public good; and that this spirit is more
apt to be diminished than promoted, by those occasions which require
an unusual exercise of it. To those who have been led by experience
to attend to this consideration, it could not appear surprising,
that the act of the convention, which recommends so many important
changes and innovations, which may be viewed in so many lights and
relations, and which touches the springs of so many passions and
interests, should find or excite dispositions unfriendly, both on
one side and on the other, to a fair discussion and accurate
judgment of its merits. In some, it has been too evident from their
own publications, that they have scanned the proposed Constitution,
not only with a predisposition to censure, but with a
predetermination to condemn; as the language held by others betrays
an opposite predetermination or bias, which must render their
opinions also of little moment in the question. In placing,
however, these different characters on a level, with respect to the
weight of their opinions, I wish not to insinuate that there may not
be a material difference in the purity of their intentions. It is
but just to remark in favor of the latter description, that as our
situation is universally admitted to be peculiarly critical, and to
require indispensably that something should be done for our relief,
the predetermined patron of what has been actually done may have
taken his bias from the weight of these considerations, as well as
from considerations of a sinister nature. The predetermined
adversary, on the other hand, can have been governed by no venial
motive whatever. The intentions of the first may be upright, as
they may on the contrary be culpable. The views of the last cannot
be upright, and must be culpable. But the truth is, that these
papers are not addressed to persons falling under either of these
characters. They solicit the attention of those only, who add to a
sincere zeal for the happiness of their country, a temper favorable
to a just estimate of the means of promoting it.
Persons of this character will proceed to an examination of the
plan submitted by the convention, not only without a disposition to
find or to magnify faults; but will see the propriety of
reflecting, that a faultless plan was not to be expected. Nor will
they barely make allowances for the errors which may be chargeable
on the fallibility to which the convention, as a body of men, were
liable; but will keep in mind, that they themselves also are but
men, and ought not to assume an infallibility in rejudging the
fallible opinions of others.
With equal readiness will it be perceived, that besides these
inducements to candor, many allowances ought to be made for the
difficulties inherent in the very nature of the undertaking referred
to the convention.
The novelty of the undertaking immediately strikes us. It has
been shown in the course of these papers, that the existing
Confederation is founded on principles which are fallacious; that
we must consequently change this first foundation, and with it the
superstructure resting upon it. It has been shown, that the other
confederacies which could be consulted as precedents have been
vitiated by the same erroneous principles, and can therefore furnish
no other light than that of beacons, which give warning of the
course to be shunned, without pointing out that which ought to be
pursued. The most that the convention could do in such a situation,
was to avoid the errors suggested by the past experience of other
countries, as well as of our own; and to provide a convenient mode
of rectifying their own errors, as future experiences may unfold
them.
Among the difficulties encountered by the convention, a very
important one must have lain in combining the requisite stability
and energy in government, with the inviolable attention due to
liberty and to the republican form. Without substantially
accomplishing this part of their undertaking, they would have very
imperfectly fulfilled the object of their appointment, or the
expectation of the public; yet that it could not be easily
accomplished, will be denied by no one who is unwilling to betray
his ignorance of the subject. Energy in government is essential to
that security against external and internal danger, and to that
prompt and salutary execution of the laws which enter into the very
definition of good government. Stability in government is essential
to national character and to the advantages annexed to it, as well
as to that repose and confidence in the minds of the people, which
are among the chief blessings of civil society. An irregular and
mutable legislation is not more an evil in itself than it is odious
to the people; and it may be pronounced with assurance that the
people of this country, enlightened as they are with regard to the
nature, and interested, as the great body of them are, in the
effects of good government, will never be satisfied till some remedy
be applied to the vicissitudes and uncertainties which characterize
the State administrations. On comparing, however, these valuable
ingredients with the vital principles of liberty, we must perceive
at once the difficulty of mingling them together in their due
proportions. The genius of republican liberty seems to demand on
one side, not only that all power should be derived from the people,
but that those intrusted with it should be kept in independence on
the people, by a short duration of their appointments; and that
even during this short period the trust should be placed not in a
few, but a number of hands. Stability, on the contrary, requires
that the hands in which power is lodged should continue for a length
of time the same. A frequent change of men will result from a
frequent return of elections; and a frequent change of measures
from a frequent change of men: whilst energy in government requires
not only a certain duration of power, but the execution of it by a
single hand.
How far the convention may have succeeded in this part of their
work, will better appear on a more accurate view of it. From the
cursory view here taken, it must clearly appear to have been an
arduous part.
Not less arduous must have been the task of marking the proper
line of partition between the authority of the general and that of
the State governments. Every man will be sensible of this
difficulty, in proportion as he has been accustomed to contemplate
and discriminate objects extensive and complicated in their nature.
The faculties of the mind itself have never yet been distinguished
and defined, with satisfactory precision, by all the efforts of the
most acute and metaphysical philosophers. Sense, perception,
judgment, desire, volition, memory, imagination, are found to be
separated by such delicate shades and minute gradations that their
boundaries have eluded the most subtle investigations, and remain a
pregnant source of ingenious disquisition and controversy. The
boundaries between the great kingdom of nature, and, still more,
between the various provinces, and lesser portions, into which they
are subdivided, afford another illustration of the same important
truth. The most sagacious and laborious naturalists have never yet
succeeded in tracing with certainty the line which separates the
district of vegetable life from the neighboring region of
unorganized matter, or which marks the ermination of the former and
the commencement of the animal empire. A still greater obscurity
lies in the distinctive characters by which the objects in each of
these great departments of nature have been arranged and assorted.
When we pass from the works of nature, in which all the
delineations are perfectly accurate, and appear to be otherwise only
from the imperfection of the eye which surveys them, to the
institutions of man, in which the obscurity arises as well from the
object itself as from the organ by which it is contemplated, we must
perceive the necessity of moderating still further our expectations
and hopes from the efforts of human sagacity. Experience has
instructed us that no skill in the science of government has yet
been able to discriminate and define, with sufficient certainty, its
three great provinces the legislative, executive, and judiciary; or
even the privileges and powers of the different legislative branches.
Questions daily occur in the course of practice, which prove the
obscurity which reins in these subjects, and which puzzle the
greatest adepts in political science.
The experience of ages, with the continued and combined labors
of the most enlightened legislatures and jurists, has been equally
unsuccessful in delineating the several objects and limits of
different codes of laws and different tribunals of justice. The
precise extent of the common law, and the statute law, the maritime
law, the ecclesiastical law, the law of corporations, and other
local laws and customs, remains still to be clearly and finally
established in Great Britain, where accuracy in such subjects has
been more industriously pursued than in any other part of the world.
The jurisdiction of her several courts, general and local, of law,
of equity, of admiralty, etc., is not less a source of frequent and
intricate discussions, sufficiently denoting the indeterminate
limits by which they are respectively circumscribed. All new laws,
though penned with the greatest technical skill, and passed on the
fullest and most mature deliberation, are considered as more or less
obscure and equivocal, until their meaning be liquidated and
ascertained by a series of particular discussions and adjudications.
Besides the obscurity arising from the complexity of objects, and
the imperfection of the human faculties, the medium through which
the conceptions of men are conveyed to each other adds a fresh
embarrassment. The use of words is to express ideas. Perspicuity,
therefore, requires not only that the ideas should be distinctly
formed, but that they should be expressed by words distinctly and
exclusively appropriate to them. But no language is so copious as
to supply words and phrases for every complex idea, or so correct as
not to include many equivocally denoting different ideas. Hence it
must happen that however accurately objects may be discriminated in
themselves, and however accurately the discrimination may be
considered, the definition of them may be rendered inaccurate by the
inaccuracy of the terms in which it is delivered. And this
unavoidable inaccuracy must be greater or less, according to the
complexity and novelty of the objects defined. When the Almighty
himself condescends to address mankind in their own language, his
meaning, luminous as it must be, is rendered dim and doubtful by the
cloudy medium through which it is communicated.
Here, then, are three sources of vague and incorrect
definitions: indistinctness of the object, imperfection of the
organ of conception, inadequateness of the vehicle of ideas. Any
one of these must produce a certain degree of obscurity. The
convention, in delineating the boundary between the federal and
State jurisdictions, must have experienced the full effect of them
all.
To the difficulties already mentioned may be added the
interfering pretensions of the larger and smaller States. We cannot
err in supposing that the former would contend for a participation
in the government, fully proportioned to their superior wealth and
importance; and that the latter would not be less tenacious of the
equality at present enjoyed by them. We may well suppose that
neither side would entirely yield to the other, and consequently
that the struggle could be terminated only by compromise. It is
extremely probable, also, that after the ratio of representation had
been adjusted, this very compromise must have produced a fresh
struggle between the same parties, to give such a turn to the
organization of the government, and to the distribution of its
powers, as would increase the importance of the branches, in forming
which they had respectively obtained the greatest share of influence.
There are features in the Constitution which warrant each of these
suppositions; and as far as either of them is well founded, it
shows that the convention must have been compelled to sacrifice
theoretical propriety to the force of extraneous considerations.
Nor could it have been the large and small States only, which
would marshal themselves in opposition to each other on various
points. Other combinations, resulting from a difference of local
position and policy, must have created additional difficulties. As
every State may be divided into different districts, and its
citizens into different classes, which give birth to contending
interests and local jealousies, so the different parts of the United
States are distinguished from each other by a variety of
circumstances, which produce a like effect on a larger scale. And
although this variety of interests, for reasons sufficiently
explained in a former paper, may have a salutary influence on the
administration of the government when formed, yet every one must be
sensible of the contrary influence, which must have been experienced
in the task of forming it.
Would it be wonderful if, under the pressure of all these
difficulties, the convention should have been forced into some
deviations from that artificial structure and regular symmetry which
an abstract view of the subject might lead an ingenious theorist to
bestow on a Constitution planned in his closet or in his
imagination? The real wonder is that so many difficulties should
have been surmounted, and surmounted with a unanimity almost as
unprecedented as it must have been unexpected. It is impossible for
any man of candor to reflect on this circumstance without partaking
of the astonishment. It is impossible for the man of pious
reflection not to perceive in it a finger of that Almighty hand
which has been so frequently and signally extended to our relief in
the critical stages of the revolution.
We had occasion, in a former paper, to take notice of the
repeated trials which have been unsuccessfully made in the United
Netherlands for reforming the baneful and notorious vices of their
constitution. The history of almost all the great councils and
consultations held among mankind for reconciling their discordant
opinions, assuaging their mutual jealousies, and adjusting their
respective interests, is a history of factions, contentions, and
disappointments, and may be classed among the most dark and degraded
pictures which display the infirmities and depravities of the human
character. If, in a few scattered instances, a brighter aspect is
presented, they serve only as exceptions to admonish us of the
general truth; and by their lustre to darken the gloom of the
adverse prospect to which they are contrasted. In revolving the
causes from which these exceptions result, and applying them to the
particular instances before us, we are necessarily led to two
important conclusions. The first is, that the convention must have
enjoyed, in a very singular degree, an exemption from the
pestilential influence of party animosities the disease most
incident to deliberative bodies, and most apt to contaminate their
proceedings. The second conclusion is that all the deputations
composing the convention were satisfactorily accommodated by the
final act, or were induced to accede to it by a deep conviction of
the necessity of sacrificing private opinions and partial interests
to the public good, and by a despair of seeing this necessity
diminished by delays or by new experiments.

FEDERALIST No. 38

The Same Subject Continued, and the Incoherence of the Objections
to the New Plan Exposed
From the New York Packet.
Tuesday, January 15, 1788.

MADISON

To the People of the State of New York:
IT IS not a little remarkable that in every case reported by
ancient history, in which government has been established with
deliberation and consent, the task of framing it has not been
committed to an assembly of men, but has been performed by some
individual citizen of preeminent wisdom and approved integrity.
Minos, we learn, was the primitive founder of the government of
Crete, as Zaleucus was of that of the Locrians. Theseus first, and
after him Draco and Solon, instituted the government of Athens.
Lycurgus was the lawgiver of Sparta. The foundation of the
original government of Rome was laid by Romulus, and the work
completed by two of his elective successors, Numa and Tullius
Hostilius. On the abolition of royalty the consular administration
was substituted by Brutus, who stepped forward with a project for
such a reform, which, he alleged, had been prepared by Tullius
Hostilius, and to which his address obtained the assent and
ratification of the senate and people. This remark is applicable to
confederate governments also. Amphictyon, we are told, was the
author of that which bore his name. The Achaean league received its
first birth from Achaeus, and its second from Aratus.
What degree of agency these reputed lawgivers might have in
their respective establishments, or how far they might be clothed
with the legitimate authority of the people, cannot in every
instance be ascertained. In some, however, the proceeding was
strictly regular. Draco appears to have been intrusted by the
people of Athens with indefinite powers to reform its government and
laws. And Solon, according to Plutarch, was in a manner compelled,
by the universal suffrage of his fellow-citizens, to take upon him
the sole and absolute power of new-modeling the constitution. The
proceedings under Lycurgus were less regular; but as far as the
advocates for a regular reform could prevail, they all turned their
eyes towards the single efforts of that celebrated patriot and sage,
instead of seeking to bring about a revolution by the intervention
of a deliberative body of citizens.
Whence could it have proceeded, that a people, jealous as the
Greeks were of their liberty, should so far abandon the rules of
caution as to place their destiny in the hands of a single citizen?
Whence could it have proceeded, that the Athenians, a people who
would not suffer an army to be commanded by fewer than ten generals,
and who required no other proof of danger to their liberties than
the illustrious merit of a fellow-citizen, should consider one
illustrious citizen as a more eligible depositary of the fortunes of
themselves and their posterity, than a select body of citizens, from
whose common deliberations more wisdom, as well as more safety,
might have been expected? These questions cannot be fully answered,
without supposing that the fears of discord and disunion among a
number of counsellors exceeded the apprehension of treachery or
incapacity in a single individual. History informs us, likewise, of
the difficulties with which these celebrated reformers had to
contend, as well as the expedients which they were obliged to employ
in order to carry their reforms into effect. Solon, who seems to
have indulged a more temporizing policy, confessed that he had not
given to his countrymen the government best suited to their
happiness, but most tolerable to their prejudices. And Lycurgus,
more true to his object, was under the necessity of mixing a portion
of violence with the authority of superstition, and of securing his
final success by a voluntary renunciation, first of his country, and
then of his life. If these lessons teach us, on one hand, to admire
the improvement made by America on the ancient mode of preparing and
establishing regular plans of government, they serve not less, on
the other, to admonish us of the hazards and difficulties incident
to such experiments, and of the great imprudence of unnecessarily
multiplying them.
Is it an unreasonable conjecture, that the errors which may be
contained in the plan of the convention are such as have resulted
rather from the defect of antecedent experience on this complicated
and difficult subject, than from a want of accuracy or care in the
investigation of it; and, consequently such as will not be
ascertained until an actual trial shall have pointed them out? This
conjecture is rendered probable, not only by many considerations of
a general nature, but by the particular case of the Articles of
Confederation. It is observable that among the numerous objections
and amendments suggested by the several States, when these articles
were submitted for their ratification, not one is found which
alludes to the great and radical error which on actual trial has
discovered itself. And if we except the observations which New
Jersey was led to make, rather by her local situation, than by her
peculiar foresight, it may be questioned whether a single suggestion
was of sufficient moment to justify a revision of the system. There
is abundant reason, nevertheless, to suppose that immaterial as
these objections were, they would have been adhered to with a very
dangerous inflexibility, in some States, had not a zeal for their
opinions and supposed interests been stifled by the more powerful
sentiment of selfpreservation. One State, we may remember,
persisted for several years in refusing her concurrence, although
the enemy remained the whole period at our gates, or rather in the
very bowels of our country. Nor was her pliancy in the end effected
by a less motive, than the fear of being chargeable with protracting
the public calamities, and endangering the event of the contest.
Every candid reader will make the proper reflections on these
important facts.
A patient who finds his disorder daily growing worse, and that
an efficacious remedy can no longer be delayed without extreme
danger, after coolly revolving his situation, and the characters of
different physicians, selects and calls in such of them as he judges
most capable of administering relief, and best entitled to his
confidence. The physicians attend; the case of the patient is
carefully examined; a consultation is held; they are unanimously
agreed that the symptoms are critical, but that the case, with
proper and timely relief, is so far from being desperate, that it
may be made to issue in an improvement of his constitution. They
are equally unanimous in prescribing the remedy, by which this happy
effect is to be produced. The prescription is no sooner made known,
however, than a number of persons interpose, and, without denying
the reality or danger of the disorder, assure the patient that the
prescription will be poison to his constitution, and forbid him,
under pain of certain death, to make use of it. Might not the
patient reasonably demand, before he ventured to follow this advice,
that the authors of it should at least agree among themselves on
some other remedy to be substituted? And if he found them differing
as much from one another as from his first counsellors, would he not
act prudently in trying the experiment unanimously recommended by
the latter, rather than be hearkening to those who could neither
deny the necessity of a speedy remedy, nor agree in proposing one?
Such a patient and in such a situation is America at this moment.
She has been sensible of her malady. She has obtained a regular
and unanimous advice from men of her own deliberate choice. And she
is warned by others against following this advice under pain of the
most fatal consequences. Do the monitors deny the reality of her
danger? No. Do they deny the necessity of some speedy and powerful
remedy? No. Are they agreed, are any two of them agreed, in their
objections to the remedy proposed, or in the proper one to be
substituted? Let them speak for themselves. This one tells us that
the proposed Constitution ought to be rejected, because it is not a
confederation of the States, but a government over individuals.
Another admits that it ought to be a government over individuals to
a certain extent, but by no means to the extent proposed. A third
does not object to the government over individuals, or to the extent
proposed, but to the want of a bill of rights. A fourth concurs in
the absolute necessity of a bill of rights, but contends that it
ought to be declaratory, not of the personal rights of individuals,
but of the rights reserved to the States in their political capacity.
A fifth is of opinion that a bill of rights of any sort would be
superfluous and misplaced, and that the plan would be
unexceptionable but for the fatal power of regulating the times and
places of election. An objector in a large State exclaims loudly
against the unreasonable equality of representation in the Senate.
An objector in a small State is equally loud against the dangerous
inequality in the House of Representatives. From this quarter, we
are alarmed with the amazing expense, from the number of persons who
are to administer the new government. From another quarter, and
sometimes from the same quarter, on another occasion, the cry is
that the Congress will be but a shadow of a representation, and that
the government would be far less objectionable if the number and the
expense were doubled. A patriot in a State that does not import or
export, discerns insuperable objections against the power of direct
taxation. The patriotic adversary in a State of great exports and
imports, is not less dissatisfied that the whole burden of taxes may
be thrown on consumption. This politician discovers in the
Constitution a direct and irresistible tendency to monarchy; that
is equally sure it will end in aristocracy. Another is puzzled to
say which of these shapes it will ultimately assume, but sees
clearly it must be one or other of them; whilst a fourth is not
wanting, who with no less confidence affirms that the Constitution
is so far from having a bias towards either of these dangers, that
the weight on that side will not be sufficient to keep it upright
and firm against its opposite propensities. With another class of
adversaries to the Constitution the language is that the
legislative, executive, and judiciary departments are intermixed in
such a manner as to contradict all the ideas of regular government
and all the requisite precautions in favor of liberty. Whilst this
objection circulates in vague and general expressions, there are but
a few who lend their sanction to it. Let each one come forward with
his particular explanation, and scarce any two are exactly agreed
upon the subject. In the eyes of one the junction of the Senate
with the President in the responsible function of appointing to
offices, instead of vesting this executive power in the Executive
alone, is the vicious part of the organization. To another, the
exclusion of the House of Representatives, whose numbers alone could
be a due security against corruption and partiality in the exercise
of such a power, is equally obnoxious. With another, the admission
of the President into any share of a power which ever must be a
dangerous engine in the hands of the executive magistrate, is an
unpardonable violation of the maxims of republican jealousy. No
part of the arrangement, according to some, is more inadmissible
than the trial of impeachments by the Senate, which is alternately a
member both of the legislative and executive departments, when this
power so evidently belonged to the judiciary department. “We
concur fully,” reply others, “in the objection to this part of the
plan, but we can never agree that a reference of impeachments to the
judiciary authority would be an amendment of the error. Our
principal dislike to the organization arises from the extensive
powers already lodged in that department.” Even among the zealous
patrons of a council of state the most irreconcilable variance is
discovered concerning the mode in which it ought to be constituted.
The demand of one gentleman is, that the council should consist of
a small number to be appointed by the most numerous branch of the
legislature. Another would prefer a larger number, and considers it
as a fundamental condition that the appointment should be made by
the President himself.
As it can give no umbrage to the writers against the plan of the
federal Constitution, let us suppose, that as they are the most
zealous, so they are also the most sagacious, of those who think the
late convention were unequal to the task assigned them, and that a
wiser and better plan might and ought to be substituted. Let us
further suppose that their country should concur, both in this
favorable opinion of their merits, and in their unfavorable opinion
of the convention; and should accordingly proceed to form them into
a second convention, with full powers, and for the express purpose
of revising and remoulding the work of the first. Were the
experiment to be seriously made, though it required some effort to
view it seriously even in fiction, I leave it to be decided by the
sample of opinions just exhibited, whether, with all their enmity to
their predecessors, they would, in any one point, depart so widely
from their example, as in the discord and ferment that would mark
their own deliberations; and whether the Constitution, now before
the public, would not stand as fair a chance for immortality, as
Lycurgus gave to that of Sparta, by making its change to depend on
his own return from exile and death, if it were to be immediately
adopted, and were to continue in force, not until a BETTER, but
until ANOTHER should be agreed upon by this new assembly of
lawgivers.
It is a matter both of wonder and regret, that those who raise
so many objections against the new Constitution should never call to
mind the defects of that which is to be exchanged for it. It is not
necessary that the former should be perfect; it is sufficient that
the latter is more imperfect. No man would refuse to give brass for
silver or gold, because the latter had some alloy in it. No man
would refuse to quit a shattered and tottering habitation for a firm
and commodious building, because the latter had not a porch to it,
or because some of the rooms might be a little larger or smaller, or
the ceilings a little higher or lower than his fancy would have
planned them. But waiving illustrations of this sort, is it not
manifest that most of the capital objections urged against the new
system lie with tenfold weight against the existing Confederation?
Is an indefinite power to raise money dangerous in the hands of the
federal government? The present Congress can make requisitions to
any amount they please, and the States are constitutionally bound to
furnish them; they can emit bills of credit as long as they will
pay for the paper; they can borrow, both abroad and at home, as
long as a shilling will be lent. Is an indefinite power to raise
troops dangerous? The Confederation gives to Congress that power
also; and they have already begun to make use of it. Is it
improper and unsafe to intermix the different powers of government
in the same body of men? Congress, a single body of men, are the
sole depositary of all the federal powers. Is it particularly
dangerous to give the keys of the treasury, and the command of the
army, into the same hands? The Confederation places them both in
the hands of Congress. Is a bill of rights essential to liberty?
The Confederation has no bill of rights. Is it an objection
against the new Constitution, that it empowers the Senate, with the
concurrence of the Executive, to make treaties which are to be the
laws of the land? The existing Congress, without any such control,
can make treaties which they themselves have declared, and most of
the States have recognized, to be the supreme law of the land. Is
the importation of slaves permitted by the new Constitution for
twenty years? By the old it is permitted forever.
I shall be told, that however dangerous this mixture of powers
may be in theory, it is rendered harmless by the dependence of
Congress on the State for the means of carrying them into practice;
that however large the mass of powers may be, it is in fact a
lifeless mass. Then, say I, in the first place, that the
Confederation is chargeable with the still greater folly of
declaring certain powers in the federal government to be absolutely
necessary, and at the same time rendering them absolutely nugatory;
and, in the next place, that if the Union is to continue, and no
better government be substituted, effective powers must either be
granted to, or assumed by, the existing Congress; in either of
which events, the contrast just stated will hold good. But this is
not all. Out of this lifeless mass has already grown an excrescent
power, which tends to realize all the dangers that can be
apprehended from a defective construction of the supreme government
of the Union. It is now no longer a point of speculation and hope,
that the Western territory is a mine of vast wealth to the United
States; and although it is not of such a nature as to extricate
them from their present distresses, or for some time to come, to
yield any regular supplies for the public expenses, yet must it
hereafter be able, under proper management, both to effect a gradual
discharge of the domestic debt, and to furnish, for a certain
period, liberal tributes to the federal treasury. A very large
proportion of this fund has been already surrendered by individual
States; and it may with reason be expected that the remaining
States will not persist in withholding similar proofs of their
equity and generosity. We may calculate, therefore, that a rich and
fertile country, of an area equal to the inhabited extent of the
United States, will soon become a national stock. Congress have
assumed the administration of this stock. They have begun to render
it productive. Congress have undertaken to do more: they have
proceeded to form new States, to erect temporary governments, to
appoint officers for them, and to prescribe the conditions on which
such States shall be admitted into the Confederacy. All this has
been done; and done without the least color of constitutional
authority. Yet no blame has been whispered; no alarm has been
sounded. A GREAT and INDEPENDENT fund of revenue is passing into
the hands of a SINGLE BODY of men, who can RAISE TROOPS to an
INDEFINITE NUMBER, and appropriate money to their support for an
INDEFINITE PERIOD OF TIME. And yet there are men, who have not only
been silent spectators of this prospect, but who are advocates for
the system which exhibits it; and, at the same time, urge against
the new system the objections which we have heard. Would they not
act with more consistency, in urging the establishment of the
latter, as no less necessary to guard the Union against the future
powers and resources of a body constructed like the existing
Congress, than to save it from the dangers threatened by the present
impotency of that Assembly?
I mean not, by any thing here said, to throw censure on the
measures which have been pursued by Congress. I am sensible they
could not have done otherwise. The public interest, the necessity
of the case, imposed upon them the task of overleaping their
constitutional limits. But is not the fact an alarming proof of the
danger resulting from a government which does not possess regular
powers commensurate to its objects? A dissolution or usurpation is
the dreadful dilemma to which it is continually exposed.
PUBLIUS.

FEDERALIST No. 39

The Conformity of the Plan to Republican Principles
For the Independent Journal.

MADISON

To the People of the State of New York:
THE last paper having concluded the observations which were
meant to introduce a candid survey of the plan of government
reported by the convention, we now proceed to the execution of that
part of our undertaking.
The first question that offers itself is, whether the general
form and aspect of the government be strictly republican. It is
evident that no other form would be reconcilable with the genius of
the people of America; with the fundamental principles of the
Revolution; or with that honorable determination which animates
every votary of freedom, to rest all our political experiments on
the capacity of mankind for self-government. If the plan of the
convention, therefore, be found to depart from the republican
character, its advocates must abandon it as no longer defensible.
What, then, are the distinctive characters of the republican
form? Were an answer to this question to be sought, not by
recurring to principles, but in the application of the term by
political writers, to the constitution of different States, no
satisfactory one would ever be found. Holland, in which no particle
of the supreme authority is derived from the people, has passed
almost universally under the denomination of a republic. The same
title has been bestowed on Venice, where absolute power over the
great body of the people is exercised, in the most absolute manner,
by a small body of hereditary nobles. Poland, which is a mixture of
aristocracy and of monarchy in their worst forms, has been dignified
with the same appellation. The government of England, which has one
republican branch only, combined with an hereditary aristocracy and
monarchy, has, with equal impropriety, been frequently placed on the
list of republics. These examples, which are nearly as dissimilar
to each other as to a genuine republic, show the extreme inaccuracy
with which the term has been used in political disquisitions.
If we resort for a criterion to the different principles on
which different forms of government are established, we may define a
republic to be, or at least may bestow that name on, a government
which derives all its powers directly or indirectly from the great
body of the people, and is administered by persons holding their
offices during pleasure, for a limited period, or during good
behavior. 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; otherwise a handful of
tyrannical nobles, exercising their oppressions by a delegation of
their powers, might aspire to the rank of republicans, and claim for
their government the honorable title of republic. 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; otherwise every government in the United States, as well
as every other popular government that has been or can be well
organized or well executed, would be degraded from the republican
character. According to the constitution of every State in the
Union, some or other of the officers of government are appointed
indirectly only by the people. According to most of them, the chief
magistrate himself is so appointed. And according to one, this mode
of appointment is extended to one of the co-ordinate branches of the
legislature. According to all the constitutions, also, the tenure
of the highest offices is extended to a definite period, and in many
instances, both within the legislative and executive departments, to
a period of years. According to the provisions of most of the
constitutions, again, as well as according to the most respectable
and received opinions on the subject, the members of the judiciary
department are to retain their offices by the firm tenure of good
behavior.
On comparing the Constitution planned by the convention with the
standard here fixed, we perceive at once that it is, in the most
rigid sense, conformable to it. The House of Representatives, like
that of one branch at least of all the State legislatures, is
elected immediately by the great body of the people. The Senate,
like the present Congress, and the Senate of Maryland, derives its
appointment indirectly from the people. The President is indirectly
derived from the choice of the people, according to the example in
most of the States. Even the judges, with all other officers of the
Union, will, as in the several States, be the choice, though a
remote choice, of the people themselves, the duration of the
appointments is equally conformable to the republican standard, and
to the model of State constitutions The House of Representatives is
periodically elective, as in all the States; and for the period of
two years, as in the State of South Carolina. The Senate is
elective, for the period of six years; which is but one year more
than the period of the Senate of Maryland, and but two more than
that of the Senates of New York and Virginia. The President is to
continue in office for the period of four years; as in New York and
Delaware, the chief magistrate is elected for three years, and in
South Carolina for two years. In the other States the election is
annual. In several of the States, however, no constitutional
provision is made for the impeachment of the chief magistrate. And
in Delaware and Virginia he is not impeachable till out of office.
The President of the United States is impeachable at any time
during his continuance in office. The tenure by which the judges
are to hold their places, is, as it unquestionably ought to be, that
of good behavior. The tenure of the ministerial offices generally,
will be a subject of legal regulation, conformably to the reason of
the case and the example of the State constitutions.
Could any further proof be required of the republican complexion
of this system, the most decisive one might be found in its absolute
prohibition of titles of nobility, both under the federal and the
State governments; and in its express guaranty of the republican
form to each of the latter.
“But it was not sufficient,” say the adversaries of the
proposed Constitution, “for the convention to adhere to the
republican form. They ought, with equal care, to have preserved the
FEDERAL form, which regards the Union as a CONFEDERACY of sovereign
states; instead of which, they have framed a NATIONAL government,
which regards the Union as a CONSOLIDATION of the States.” And it
is asked by what authority this bold and radical innovation was
undertaken? The handle which has been made of this objection
requires that it should be examined with some precision.
Without inquiring into the accuracy of the distinction on which
the objection is founded, it will be necessary to a just estimate of
its force, first, to ascertain the real character of the government
in question; secondly, to inquire how far the convention were
authorized to propose such a government; and thirdly, how far the
duty they owed to their country could supply any defect of regular
authority.
First. In order to ascertain the real character of the
government, it may be considered in relation to the foundation on
which it is to be established; to the sources from which its
ordinary powers are to be drawn; to the operation of those powers;
to the extent of them; and to the authority by which future
changes in the government are to be introduced.
On examining the first relation, it appears, on one hand, that
the Constitution is to be founded on the assent and ratification of
the people of America, given by deputies elected for the special
purpose; but, on the other, that this assent and ratification is to
be given by the people, not as individuals composing one entire
nation, but as composing the distinct and independent States to
which they respectively belong. It is to be the assent and
ratification of the several States, derived from the supreme
authority in each State, the authority of the people themselves.
The act, therefore, establishing the Constitution, will not be a
NATIONAL, but a FEDERAL act.
That it will be a federal and not a national act, as these terms
are understood by the objectors; the act of the people, as forming
so many independent States, not as forming one aggregate nation, is
obvious from this single consideration, that it is to result neither
from the decision of a MAJORITY of the people of the Union, nor from
that of a MAJORITY of the States. It must result from the UNANIMOUS
assent of the several States that are parties to it, differing no
otherwise from their ordinary assent than in its being expressed,
not by the legislative authority, but by that of the people
themselves. Were the people regarded in this transaction as forming
one nation, the will of the majority of the whole people of the
United States would bind the minority, in the same manner as the
majority in each State must bind the minority; and the will of the
majority must be determined either by a comparison of the individual
votes, or by considering the will of the majority of the States as
evidence of the will of a majority of the people of the United
States. Neither of these rules have been adopted. Each State, in
ratifying the Constitution, is considered as a sovereign body,
independent of all others, and only to be bound by its own voluntary
act. In this relation, then, the new Constitution will, if
established, be a FEDERAL, and not a NATIONAL constitution.
The next relation is, to the sources from which the ordinary
powers of government are to be derived. The House of
Representatives will derive its powers from the people of America;
and the people will be represented in the same proportion, and on
the same principle, as they are in the legislature of a particular
State. So far the government is NATIONAL, not FEDERAL. The Senate,
on the other hand, will derive its powers from the States, as
political and coequal societies; and these will be represented on
the principle of equality in the Senate, as they now are in the
existing Congress. So far the government is FEDERAL, not NATIONAL.
The executive power will be derived from a very compound source.
The immediate election of the President is to be made by the States
in their political characters. The votes allotted to them are in a
compound ratio, which considers them partly as distinct and coequal
societies, partly as unequal members of the same society. The
eventual election, again, is to be made by that branch of the
legislature which consists of the national representatives; but in
this particular act they are to be thrown into the form of
individual delegations, from so many distinct and coequal bodies
politic. From this aspect of the government it appears to be of a
mixed character, presenting at least as many FEDERAL as NATIONAL
features.
The difference between a federal and national government, as it
relates to the OPERATION OF THE GOVERNMENT, is supposed to consist
in this, that in the former the powers operate on the political
bodies composing the Confederacy, in their political capacities; in
the latter, on the individual citizens composing the nation, in
their individual capacities. On trying the Constitution by this
criterion, it falls under the NATIONAL, not the FEDERAL character;
though perhaps not so completely as has been understood. In
several cases, and particularly in the trial of controversies to
which States may be parties, they must be viewed and proceeded
against in their collective and political capacities only. So far
the national countenance of the government on this side seems to be
disfigured by a few federal features. But this blemish is perhaps
unavoidable in any plan; and the operation of the government on the
people, in their individual capacities, in its ordinary and most
essential proceedings, may, on the whole, designate it, in this
relation, a NATIONAL government.
But if the government be national with regard to the OPERATION
of its powers, it changes its aspect again when we contemplate it in
relation to the EXTENT of its powers. The idea of a national
government involves in it, not only an authority over the individual
citizens, but an indefinite supremacy over all persons and things,
so far as they are objects of lawful government. Among a people
consolidated into one nation, this supremacy is completely vested in
the national legislature. Among communities united for particular
purposes, it is vested partly in the general and partly in the
municipal legislatures. In the former case, all local authorities
are subordinate to the supreme; and may be controlled, directed, or
abolished by it at pleasure. In the latter, the local or municipal
authorities form distinct and independent portions of the supremacy,
no more subject, within their respective spheres, to the general
authority, than the general authority is subject to them, within its
own sphere. In this relation, then, the proposed government cannot
be deemed a NATIONAL one; since its jurisdiction extends to certain
enumerated objects only, and leaves to the several States a
residuary and inviolable sovereignty over all other objects. It is
true that in controversies relating to the boundary between the two
jurisdictions, the tribunal which is ultimately to decide, is to be
established under the general government. But this does not change
the principle of the case. The decision is to be impartially made,
according to the rules of the Constitution; and all the usual and
most effectual precautions are taken to secure this impartiality.
Some such tribunal is clearly essential to prevent an appeal to the
sword and a dissolution of the compact; and that it ought to be
established under the general rather than under the local
governments, or, to speak more properly, that it could be safely
established under the first alone, is a position not likely to be
combated.
If we try the Constitution by its last relation to the authority
by which amendments are to be made, we find it neither wholly
NATIONAL nor wholly FEDERAL. Were it wholly national, the supreme
and ultimate authority would reside in the MAJORITY of the people of
the Union; and this authority would be competent at all times, like
that of a majority of every national society, to alter or abolish
its established government. Were it wholly federal, on the other
hand, the concurrence of each State in the Union would be essential
to every alteration that would be binding on all. The mode provided
by the plan of the convention is not founded on either of these
principles. In requiring more than a majority, and principles. In
requiring more than a majority, and particularly in computing the
proportion by STATES, not by CITIZENS, it departs from the NATIONAL
and advances towards the FEDERAL character; in rendering the
concurrence of less than the whole number of States sufficient, it
loses again the FEDERAL and partakes of the NATIONAL character.
The proposed Constitution, therefore, 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 the 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.
PUBLIUS.

FEDERALIST No. 40

The Powers of the Convention to Form a Mixed Government Examined
and Sustained
From the New York Packet.
Friday, January 18, 1788.

MADISON

To the People of the State of New York:
THE SECOND point to be examined is, whether the convention were
authorized to frame and propose this mixed Constitution. The
powers of the convention ought, in strictness, to be determined
by an inspection of the commissions given to the members by their
respective constituents. As all of these, however, had reference,
either to the recommendation from the meeting at Annapolis, in
September, 1786, or to that from Congress, in February, 1787, it
will be sufficient to recur to these particular acts. The act
from Annapolis recommends the “appointment of commissioners to
take into consideration the situation of the United States; to
devise SUCH FURTHER PROVISIONS as shall appear to them necessary
to render the Constitution of the federal government ADEQUATE TO
THE EXIGENCIES OF THE UNION; and to report such an act for that
purpose, to the United States in Congress assembled, as when
agreed to by them, and afterwards confirmed by the legislature of
every State, will effectually provide for the same. ”The
recommendatory act of Congress is in the words
following:“WHEREAS, There is provision in the articles of
Confederation and perpetual Union, for making alterations
therein, by the assent of a Congress of the United States, and of
the legislatures of the several States; and whereas experience
hath evinced, that there are defects in the present
Confederation; as a mean to remedy which, several of the States,
and PARTICULARLY THE STATE OF NEW YORK, by express instructions
to their delegates in Congress, have suggested a convention for
the purposes expressed in the following resolution; and such
convention appearing to be the most probable mean of establishing
in these States A FIRM NATIONAL GOVERNMENT:“Resolved, That in
the opinion of Congress it is expedient, that on the second
Monday of May next a convention of delegates, who shall have been
appointed by the several States, be held at Philadelphia, for the
sole and express purpose OF REVISING THE ARTICLES OF
CONFEDERATION, and reporting to Congress and the several
legislatures such ALTERATIONS AND PROVISIONS THEREIN, as shall,
when agreed to in Congress, and confirmed by the States, render
the federal Constitution ADEQUATE TO THE EXIGENCIES OF GOVERNMENT
AND THE PRESERVATION OF THE UNION. ”From these two acts, it
appears, 1st, that the object of the convention was to establish,
in these States, A FIRM NATIONAL GOVERNMENT; 2d, that this
government was to be such as would be ADEQUATE TO THE EXIGENCIES
OF GOVERNMENT and THE PRESERVATION OF THE UNION; 3d, that these
purposes were to be effected by ALTERATIONS AND PROVISIONS IN THE
ARTICLES OF CONFEDERATION, as it is expressed in the act of
Congress, or by SUCH FURTHER PROVISIONS AS SHOULD APPEAR
NECESSARY, as it stands in the recommendatory act from Annapolis;
4th, that the alterations and provisions were to be reported to
Congress, and to the States, in order to be agreed to by the
former and confirmed by the latter. From a comparison and fair
construction of these several modes of expression, is to be
deduced the authority under which the convention acted. They were
to frame a NATIONAL GOVERNMENT, adequate to the EXIGENCIES OF
GOVERNMENT, and OF THE UNION; and to reduce the articles of
Confederation into such form as to accomplish these purposes.
There are two rules of construction, dictated by plain reason, as
well as founded on legal axioms. The one is, that every part of
the expression ought, if possible, to be allowed some meaning,
and be made to conspire to some common end. The other is, that
where the several parts cannot be made to coincide, the less
important should give way to the more important part; the means
should be sacrificed to the end, rather than the end to the
means. Suppose, then, that the expressions defining the
authority of the convention were irreconcilably at variance with
each other; that a NATIONAL and ADEQUATE GOVERNMENT could not
possibly, in the judgment of the convention, be affected by
ALTERATIONS and PROVISIONS in the ARTICLES OF CONFEDERATION;
which part of the definition ought to have been embraced, and
which rejected? Which was the more important, which the less
important part? Which the end; which the means? Let the most
scrupulous expositors of delegated powers; let the most
inveterate objectors against those exercised by the convention,
answer these questions. Let them declare, whether it was of most
importance to the happiness of the people of America, that the
articles of Confederation should be disregarded, and an adequate
government be provided, and the Union preserved; or that an
adequate government should be omitted, and the articles of
Confederation preserved. Let them declare, whether the
preservation of these articles was the end, for securing which a
reform of the government was to be introduced as the means; or
whether the establishment of a government, adequate to the
national happiness, was the end at which these articles
themselves originally aimed, and to which they ought, as
insufficient means, to have been sacrificed. But is it necessary
to suppose that these expressions are absolutely irreconcilable
to each other; that no ALTERATIONS or PROVISIONS in THE ARTICLES
OF THE CONFEDERATION could possibly mould them into a national
and adequate government; into such a government as has been
proposed by the convention? No stress, it is presumed, will, in
this case, be laid on the TITLE; a change of that could never be
deemed an exercise of ungranted power. ALTERATIONS in the body of
the instrument are expressly authorized. NEW PROVISIONS therein
are also expressly authorized. Here then is a power to change the
title; to insert new articles; to alter old ones. Must it of
necessity be admitted that this power is infringed, so long as a
part of the old articles remain? Those who maintain the
affirmative ought at least to mark the boundary between
authorized and usurped innovations; between that degree of change
which lies within the compass of ALTERATIONS AND FURTHER
PROVISIONS, and that which amounts to a TRANSMUTATION of the
government. Will it be said that the alterations ought not to
have touched the substance of the Confederation? The States
would never have appointed a convention with so much solemnity,
nor described its objects with so much latitude, if some
SUBSTANTIAL reform had not been in contemplation. Will it be said
that the FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES of the Confederation were not
within the purview of the convention, and ought not to have been
varied? I ask, What are these principles? Do they require that,
in the establishment of the Constitution, the States should be
regarded as distinct and independent sovereigns? They are so
regarded by the Constitution proposed. Do they require that the
members of the government should derive their appointment from
the legislatures, not from the people of the States? One branch
of the new government is to be appointed by these legislatures;
and under the Confederation, the delegates to Congress MAY ALL
be appointed immediately by the people, and in two States1 are
actually so appointed. Do they require that the powers of the
government should act on the States, and not immediately on
individuals? In some instances, as has been shown, the powers of
the new government will act on the States in their collective
characters. In some instances, also, those of the existing
government act immediately on individuals. In cases of capture;
of piracy; of the post office; of coins, weights, and measures;
of trade with the Indians; of claims under grants of land by
different States; and, above all, in the case of trials by
courts-marshal in the army and navy, by which death may be
inflicted without the intervention of a jury, or even of a civil
magistrate; in all these cases the powers of the Confederation
operate immediately on the persons and interests of individual
citizens. Do these fundamental principles require, particularly,
that no tax should be levied without the intermediate agency of
the States? The Confederation itself authorizes a direct tax, to
a certain extent, on the post office. The power of coinage has
been so construed by Congress as to levy a tribute immediately
from that source also. But pretermitting these instances, was it
not an acknowledged object of the convention and the universal
expectation of the people, that the regulation of trade should be
submitted to the general government in such a form as would
render it an immediate source of general revenue? Had not
Congress repeatedly recommended this measure as not inconsistent
with the fundamental principles of the Confederation? Had not
every State but one; had not New York herself, so far complied
with the plan of Congress as to recognize the PRINCIPLE of the
innovation? Do these principles, in fine, require that the
powers of the general government should be limited, and that,
beyond this limit, the States should be left in possession of
their sovereignty and independence? We have seen that in the new
government, as in the old, the general powers are limited; and
that the States, in all unenumerated cases, are left in the
enjoyment of their sovereign and independent jurisdiction. The
truth is, that the great principles of the Constitution proposed
by the convention may be considered less as absolutely new, than
as the expansion of principles which are found in the articles of
Confederation. The misfortune under the latter system has been,
that these principles are so feeble and confined as to justify
all the charges of inefficiency which have been urged against it,
and to require a degree of enlargement which gives to the new
system the aspect of an entire transformation of the old. In one
particular it is admitted that the convention have departed from
the tenor of their commission. Instead of reporting a plan
requiring the confirmation OF THE LEGISLATURES OF ALL THE STATES,
they have reported a plan which is to be confirmed by the PEOPLE,
and may be carried into effect by NINE STATES ONLY. It is worthy
of remark that this objection, though the most plausible, has
been the least urged in the publications which have swarmed
against the convention. The forbearance can only have proceeded
from an irresistible conviction of the absurdity of subjecting
the fate of twelve States to the perverseness or corruption of a
thirteenth; from the example of inflexible opposition given by a
MAJORITY of one sixtieth of the people of America to a measure
approved and called for by the voice of twelve States, comprising
fifty-nine sixtieths of the people an example still fresh in the
memory and indignation of every citizen who has felt for the
wounded honor and prosperity of his country. As this objection,
therefore, has been in a manner waived by those who have
criticised the powers of the convention, I dismiss it without
further observation. The THIRD point to be inquired into is, how
far considerations of duty arising out of the case itself could
have supplied any defect of regular authority. In the preceding
inquiries the powers of the convention have been analyzed and
tried with the same rigor, and by the same rules, as if they had
been real and final powers for the establishment of a
Constitution for the United States. We have seen in what manner
they have borne the trial even on that supposition. It is time
now to recollect that the powers were merely advisory and
recommendatory; that they were so meant by the States, and so
understood by the convention; and that the latter have
accordingly planned and proposed a Constitution which is to be of
no more consequence than the paper on which it is written, unless
it be stamped with the approbation of those to whom it is
addressed. This reflection places the subject in a point of view
altogether different, and will enable us to judge with propriety
of the course taken by the convention. Let us view the ground on
which the convention stood. It may be collected from their
proceedings, that they were deeply and unanimously impressed with
the crisis, which had led their country almost with one voice to
make so singular and solemn an experiment for correcting the
errors of a system by which this crisis had been produced; that
they were no less deeply and unanimously convinced that such a
reform as they have proposed was absolutely necessary to effect
the purposes of their appointment. It could not be unknown to
them that the hopes and expectations of the great body of
citizens, throughout this great empire, were turned with the
keenest anxiety to the event of their deliberations. They had
every reason to believe that the contrary sentiments agitated the
minds and bosoms of every external and internal foe to the
liberty and prosperity of the United States. They had seen in the
origin and progress of the experiment, the alacrity with which
the PROPOSITION, made by a single State (Virginia), towards a
partial amendment of the Confederation, had been attended to and
promoted. They had seen the LIBERTY ASSUMED by a VERY FEW
deputies from a VERY FEW States, convened at Annapolis, of
recommending a great and critical object, wholly foreign to their
commission, not only justified by the public opinion, but
actually carried into effect by twelve out of the thirteen
States. They had seen, in a variety of instances, assumptions by
Congress, not only of recommendatory, but of operative, powers,
warranted, in the public estimation, by occasions and objects
infinitely less urgent than those by which their conduct was to
be governed. They must have reflected, that in all great changes
of established governments, forms ought to give way to substance;
that a rigid adherence in such cases to the former, would render
nominal and nugatory the transcendent and precious right of the
people to “abolish or alter their governments as to them shall
seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness,”2 since
it is impossible for the people spontaneously and universally to
move in concert towards their object; and it is therefore
essential that such changes be instituted by some INFORMAL AND
UNAUTHORIZED PROPOSITIONS, made by some patriotic and respectable
citizen or number of citizens. They must have recollected that it
was by this irregular and assumed privilege of proposing to the
people plans for their safety and happiness, that the States
were first united against the danger with which they were
threatened by their ancient government; that committees and
congresses were formed for concentrating their efforts and
defending their rights; and that CONVENTIONS were ELECTED in THE
SEVERAL STATES for establishing the constitutions under which
they are now governed; nor could it have been forgotten that no
little ill-timed scruples, no zeal for adhering to ordinary
forms, were anywhere seen, except in those who wished to indulge,
under these masks, their secret enmity to the substance contended
for. They must have borne in mind, that as the plan to be framed
and proposed was to be submitted TO THE PEOPLE THEMSELVES, the
disapprobation of this supreme authority would destroy it
forever; its approbation blot out antecedent errors and
irregularities. It might even have occurred to them, that where a
disposition to cavil prevailed, their neglect to execute the
degree of power vested in them, and still more their
recommendation of any measure whatever, not warranted by their
commission, would not less excite animadversion, than a
recommendation at once of a measure fully commensurate to the
national exigencies. Had the convention, under all these
impressions, and in the midst of all these considerations,
instead of exercising a manly confidence in their country, by
whose confidence they had been so peculiarly distinguished, and
of pointing out a system capable, in their judgment, of securing
its happiness, taken the cold and sullen resolution of
disappointing its ardent hopes, of sacrificing substance to
forms, of committing the dearest interests of their country to
the uncertainties of delay and the hazard of events, let me ask
the man who can raise his mind to one elevated conception, who
can awaken in his bosom one patriotic emotion, what judgment
ought to have been pronounced by the impartial world, by the
friends of mankind, by every virtuous citizen, on the conduct and
character of this assembly? Or if there be a man whose
propensity to condemn is susceptible of no control, let me then
ask what sentence he has in reserve for the twelve States who
USURPED THE POWER of sending deputies to the convention, a body
utterly unknown to their constitutions; for Congress, who
recommended the appointment of this body, equally unknown to the
Confederation; and for the State of New York, in particular,
which first urged and then complied with this unauthorized
interposition? But that the objectors may be disarmed of every
pretext, it shall be granted for a moment that the convention
were neither authorized by their commission, nor justified by
circumstances in proposing a Constitution for their country: does
it follow that the Constitution ought, for that reason alone, to
be rejected? If, according to the noble precept, it be lawful to
accept good advice even from an enemy, shall we set the ignoble
example of refusing such advice even when it is offered by our
friends? The prudent inquiry, in all cases, ought surely to be,
not so much FROM WHOM the advice comes, as whether the advice be
GOOD. The sum of what has been here advanced and proved is, that
the charge against the convention of exceeding their powers,
except in one instance little urged by the objectors, has no
foundation to support it; that if they had exceeded their powers,
they were not only warranted, but required, as the confidential
servants of their country, by the circumstances in which they
were placed, to exercise the liberty which they assume; and that
finally, if they had violated both their powers and their
obligations, in proposing a Constitution, this ought nevertheless
to be embraced, if it be calculated to accomplish the views and
happiness of the people of America. How far this character is due
to the Constitution, is the subject under investigation.

PUBLIUS.

FEDERALIST No. 41

General View of the Powers Conferred by The Constitution
For the Independent Journal.

MADISON

To the People of the State of New York:
THE Constitution proposed by the convention may be considered
under two general points of view. The FIRST relates to the sum or
quantity of power which it vests in the government, including
the restraints imposed on the States. The SECOND, to the
particular structure of the government, and the distribution of
this power among its several branches. Under the FIRST view of
the subject, two important questions arise: 1. Whether any part
of the powers transferred to the general government be
unnecessary or improper? 2. Whether the entire mass of them be
dangerous to the portion of jurisdiction left in the several
States? Is the aggregate power of the general government greater
than ought to have been vested in it? This is the FIRST
question. It cannot have escaped those who have attended with
candor to the arguments employed against the extensive powers of
the government, that the authors of them have very little
considered how far these powers were necessary means of attaining
a necessary end. They have chosen rather to dwell on the
inconveniences which must be unavoidably blended with all
political advantages; and on the possible abuses which must be
incident to every power or trust, of which a beneficial use can
be made. This method of handling the subject cannot impose on the
good sense of the people of America. It may display the subtlety
of the writer; it may open a boundless field for rhetoric and
declamation; it may inflame the passions of the unthinking, and
may confirm the prejudices of the misthinking: but cool and
candid people will at once reflect, that the purest of human
blessings must have a portion of alloy in them; that the choice
must always be made, if not of the lesser evil, at least of the
GREATER, not the PERFECT, good; and that in every political
institution, a power to advance the public happiness involves a
discretion which may be misapplied and abused. They will see,
therefore, that in all cases where power is to be conferred, the
point first to be decided is, whether such a power be necessary
to the public good; as the next will be, in case of an
affirmative decision, to guard as effectually as possible
against a perversion of the power to the public detriment. That
we may form a correct judgment on this subject, it will be proper
to review the several powers conferred on the government of the
Union; and that this may be the more conveniently done they may
be reduced into different classes as they relate to the following
different objects: 1. Security against foreign danger; 2.
Regulation of the intercourse with foreign nations; 3.
Maintenance of harmony and proper intercourse among the States;
4. Certain miscellaneous objects of general utility; 5.
Restraint of the States from certain injurious acts; 6.
Provisions for giving due efficacy to all these powers. The
powers falling within the FIRST class are those of declaring war
and granting letters of marque; of providing armies and fleets;
of regulating and calling forth the militia; of levying and
borrowing money. Security against foreign danger is one of the
primitive objects of civil society. It is an avowed and essential
object of the American Union. The powers requisite for attaining
it must be effectually confided to the federal councils. Is the
power of declaring war necessary? No man will answer this
question in the negative. It would be superfluous, therefore, to
enter into a proof of the affirmative. The existing Confederation
establishes this power in the most ample form. Is the power of
raising armies and equipping fleets necessary? This is involved
in the foregoing power. It is involved in the power of
self-defense. But was it necessary to give an INDEFINITE POWER
of raising TROOPS, as well as providing fleets; and of
maintaining both in PEACE, as well as in war? The answer to these
questions has been too far anticipated in another place to admit
an extensive discussion of them in this place. The answer indeed
seems to be so obvious and conclusive as scarcely to justify such
a discussion in any place. With what color of propriety could the
force necessary for defense be limited by those who cannot limit
the force of offense? If a federal Constitution could chain the
ambition or set bounds to the exertions of all other nations,
then indeed might it prudently chain the discretion of its own
government, and set bounds to the exertions for its own safety.
How could a readiness for war in time of peace be safely
prohibited, unless we could prohibit, in like manner, the
preparations and establishments of every hostile nation? The
means of security can only be regulated by the means and the
danger of attack. They will, in fact, be ever determined by these
rules, and by no others. It is in vain to oppose constitutional
barriers to the impulse of self-preservation. It is worse than in
vain; because it plants in the Constitution itself necessary
usurpations of power, every precedent of which is a germ of
unnecessary and multiplied repetitions. If one nation maintains
constantly a disciplined army, ready for the service of ambition
or revenge, it obliges the most pacific nations who may be within
the reach of its enterprises to take corresponding precautions.
The fifteenth century was the unhappy epoch of military
establishments in the time of peace. They were introduced by
Charles VII. of France. All Europe has followed, or been forced
into, the example. Had the example not been followed by other
nations, all Europe must long ago have worn the chains of a
universal monarch. Were every nation except France now to disband
its peace establishments, the same event might follow. The
veteran legions of Rome were an overmatch for the undisciplined
valor of all other nations and rendered her the mistress of the
world. Not the less true is it, that the liberties of Rome
proved the final victim to her military triumphs; and that the
liberties of Europe, as far as they ever existed, have, with few
exceptions, been the price of her military establishments. A
standing force, therefore, is a dangerous, at the same time that
it may be a necessary, provision. On the smallest scale it has
its inconveniences. On an extensive scale its consequences may be
fatal. On any scale it is an object of laudable circumspection
and precaution. A wise nation will combine all these
considerations; and, whilst it does not rashly preclude itself
from any resource which may become essential to its safety, will
exert all its prudence in diminishing both the necessity and the
danger of resorting to one which may be inauspicious to its
liberties. The clearest marks of this prudence are stamped on
the proposed Constitution. The Union itself, which it cements and
secures, destroys every pretext for a military establishment
which could be dangerous. America united, with a handful of
troops, or without a single soldier, exhibits a more forbidding
posture to foreign ambition than America disunited, with a
hundred thousand veterans ready for combat. It was remarked, on a
former occasion, that the want of this pretext had saved the
liberties of one nation in Europe. Being rendered by her insular
situation and her maritime resources impregnable to the armies of
her neighbors, the rulers of Great Britain have never been able,
by real or artificial dangers, to cheat the public into an
extensive peace establishment. The distance of the United States
from the powerful nations of the world gives them the same happy
security. A dangerous establishment can never be necessary or
plausible, so long as they continue a united people. But let it
never, for a moment, be forgotten that they are indebted for this
advantage to the Union alone. The moment of its dissolution will
be the date of a new order of things. The fears of the weaker, or
the ambition of the stronger States, or Confederacies, will set
the same example in the New, as Charles VII. did in the Old
World. The example will be followed here from the same motives
which produced universal imitation there. Instead of deriving
from our situation the precious advantage which Great Britain has
derived from hers, the face of America will be but a copy of that
of the continent of Europe. It will present liberty everywhere
crushed between standing armies and perpetual taxes. The fortunes
of disunited America will be even more disastrous than those of
Europe. The sources of evil in the latter are confined to her own
limits. No superior powers of another quarter of the globe
intrigue among her rival nations, inflame their mutual
animosities, and render them the instruments of foreign ambition,
jealousy, and revenge. In America the miseries springing from her
internal jealousies, contentions, and wars, would form a part
only of her lot. A plentiful addition of evils would have their
source in that relation in which Europe stands to this quarter of
the earth, and which no other quarter of the earth bears to
Europe. This picture of the consequences of disunion cannot be
too highly colored, or too often exhibited. Every man who loves
peace, every man who loves his country, every man who loves
liberty, ought to have it ever before his eyes, that he may
cherish in his heart a due attachment to the Union of America,
and be able to set a due value on the means of preserving it.
Next to the effectual establishment of the Union, the best
possible precaution against danger from standing armies is a
limitation of the term for which revenue may be appropriated to
their support. This precaution the Constitution has prudently
added. I will not repeat here the observations which I flatter
myself have placed this subject in a just and satisfactory
light. But it may not be improper to take notice of an argument
against this part of the Constitution, which has been drawn from
the policy and practice of Great Britain. It is said that the
continuance of an army in that kingdom requires an annual vote of
the legislature; whereas the American Constitution has lengthened
this critical period to two years. This is the form in which the
comparison is usually stated to the public: but is it a just
form? Is it a fair comparison? Does the British Constitution
restrain the parliamentary discretion to one year? Does the
American impose on the Congress appropriations for two years? On
the contrary, it cannot be unknown to the authors of the fallacy
themselves, that the British Constitution fixes no limit whatever
to the discretion of the legislature, and that the American ties
down the legislature to two years, as the longest admissible
term. Had the argument from the British example been truly
stated, it would have stood thus: The term for which supplies
may be appropriated to the army establishment, though unlimited
by the British Constitution, has nevertheless, in practice, been
limited by parliamentary discretion to a single year. Now, if in
Great Britain, where the House of Commons is elected for seven
years; where so great a proportion of the members are elected by
so small a proportion of the people; where the electors are so
corrupted by the representatives, and the representatives so
corrupted by the Crown, the representative body can possess a
power to make appropriations to the army for an indefinite term,
without desiring, or without daring, to extend the term beyond a
single year, ought not suspicion herself to blush, in pretending
that the representatives of the United States, elected FREELY by
the WHOLE BODY of the people, every SECOND YEAR, cannot be safely
intrusted with the discretion over such appropriations, expressly
limited to the short period of TWO YEARS? A bad cause seldom
fails to betray itself. Of this truth, the management of the
opposition to the federal government is an unvaried
exemplification. But among all the blunders which have been
committed, none is more striking than the attempt to enlist on
that side the prudent jealousy entertained by the people, of
standing armies. The attempt has awakened fully the public
attention to that important subject; and has led to
investigations which must terminate in a thorough and universal
conviction, not only that the constitution has provided the most
effectual guards against danger from that quarter, but that
nothing short of a Constitution fully adequate to the national
defense and the preservation of the Union, can save America from
as many standing armies as it may be split into States or
Confederacies, and from such a progressive augmentation, of these
establishments in each, as will render them as burdensome to the
properties and ominous to the liberties of the people, as any
establishment that can become necessary, under a united and
efficient government, must be tolerable to the former and safe to
the latter. The palpable necessity of the power to provide and
maintain a navy has protected that part of the Constitution
against a spirit of censure, which has spared few other parts. It
must, indeed, be numbered among the greatest blessings of
America, that as her Union will be the only source of her
maritime strength, so this will be a principal source of her
security against danger from abroad. In this respect our
situation bears another likeness to the insular advantage of
Great Britain. The batteries most capable of repelling foreign
enterprises on our safety, are happily such as can never be
turned by a perfidious government against our liberties. The
inhabitants of the Atlantic frontier are all of them deeply
interested in this provision for naval protection, and if they
have hitherto been suffered to sleep quietly in their beds; if
their property has remained safe against the predatory spirit of
licentious adventurers; if their maritime towns have not yet
been compelled to ransom themselves from the terrors of a
conflagration, by yielding to the exactions of daring and sudden
invaders, these instances of good fortune are not to be ascribed
to the capacity of the existing government for the protection of
those from whom it claims allegiance, but to causes that are
fugitive and fallacious. If we except perhaps Virginia and
Maryland, which are peculiarly vulnerable on their eastern
frontiers, no part of the Union ought to feel more anxiety on
this subject than New York. Her seacoast is extensive. A very
important district of the State is an island. The State itself is
penetrated by a large navigable river for more than fifty
leagues. The great emporium of its commerce, the great reservoir
of its wealth, lies every moment at the mercy of events, and may
almost be regarded as a hostage for ignominious compliances with
the dictates of a foreign enemy, or even with the rapacious
demands of pirates and barbarians. Should a war be the result of
the precarious situation of European affairs, and all the unruly
passions attending it be let loose on the ocean, our escape from
insults and depredations, not only on that element, but every
part of the other bordering on it, will be truly miraculous. In
the present condition of America, the States more immediately
exposed to these calamities have nothing to hope from the phantom
of a general government which now exists; and if their single
resources were equal to the task of fortifying themselves against
the danger, the object to be protected would be almost consumed
by the means of protecting them. The power of regulating and
calling forth the militia has been already sufficiently
vindicated and explained. The power of levying and borrowing
money, being the sinew of that which is to be exerted in the
national defense, is properly thrown into the same class with
it. This power, also, has been examined already with much
attention, and has, I trust, been clearly shown to be necessary,
both in the extent and form given to it by the Constitution. I
will address one additional reflection only to those who contend
that the power ought to have been restrained to external
taxation by which they mean, taxes on articles imported from
other countries. It cannot be doubted that this will always be a
valuable source of revenue; that for a considerable time it must
be a principal source; that at this moment it is an essential
one. But we may form very mistaken ideas on this subject, if we
do not call to mind in our calculations, that the extent of
revenue drawn from foreign commerce must vary with the
variations, both in the extent and the kind of imports; and that
these variations do not correspond with the progress of
population, which must be the general measure of the public
wants. As long as agriculture continues the sole field of labor,
the importation of manufactures must increase as the consumers
multiply. As soon as domestic manufactures are begun by the hands
not called for by agriculture, the imported manufactures will
decrease as the numbers of people increase. In a more remote
stage, the imports may consist in a considerable part of raw
materials, which will be wrought into articles for exportation,
and will, therefore, require rather the encouragement of
bounties, than to be loaded with discouraging duties. A system of
government, meant for duration, ought to contemplate these
revolutions, and be able to accommodate itself to them. Some,
who have not denied the necessity of the power of taxation, have
grounded a very fierce attack against the Constitution, on the
language in which it is defined. It has been urged and echoed,
that the power “to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and
excises, to pay the debts, and provide for the common defense and
general welfare of the United States,” amounts to an unlimited
commission to exercise every power which may be alleged to be
necessary for the common defense or general welfare. No stronger
proof could be given of the distress under which these writers
labor for objections, than their stooping to such a
misconstruction. Had no other enumeration or definition of the
powers of the Congress been found in the Constitution, than the
general expressions just cited, the authors of the objection
might have had some color for it; though it would have been
difficult to find a reason for so awkward a form of describing an
authority to legislate in all possible cases. A power to destroy
the freedom of the press, the trial by jury, or even to regulate
the course of descents, or the forms of conveyances, must be very
singularly expressed by the terms “to raise money for the
general welfare. ”But what color can the objection have, when a
specification of the objects alluded to by these general terms
immediately follows, and is not even separated by a longer pause
than a semicolon? If the different parts of the same instrument
ought to be so expounded, as to give meaning to every part which
will bear it, shall one part of the same sentence be excluded
altogether from a share in the meaning; and shall the more
doubtful and indefinite terms be retained in their full extent,
and the clear and precise expressions be denied any signification
whatsoever? For what purpose could the enumeration of particular
powers be inserted, if these and all others were meant to be
included in the preceding general power? Nothing is more natural
nor common than first to use a general phrase, and then to
explain and qualify it by a recital of particulars. But the idea
of an enumeration of particulars which neither explain nor
qualify the general meaning, and can have no other effect than to
confound and mislead, is an absurdity, which, as we are reduced
to the dilemma of charging either on the authors of the objection
or on the authors of the Constitution, we must take the liberty
of supposing, had not its origin with the latter. The objection
here is the more extraordinary, as it appears that the language
used by the convention is a copy from the articles of
Confederation. The objects of the Union among the States, as
described in article third, are “their common defense, security
of their liberties, and mutual and general welfare. ” The terms
of article eighth are still more identical: “All charges of war
and all other expenses that shall be incurred for the common
defense or general welfare, and allowed by the United States in
Congress, shall be defrayed out of a common treasury,” etc. A
similar language again occurs in article ninth. Construe either
of these articles by the rules which would justify the
construction put on the new Constitution, and they vest in the
existing Congress a power to legislate in all cases whatsoever.
But what would have been thought of that assembly, if, attaching
themselves to these general expressions, and disregarding the
specifications which ascertain and limit their import, they had
exercised an unlimited power of providing for the common defense
and general welfare? I appeal to the objectors themselves,
whether they would in that case have employed the same reasoning
in justification of Congress as they now make use of against the
convention. How difficult it is for error to escape its own
condemnation!

PUBLIUS.

FEDERALIST No. 42

The Powers Conferred by the Constitution Further Considered
From the New York Packet. Tuesday, January 22, 1788.

MADISON

To the People of the State of New York:
THE SECOND class of powers, lodged in the general government,
consists of those which regulate the intercourse with foreign
nations, to wit: to make treaties; to send and receive
ambassadors, other public ministers, and consuls; to define and
punish piracies and felonies committed on the high seas, and
offenses against the law of nations; to regulate foreign
commerce, including a power to prohibit, after the year 1808, the
importation of slaves, and to lay an intermediate duty of ten
dollars per head, as a discouragement to such importations. This
class of powers forms an obvious and essential branch of the
federal administration. If we are to be one nation in any
respect, it clearly ought to be in respect to other nations. The
powers to make treaties and to send and receive ambassadors,
speak their own propriety. Both of them are comprised in the
articles of Confederation, with this difference only, that the
former is disembarrassed, by the plan of the convention, of an
exception, under which treaties might be substantially frustrated
by regulations of the States; and that a power of appointing and
receiving “other public ministers and consuls,” is expressly
and very properly added to the former provision concerning
ambassadors. The term ambassador, if taken strictly, as seems to
be required by the second of the articles of Confederation,
comprehends the highest grade only of public ministers, and
excludes the grades which the United States will be most likely
to prefer, where foreign embassies may be necessary. And under no
latitude of construction will the term comprehend consuls. Yet it
has been found expedient, and has been the practice of Congress,
to employ the inferior grades of public ministers, and to send
and receive consuls. It is true, that where treaties of commerce
stipulate for the mutual appointment of consuls, whose functions
are connected with commerce, the admission of foreign consuls may
fall within the power of making commercial treaties; and that
where no such treaties exist, the mission of American consuls
into foreign countries may PERHAPS be covered under the
authority, given by the ninth article of the Confederation, to
appoint all such civil officers as may be necessary for managing
the general affairs of the United States. But the admission of
consuls into the United States, where no previous treaty has
stipulated it, seems to have been nowhere provided for. A supply
of the omission is one of the lesser instances in which the
convention have improved on the model before them. But the most
minute provisions become important when they tend to obviate the
necessity or the pretext for gradual and unobserved usurpations
of power. A list of the cases in which Congress have been
betrayed, or forced by the defects of the Confederation, into
violations of their chartered authorities, would not a little
surprise those who have paid no attention to the subject; and
would be no inconsiderable argument in favor of the new
Constitution, which seems to have provided no less studiously for
the lesser, than the more obvious and striking defects of the
old. The power to define and punish piracies and felonies
committed on the high seas, and offenses against the law of
nations, belongs with equal propriety to the general government,
and is a still greater improvement on the articles of
Confederation. These articles contain no provision for the case
of offenses against the law of nations; and consequently leave
it in the power of any indiscreet member to embroil the
Confederacy with foreign nations. The provision of the federal
articles on the subject of piracies and felonies extends no
further than to the establishment of courts for the trial of
these offenses. The definition of piracies might, perhaps,
without inconveniency, be left to the law of nations; though a
legislative definition of them is found in most municipal codes.
A definition of felonies on the high seas is evidently
requisite. Felony is a term of loose signification, even in the
common law of England; and of various import in the statute law
of that kingdom. But neither the common nor the statute law of
that, or of any other nation, ought to be a standard for the
proceedings of this, unless previously made its own by
legislative adoption. The meaning of the term, as defined in the
codes of the several States, would be as impracticable as the
former would be a dishonorable and illegitimate guide. It is not
precisely the same in any two of the States; and varies in each
with every revision of its criminal laws. For the sake of
certainty and uniformity, therefore, the power of defining
felonies in this case was in every respect necessary and proper.
The regulation of foreign commerce, having fallen within several
views which have been taken of this subject, has been too fully
discussed to need additional proofs here of its being properly
submitted to the federal administration. It were doubtless to be
wished, that 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. But it is not
difficult to account, either for this restriction on the general
government, or for the manner in which the whole clause is
expressed. It ought to be considered as a great point gained in
favor of humanity, that a period of twenty years may terminate
forever, within these States, a traffic which has so long and so
loudly upbraided the barbarism of modern policy; that within that
period, it will receive a considerable discouragement from the
federal government, and may be totally abolished, by a
concurrence of the few States which continue the unnatural
traffic, in the prohibitory example which has been given by so
great a majority of the Union. 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!
Attempts have been made to pervert this clause into an objection
against the Constitution, by representing it on one side as a
criminal toleration of an illicit practice, and on another as
calculated to prevent voluntary and beneficial emigrations from
Europe to America. I mention these misconstructions, not with a
view to give them an answer, for they deserve none, but as
specimens of the manner and spirit in which some have thought fit
to conduct their opposition to the proposed government. The
powers included in the THIRD class are those which provide for
the harmony and proper intercourse among the States. Under this
head might be included the particular restraints imposed on the
authority of the States, and certain powers of the judicial
department; but the former are reserved for a distinct class, and
the latter will be particularly examined when we arrive at the
structure and organization of the government. I shall confine
myself to a cursory review of the remaining powers comprehended
under this third description, to wit: to regulate commerce among
the several States and the Indian tribes; to coin money, regulate
the value thereof, and of foreign coin; to provide for the
punishment of counterfeiting the current coin and secureties of
the United States; to fix the standard of weights and measures;
to establish a uniform rule of naturalization, and uniform laws
of bankruptcy, to prescribe the manner in which the public acts,
records, and judicial proceedings of each State shall be proved,
and the effect they shall have in other States; and to establish
post offices and post roads. The defect of power in the existing
Confederacy to regulate the commerce between its several members,
is in the number of those which have been clearly pointed out by
experience. To the proofs and remarks which former papers have
brought into view on this subject, it may be added that without
this supplemental provision, the great and essential power of
regulating foreign commerce would have been incomplete and
ineffectual. A very material object of this power was the relief
of the States which import and export through other States, from
the improper contributions levied on them by the latter. Were
these at liberty to regulate the trade between State and State,
it must be foreseen that ways would be found out to load the
articles of import and export, during the passage through their
jurisdiction, with duties which would fall on the makers of the
latter and the consumers of the former. We may be assured by past
experience, that such a practice would be introduced by future
contrivances; and both by that and a common knowledge of human
affairs, that it would nourish unceasing animosities, and not
improbably terminate in serious interruptions of the public
tranquillity. To those who do not view the question through the
medium of passion or of interest, the desire of the commercial
States to collect, in any form, an indirect revenue from their
uncommercial neighbors, must appear not less impolitic than it is
unfair; since it would stimulate the injured party, by resentment
as well as interest, to resort to less convenient channels for
their foreign trade. But 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. The necessity of a superintending authority over the
reciprocal trade of confederated States, has been illustrated by
other examples as well as our own. In Switzerland, where the
Union is so very slight, each canton is obliged to allow to
merchandises a passage through its jurisdiction into other
cantons, without an augmentation of the tolls. In Germany it is a
law of the empire, that the princes and states shall not lay
tolls or customs on bridges, rivers, or passages, without the
consent of the emperor and the diet; though it appears from a
quotation in an antecedent paper, that the practice in this, as
in many other instances in that confederacy, has not followed the
law, and has produced there the mischiefs which have been
foreseen here. Among the restraints imposed by the Union of the
Netherlands on its members, one is, that they shall not establish
imposts disadvantageous to their neighbors, without the general
permission. The regulation of commerce with the Indian tribes is
very properly unfettered from two limitations in the articles of
Confederation, which render the provision obscure and
contradictory. The power is there restrained to Indians, not
members of any of the States, and is not to violate or infringe
the legislative right of any State within its own limits. What
description of Indians are to be deemed members of a State, is
not yet settled, and has been a question of frequent perplexity
and contention in the federal councils. And how the trade with
Indians, though not members of a State, yet residing within its
legislative jurisdiction, can be regulated by an external
authority, without so far intruding on the internal rights of
legislation, is absolutely incomprehensible. This is not the only
case in which the articles of Confederation have inconsiderately
endeavored to accomplish impossibilities; to reconcile a partial
sovereignty in the Union, with complete sovereignty in the
States; to subvert a mathematical axiom, by taking away a part,
and letting the whole remain. All that need be remarked on the
power to coin money, regulate the value thereof, and of foreign
coin, is, that by providing for this last case, the Constitution
has supplied a material omission in the articles of
Confederation. The authority of the existing Congress is
restrained to the regulation of coin STRUCK by their own
authority, or that of the respective States. It must be seen at
once that the proposed uniformity in the VALUE of the current
coin might be destroyed by subjecting that of foreign coin to the
different regulations of the different States. The punishment of
counterfeiting the public securities, as well as the current
coin, is submitted of course to that authority which is to secure
the value of both. The regulation of weights and measures is
transferred from the articles of Confederation, and is founded on
like considerations with the preceding power of regulating coin.
The dissimilarity in the rules of naturalization has long been
remarked as a fault in our system, and as laying a foundation for
intricate and delicate questions. In the fourth article of the
Confederation, it is declared “that the FREE INHABITANTS of each
of these States, paupers, vagabonds, and fugitives from justice,
excepted, shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of
FREE CITIZENS in the several States; and THE PEOPLE of each State
shall, in every other, enjoy all the privileges of trade and
commerce,” etc. There is a confusion of language here, which is
remarkable. Why the terms FREE INHABITANTS are used in one part
of the article, FREE CITIZENS in another, and PEOPLE in another;
or what was meant by superadding to “all privileges and
immunities of free citizens,” “all the privileges of trade and
commerce,”
cannot easily be determined. It seems to be a construction
scarcely avoidable, however, that those who come under the
denomination of FREE INHABITANTS of a State, although not
citizens of such State, are entitled, in every other State, to
all the privileges of FREE CITIZENS of the latter; that is, to
greater privileges than they may be entitled to in their own
State: so that it may be in the power of a particular State, or
rather every State is laid under a necessity, not only to confer
the rights of citizenship in other States upon any whom it may
admit to such rights within itself, but upon any whom it may
allow to become inhabitants within its jurisdiction. But were an
exposition of the term “inhabitants” to be admitted which
would confine the stipulated privileges to citizens alone, the
difficulty is diminished only, not removed. The very improper
power would still be retained by each State, of naturalizing
aliens in every other State. In one State, residence for a short
term confirms all the rights of citizenship: in another,
qualifications of greater importance are required. An alien,
therefore, legally incapacitated for certain rights in the
latter, may, by previous residence only in the former, elude his
incapacity; and thus the law of one State be preposterously
rendered paramount to the law of another, within the jurisdiction
of the other. We owe it to mere casualty, that very serious
embarrassments on this subject have been hitherto escaped. By the
laws of several States, certain descriptions of aliens, who had
rendered themselves obnoxious, were laid under interdicts
inconsistent not only with the rights of citizenship but with the
privilege of residence. What would have been the consequence, if
such persons, by residence or otherwise, had acquired the
character of citizens under the laws of another State, and then
asserted their rights as such, both to residence and citizenship,
within the State proscribing them? Whatever the legal
consequences might have been, other consequences would probably
have resulted, of too serious a nature not to be provided
against. The new Constitution has accordingly, with great
propriety, made provision against them, and all others proceeding
from the defect of the Confederation on this head, by authorizing
the general government to establish a uniform rule of
naturalization throughout the United States. The power of
establishing uniform laws of bankruptcy is so intimately
connected with the regulation of commerce, and will prevent so
many frauds where the parties or their property may lie or be
removed into different States, that the expediency of it seems
not likely to be drawn into question. The power of prescribing
by general laws, the manner in which the public acts, records and
judicial proceedings of each State shall be proved, and the
effect they shall have in other States, is an evident and
valuable improvement on the clause relating to this subject in
the articles of Confederation. The meaning of the latter is
extremely indeterminate, and can be of little importance under
any interpretation which it will bear. The power here established
may be rendered a very convenient instrument of justice, and be
particularly beneficial on the borders of contiguous States,
where the effects liable to justice may be suddenly and secretly
translated, in any stage of the process, within a foreign
jurisdiction. The power of establishing post roads must, in
every view, be a harmless power, and may, perhaps, by judicious
management, become productive of great public conveniency.
Nothing which tends to facilitate the intercourse between the
States can be deemed unworthy of the public care.

PUBLIUS.

FEDERALIST No. 43

The Same Subject Continued(The Powers Conferred by the
Constitution Further Considered)
For the Independent Journal.

MADISON

To the People of the State of New York:
THE FOURTH class comprises the following miscellaneous powers:1.
A power “to promote the progress of science and useful arts, by
securing, for a limited time, to authors and inventors, the
exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.
”The utility of this power will scarcely be questioned. The
copyright of authors has been solemnly adjudged, in Great
Britain, to be a right of common law. The right to useful
inventions seems with equal reason to belong to the inventors.
The public good fully coincides in both cases with the claims of
individuals. The States cannot separately make effectual
provisions for either of the cases, and most of them have
anticipated the decision of this point, by laws passed at the
instance of Congress. 2. “To exercise exclusive legislation, in
all cases whatsoever, over such district (not exceeding ten miles
square) as may, by cession of particular States and the
acceptance of Congress, become the seat of the government of the
United States; and to exercise like authority over all places
purchased by the consent of the legislatures of the States in
which the same shall be, for the erection of forts, magazines,
arsenals, dockyards, and other needful buildings. ”The
indispensable necessity of complete authority at the seat of
government, carries its own evidence with it. It is a power
exercised by every legislature of the Union, I might say of the
world, by virtue of its general supremacy. Without it, not only
the public authority might be insulted and its proceedings
interrupted with impunity; but a dependence of the members of the
general government on the State comprehending the seat of the
government, for protection in the exercise of their duty, might
bring on the national councils an imputation of awe or influence,
equally dishonorable to the government and dissatisfactory to the
other members of the Confederacy. This consideration has the more
weight, as the gradual accumulation of public improvements at the
stationary residence of the government would be both too great a
public pledge to be left in the hands of a single State, and
would create so many obstacles to a removal of the government, as
still further to abridge its necessary independence. The extent
of this federal district is sufficiently circumscribed to satisfy
every jealousy of an opposite nature. And as it is to be
appropriated to this use with the consent of the State ceding it;
as the State will no doubt provide in the compact for the rights
and the consent of the citizens inhabiting it; as the inhabitants
will find sufficient inducements of interest to become willing
parties to the cession; as they will have had their voice in the
election of the government which is to exercise authority over
them; as a municipal legislature for local purposes, derived from
their own suffrages, will of course be allowed them; and as the
authority of the legislature of the State, and of the inhabitants
of the ceded part of it, to concur in the cession, will be
derived from the whole people of the State in their adoption of
the Constitution, every imaginable objection seems to be
obviated. The necessity of a like authority over forts,
magazines, etc. , established by the general government, is not
less evident. The public money expended on such places, and the
public property deposited in them, requires that they should be
exempt from the authority of the particular State. Nor would it
be proper for the places on which the security of the entire
Union may depend, to be in any degree dependent on a particular
member of it. All objections and scruples are here also obviated,
by requiring the concurrence of the States concerned, in every
such establishment. 3. “To declare the punishment of treason,
but no attainder of treason shall work corruption of blood, or
forfeiture, except during the life of the person attained. ”As
treason may be committed against the United States, the authority
of the United States ought to be enabled to punish it. But as
new-fangled and artificial treasons have been the great engines
by which violent factions, the natural offspring of free
government, have usually wreaked their alternate malignity on
each other, the convention have, with great judgment, opposed a
barrier to this peculiar danger, by inserting a constitutional
definition of the crime, fixing the proof necessary for
conviction of it, and restraining the Congress, even in punishing
it, from extending the consequences of guilt beyond the person of
its author. 4. “To admit new States into the Union; but no new
State shall be formed or erected within the jurisdiction of any
other State; nor any State be formed by the junction of two or
more States, or parts of States, without the consent of the
legislatures of the States concerned, as well as of the Congress.
”In the articles of Confederation, no provision is found on this
important subject. Canada was to be admitted of right, on her
joining in the measures of the United States; and the other
COLONIES, by which were evidently meant the other British
colonies, at the discretion of nine States. The eventual
establishment of NEW STATES seems to have been overlooked by the
compilers of that instrument. We have seen the inconvenience of
this omission, and the assumption of power into which Congress
have been led by it. With great propriety, therefore, has the new
system supplied the defect. The general precaution, that no new
States shall be formed, without the concurrence of the federal
authority, and that of the States concerned, is consonant to the
principles which ought to govern such transactions. The
particular precaution against the erection of new States, by the
partition of a State without its consent, quiets the jealousy of
the larger States; as that of the smaller is quieted by a like
precaution, against a junction of States without their consent.
5. “To dispose of and make all needful rules and regulations
respecting the territory or other property belonging to the
United States, with a proviso, that nothing in the Constitution
shall be so construed as to prejudice any claims of the United
States, or of any particular State. ”This is a power of very
great importance, and required by considerations similar to those
which show the propriety of the former. The proviso annexed is
proper in itself, and was probably rendered absolutely necessary
by jealousies and questions concerning the Western territory
sufficiently known to the public. 6. “To guarantee to every
State in the Union a republican form of government; to protect
each of them against invasion; and on application of the
legislature, or of the executive (when the legislature cannot be
convened), against domestic violence. ”In a confederacy founded
on republican principles, and composed of republican members, the
superintending government ought clearly to possess authority to
defend the system against aristocratic or monarchial
innovations. The more intimate the nature of such a union may be,
the greater interest have the members in the political
institutions of each other; and the greater right to insist that
the forms of government under which the compact was entered into
should be SUBSTANTIALLY maintained. But a right implies a remedy;
and where else could the remedy be deposited, than where it is
deposited by the Constitution? Governments of dissimilar
principles and forms have been found less adapted to a federal
coalition of any sort, than those of a kindred nature. “As the
confederate republic of Germany,” says Montesquieu, “consists
of free cities and petty states, subject to different princes,
experience shows us that it is more imperfect than that of
Holland and Switzerland. ” “Greece was undone,” he adds, “as
soon as the king of Macedon obtained a seat among the
Amphictyons. ” In the latter case, no doubt, the
disproportionate force, as well as the monarchical form, of the
new confederate, had its share of influence on the events. It may
possibly be asked, what need there could be of such a
precaution, and whether it may not become a pretext for
alterations in the State governments, without the concurrence of
the States themselves. These questions admit of ready answers. If
the interposition of the general government should not be
needed, the provision for such an event will be a harmless
superfluity only in the Constitution. But who can say what
experiments may be produced by the caprice of particular States,
by the ambition of enterprising leaders, or by the intrigues and
influence of foreign powers? To the second question it may be
answered, that if the general government should interpose by
virtue of this constitutional authority, it will be, of course,
bound to pursue the authority. But the authority extends no
further than to a GUARANTY of a republican form of government,
which supposes a pre-existing government of the form which is to
be guaranteed. As long, therefore, as the existing republican
forms are continued by the States, they are guaranteed by the
federal Constitution. Whenever the States may choose to
substitute other republican forms, they have a right to do so,
and to claim the federal guaranty for the latter. The only
restriction imposed on them is, that they shall not exchange
republican for antirepublican Constitutions; a restriction
which, it is presumed, will hardly be considered as a grievance.
A protection against invasion is due from every society to the
parts composing it. The latitude of the expression here used
seems to secure each State, not only against foreign hostility,
but against ambitious or vindictive enterprises of its more
powerful neighbors. The history, both of ancient and modern
confederacies, proves that the weaker members of the union ought
not to be insensible to the policy of this article. Protection
against domestic violence is added with equal propriety. It has
been remarked, that even among the Swiss cantons, which, properly
speaking, are not under one government, provision is made for
this object; and the history of that league informs us that
mutual aid is frequently claimed and afforded; and as well by
the most democratic, as the other cantons. A recent and
well-known event among ourselves has warned us to be prepared for
emergencies of a like nature. At first view, it might seem not
to square with the republican theory, to suppose, either that a
majority have not the right, or that a minority will have the
force, to subvert a government; and consequently, that the
federal interposition can never be required, but when it would be
improper. But theoretic reasoning, in this as in most other
cases, must be qualified by the lessons of practice. Why may not
illicit combinations, for purposes of violence, be formed as
well by a majority of a State, especially a small State as by a
majority of a county, or a district of the same State; and if
the authority of the State ought, in the latter case, to protect
the local magistracy, ought not the federal authority, in the
former, to support the State authority? Besides, there are
certain parts of the State constitutions which are so interwoven
with the federal Constitution, that a violent blow cannot be
given to the one without communicating the wound to the other.
Insurrections in a State will rarely induce a federal
interposition, unless the number concerned in them bear some
proportion to the friends of government. It will be much better
that the violence in such cases should be repressed by the
superintending power, than that the majority should be left to
maintain their cause by a bloody and obstinate contest. The
existence of a right to interpose, will generally prevent the
necessity of exerting it. Is it true that force and right are
necessarily on the same side in republican governments? May not
the minor party possess such a superiority of pecuniary
resources, of military talents and experience, or of secret
succors from foreign powers, as will render it superior also in
an appeal to the sword? May not a more compact and advantageous
position turn the scale on the same side, against a superior
number so situated as to be less capable of a prompt and
collected exertion of its strength? Nothing can be more
chimerical than to imagine that in a trial of actual force,
victory may be calculated by the rules which prevail in a census
of the inhabitants, or which determine the event of an election!
May it not happen, in fine, that the minority of CITIZENS may
become a majority of PERSONS, by the accession of alien
residents, of a casual concourse of adventurers, or of those whom
the constitution of the State has not admitted to the rights of
suffrage? 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. In cases where it may be
doubtful on which side justice lies, what better umpires could
be desired by two violent factions, flying to arms, and tearing a
State to pieces, than the representatives of confederate States,
not heated by the local flame? To the impartiality of judges,
they would unite the affection of friends. Happy would it be if
such a remedy for its infirmities could be enjoyed by all free
governments; if a project equally effectual could be established
for the universal peace of mankind! Should it be asked, what is
to be the redress for an insurrection pervading all the States,
and comprising a superiority of the entire force, though not a
constitutional right? the answer must be, that such a case, as
it would be without the compass of human remedies, so it is
fortunately not within the compass of human probability; and
that it is a sufficient recommendation of the federal
Constitution, that it diminishes the risk of a calamity for which
no possible constitution can provide a cure. Among the
advantages of a confederate republic enumerated by Montesquieu,
an important one is, “that should a popular insurrection happen
in one of the States, the others are able to quell it. Should
abuses creep into one part, they are reformed by those that
remain sound. ”7. “To consider all debts contracted, and
engagements entered into, before the adoption of this
Constitution, as being no less valid against the United States,
under this Constitution, than under the Confederation. ”This
can only be considered as a declaratory proposition; and may have
been inserted, among other reasons, for the satisfaction of the
foreign creditors of the United States, who cannot be strangers
to the pretended doctrine, that a change in the political form of
civil society has the magical effect of dissolving its moral
obligations. Among the lesser criticisms which have been
exercised on the Constitution, it has been remarked that the
validity of engagements ought to have been asserted in favor of
the United States, as well as against them; and in the spirit
which usually characterizes little critics, the omission has been
transformed and magnified into a plot against the national
rights. The authors of this discovery may be told, what few
others need to be informed of, that as engagements are in their
nature reciprocal, an assertion of their validity on one side,
necessarily involves a validity on the other side; and that as
the article is merely declaratory, the establishment of the
principle in one case is sufficient for every case. They may be
further told, that every constitution must limit its precautions
to dangers that are not altogether imaginary; and that no real
danger can exist that the government would DARE, with, or even
without, this constitutional declaration before it, to remit the
debts justly due to the public, on the pretext here condemned. 8.
“To provide for amendments to be ratified by three fourths of
the States under two exceptions only. ”That useful alterations
will be suggested by experience, could not but be foreseen. It
was requisite, therefore, that a mode for introducing them should
be provided. The mode preferred by the convention seems to be
stamped with every mark of propriety. It guards equally against
that extreme facility, which would render the Constitution too
mutable; and that extreme difficulty, which might perpetuate its
discovered faults. It, moreover, equally enables the general and
the State governments to originate the amendment of errors, as
they may be pointed out by the experience on one side, or on the
other. The exception in favor of the equality of suffrage in the
Senate, was probably meant as a palladium to the residuary
sovereignty of the States, implied and secured by that principle
of representation in one branch of the legislature; and was
probably insisted on by the States particularly attached to that
equality. The other exception must have been admitted on the same
considerations which produced the privilege defended by it. 9.
“The ratification of the conventions of nine States shall be
sufficient for the establishment of this Constitution between the
States, ratifying the same. ”This article speaks for itself.
The express authority of the people alone could give due validity
to the Constitution. To have required the unanimous ratification
of the thirteen States, would have subjected the essential
interests of the whole to the caprice or corruption of a single
member. It would have marked a want of foresight in the
convention, which our own experience would have rendered
inexcusable. Two questions of a very delicate nature present
themselves on this occasion: 1. On what principle the
Confederation, which stands in the solemn form of a compact among
the States, can be superseded without the unanimous consent of
the parties to it? 2. What relation is to subsist between the
nine or more States ratifying the Constitution, and the remaining
few who do not become parties to it? The first question is
answered at once by recurring to the absolute necessity of the
case; to the great principle of self-preservation; to the
transcendent law of nature and of nature’s God, which declares
that the safety and happiness of society are the objects at which
all political institutions aim, and to which all such
institutions must be sacrificed. PERHAPS, also, an answer may be
found without searching beyond the principles of the compact
itself. It has been heretofore noted among the defects of the
Confederation, that in many of the States it had received no
higher sanction than a mere legislative ratification. The
principle of reciprocality seems to require that its obligation
on the other States should be reduced to the same standard. A
compact between independent sovereigns, founded on ordinary acts
of legislative authority, can pretend to no higher validity than
a league or treaty between the parties. It is an established
doctrine on the subject of treaties, that all the articles are
mutually conditions of each other; that a breach of any one
article is a breach of the whole treaty; and that a breach,
committed by either of the parties, absolves the others, and
authorizes them, if they please, to pronounce the compact
violated and void. Should it unhappily be necessary to appeal to
these delicate truths for a justification for dispensing with
the consent of particular States to a dissolution of the federal
pact, will not the complaining parties find it a difficult task
to answer the MULTIPLIED and IMPORTANT infractions with which
they may be confronted? The time has been when it was incumbent
on us all to veil the ideas which this paragraph exhibits. The
scene is now changed, and with it the part which the same motives
dictate. The second question is not less delicate; and the
flattering prospect of its being merely hypothetical forbids an
overcurious discussion of it. It is one of those cases which must
be left to provide for itself. In general, it may be observed,
that although no political relation can subsist between the
assenting and dissenting States, yet the moral relations will
remain uncancelled. The claims of justice, both on one side and
on the other, will be in force, and must be fulfilled; the
rights of humanity must in all cases be duly and mutually
respected; whilst considerations of a common interest, and,
above all, the remembrance of the endearing scenes which are
past, and the anticipation of a speedy triumph over the obstacles
to reunion, will, it is hoped, not urge in vain MODERATION on one
side, and PRUDENCE on the other. PUBLIUS.

FEDERALIST No. 44

Restrictions on the Authority of the Several States
From the New York Packet. Friday, January 25, 1788.

MADISON

To the People of the State of New York:
A FIFTH class of provisions in favor of the federal authority
consists of the following restrictions on the authority of the
several States:1. “No State shall enter into any treaty,
alliance, or confederation; grant letters of marque and reprisal;
coin money; emit bills of credit; make any thing but gold and
silver a legal tender in payment of debts; pass any bill of
attainder, ex-post-facto law, or law impairing the obligation of
contracts; or grant any title of nobility. ”The prohibition
against treaties, alliances, and confederations makes a part of
the existing articles of Union; and for reasons which need no
explanation, is copied into the new Constitution. The prohibition
of letters of marque is another part of the old system, but is
somewhat extended in the new. According to the former, letters of
marque could be granted by the States after a declaration of war;
according to the latter, these licenses must be obtained, as well
during war as previous to its declaration, from the government of
the United States. This alteration is fully justified by the
advantage of uniformity in all points which relate to foreign
powers; and of immediate responsibility to the nation in all
those for whose conduct the nation itself is to be responsible.
The right of coining money, which is here taken from the States,
was left in their hands by the Confederation, as a concurrent
right with that of Congress, under an exception in favor of the
exclusive right of Congress to regulate the alloy and value. In
this instance, also, the new provision is an improvement on the
old. Whilst the alloy and value depended on the general
authority, a right of coinage in the particular States could have
no other effect than to multiply expensive mints and diversify
the forms and weights of the circulating pieces. The latter
inconveniency defeats one purpose for which the power was
originally submitted to the federal head; and as far as the
former might prevent an inconvenient remittance of gold and
silver to the central mint for recoinage, the end can be as well
attained by local mints established under the general authority.
The extension of the prohibition to bills of credit must give
pleasure to every citizen, in proportion to his love of justice
and his knowledge of the true springs of public prosperity. The
loss which America has sustained since the peace, from the
pestilent effects of paper money on the necessary confidence
between man and man, on the necessary confidence in the public
councils, on the industry and morals of the people, and on the
character of republican government, constitutes an enormous debt
against the States chargeable with this unadvised measure, which
must long remain unsatisfied; or rather an accumulation of guilt,
which can be expiated no otherwise than by a voluntary sacrifice
on the altar of justice, of the power which has been the
instrument of it. In addition to these persuasive
considerations, it may be observed, that the same reasons which
show the necessity of denying to the States the power of
regulating coin, prove with equal force that they ought not to be
at liberty to substitute a paper medium in the place of coin. Had
every State a right to regulate the value of its coin, there
might be as many different currencies as States, and thus the
intercourse among them would be impeded; retrospective
alterations in its value might be made, and thus the citizens of
other States be injured, and animosities be kindled among the
States themselves. The subjects of foreign powers might suffer
from the same cause, and hence the Union be discredited and
embroiled by the indiscretion of a single member. No one of these
mischiefs is less incident to a power in the States to emit paper
money, than to coin gold or silver. The power to make any thing
but gold and silver a tender in payment of debts, is withdrawn
from the States, on the same principle with that of issuing a
paper currency. Bills of attainder, ex-post-facto laws, and laws
impairing the obligation of contracts, are contrary to the first
principles of the social compact, and to every principle of sound
legislation. The two former are expressly prohibited by the
declarations prefixed to some of the State constitutions, and all
of them are prohibited by the spirit and scope of these
fundamental charters. Our own experience has taught us,
nevertheless, that additional fences against these dangers ought
not to be omitted. Very properly, therefore, have the convention
added this constitutional bulwark in favor of personal security
and private rights; and I am much deceived if they have not, in
so doing, as faithfully consulted the genuine sentiments as the
undoubted interests of their constituents. The sober people of
America are weary of the fluctuating policy which has directed
the public councils. They have seen with regret and indignation
that sudden changes and legislative interferences, in cases
affecting personal rights, become jobs in the hands of
enterprising and influential speculators, and snares to the
more-industrious and lessinformed part of the community. They
have seen, too, that one legislative interference is but the
first link of a long chain of repetitions, every subsequent
interference being naturally produced by the effects of the
preceding. They very rightly infer, therefore, that some thorough
reform is wanting, which will banish speculations on public
measures, inspire a general prudence and industry, and give a
regular course to the business of society. The prohibition with
respect to titles of nobility is copied from the articles of
Confederation and needs no comment. 2. “No State shall, without
the consent of the Congress, lay any imposts or duties on imports
or exports, except what may be absolutely necessary for executing
its inspection laws, and the net produce of all duties and
imposts laid by any State on imports or exports, shall be for the
use of the treasury of the United States; and all such laws shall
be subject to the revision and control of the Congress. No State
shall, without the consent of Congress, lay any duty on tonnage,
keep troops or ships of war in time of peace, enter into any
agreement or compact with another State, or with a foreign power,
or engage in war unless actually invaded, or in such imminent
danger as will not admit of delay. ”The restraint on the power
of the States over imports and exports is enforced by all the
arguments which prove the necessity of submitting the regulation
of trade to the federal councils. It is needless, therefore, to
remark further on this head, than that the manner in which the
restraint is qualified seems well calculated at once to secure to
the States a reasonable discretion in providing for the
conveniency of their imports and exports, and to the United
States a reasonable check against the abuse of this discretion.
The remaining particulars of this clause fall within reasonings
which are either so obvious, or have been so fully developed,
that they may be passed over without remark. The SIXTH and last
class consists of the several powers and provisions by which
efficacy is given to all the rest. 1. Of these the first is, the
“power to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for
carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other
powers vested by this Constitution in the government of the
United States, or in any department or officer thereof. ”Few
parts of the Constitution have been assailed with more
intemperance than this; yet on a fair investigation of it, no
part can appear more completely invulnerable. Without the
SUBSTANCE of this power, the whole Constitution would be a dead
letter. Those who object to the article, therefore, as a part of
the Constitution, can only mean that the FORM of the provision is
improper. But have they considered whether a better form could
have been substituted? There are four other possible methods
which the Constitution might have taken on this subject. They
might have copied the second article of the existing
Confederation, which would have prohibited the exercise of any
power not EXPRESSLY delegated; they might have attempted a
positive enumeration of the powers comprehended under the general
terms “necessary and proper”; they might have attempted a
negative enumeration of them, by specifying the powers excepted
from the general definition; they might have been altogether
silent on the subject, leaving these necessary and proper powers
to construction and inference. Had the convention taken the
first method of adopting the second article of Confederation, it
is evident that the new Congress would be continually exposed, as
their predecessors have been, to the alternative of construing
the term “EXPRESSLY” with so much rigor, as to disarm the
government of all real authority whatever, or with so much
latitude as to destroy altogether the force of the restriction.
It would be easy to show, if it were necessary, that no important
power, delegated by the articles of Confederation, has been or
can be executed by Congress, without recurring more or less to
the doctrine of CONSTRUCTION or IMPLICATION. As the powers
delegated under the new system are more extensive, the government
which is to administer it would find itself still more distressed
with the alternative of betraying the public interests by doing
nothing, or of violating the Constitution by exercising powers
indispensably necessary and proper, but, at the same time, not
EXPRESSLY granted. Had the convention attempted a positive
enumeration of the powers necessary and proper for carrying their
other powers into effect, the attempt would have involved a
complete digest of laws on every subject to which the
Constitution relates; accommodated too, not only to the existing
state of things, but to all the possible changes which futurity
may produce; for in every new application of a general power, the
PARTICULAR POWERS, which are the means of attaining the OBJECT of
the general power, must always necessarily vary with that object,
and be often properly varied whilst the object remains the same.
Had they attempted to enumerate the particular powers or means
not necessary or proper for carrying the general powers into
execution, the task would have been no less chimerical; and would
have been liable to this further objection, that every defect in
the enumeration would have been equivalent to a positive grant of
authority. If, to avoid this consequence, they had attempted a
partial enumeration of the exceptions, and described the residue
by the general terms, NOT NECESSARY OR PROPER, it must have
happened that the enumeration would comprehend a few of the
excepted powers only; that these would be such as would be least
likely to be assumed or tolerated, because the enumeration would
of course select such as would be least necessary or proper; and
that the unnecessary and improper powers included in the
residuum, would be less forcibly excepted, than if no partial
enumeration had been made. Had the Constitution been silent on
this head, there can be no doubt that all the particular powers
requisite as means of executing the general powers would have
resulted to the government, by unavoidable implication. No axiom
is more clearly established in law, or in reason, than that
wherever the end is required, the means are authorized; wherever
a general power to do a thing is given, every particular power
necessary for doing it is included. Had this last method,
therefore, been pursued by the convention, every objection now
urged against their plan would remain in all its plausibility;
and the real inconveniency would be incurred of not removing a
pretext which may be seized on critical occasions for drawing
into question the essential powers of the Union. If it be asked
what is to be the consequence, in case the Congress shall
misconstrue this part of the Constitution, and exercise powers
not warranted by its true meaning, I answer, the same as if they
should misconstrue or enlarge any other power vested in them; as
if the general power had been reduced to particulars, and any one
of these were to be violated; the same, in short, as if the State
legislatures should violate the irrespective constitutional
authorities. In the first instance, the success of the usurpation
will depend on the executive and judiciary departments, which are
to expound and give effect to the legislative acts; and in the
last resort a remedy must be obtained from the people who can, by
the election of more faithful representatives, annul the acts of
the usurpers. The truth is, that this ultimate redress may be
more confided in against unconstitutional acts of the federal
than of the State legislatures, for this plain reason, that as
every such act of the former will be an invasion of the rights of
the latter, these will be ever ready to mark the innovation, to
sound the alarm to the people, and to exert their local influence
in effecting a change of federal representatives. There being no
such intermediate body between the State legislatures and the
people interested in watching the conduct of the former,
violations of the State constitutions are more likely to remain
unnoticed and unredressed. 2. “This Constitution and the laws
of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof,
and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the
authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the
land, and the judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any
thing in the constitution or laws of any State to the contrary
notwithstanding. ”The indiscreet zeal of the adversaries to the
Constitution has betrayed them into an attack on this part of it
also, without which it would have been evidently and radically
defective. To be fully sensible of this, we need only suppose for
a moment that the supremacy of the State constitutions had been
left complete by a saving clause in their favor. In the first
place, as these constitutions invest the State legislatures with
absolute sovereignty, in all cases not excepted by the existing
articles of Confederation, all the authorities contained in the
proposed Constitution, so far as they exceed those enumerated in
the Confederation, would have been annulled, and the new Congress
would have been reduced to the same impotent condition with their
predecessors. In the next place, as the constitutions of some of
the States do not even expressly and fully recognize the existing
powers of the Confederacy, an express saving of the supremacy of
the former would, in such States, have brought into question
every power contained in the proposed Constitution. In the third
place, as the constitutions of the States differ much from each
other, it might happen that a treaty or national law, of great
and equal importance to the States, would interfere with some and
not with other constitutions, and would consequently be valid in
some of the States, at the same time that it would have no effect
in others. In fine, the world would have seen, for the first
time, a system of government founded on an inversion of the
fundamental principles of all government; it would have seen the
authority of the whole society every where subordinate to the
authority of the parts; it would have seen a monster, in which
the head was under the direction of the members. 3. “The
Senators and Representatives, and the members of the several
State legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both
of the United States and the several States, shall be bound by
oath or affirmation to support this Constitution. ”It has been
asked why it was thought necessary, that the State magistracy
should be bound to support the federal Constitution, and
unnecessary that a like oath should be imposed on the officers of
the United States, in favor of the State constitutions. Several
reasons might be assigned for the distinction. I content myself
with one, which is obvious and conclusive. The members of the
federal government will have no agency in carrying the State
constitutions into effect. The members and officers of the State
governments, on the contrary, will have an essential agency in
giving effect to the federal Constitution. The election of the
President and Senate will depend, in all cases, on the
legislatures of the several States. And the election of the House
of Representatives will equally depend on the same authority in
the first instance; and will, probably, forever be conducted by
the officers, and according to the laws, of the States. 4. Among
the provisions for giving efficacy to the federal powers might be
added those which belong to the executive and judiciary
departments: but as these are reserved for particular examination
in another place, I pass them over in this. We have now
reviewed, in detail, all the articles composing the sum or
quantity of power delegated by the proposed Constitution to the
federal government, and are brought to this undeniable
conclusion, that no part of the power is unnecessary or improper
for accomplishing the necessary objects of the Union. The
question, therefore, whether this amount of power shall be
granted or not, resolves itself into another question, whether or
not a government commensurate to the exigencies of the Union
shall be established; or, in other words, whether the Union
itself shall be preserved.

PUBLIUS.

FEDERALIST No. 45

The Alleged Danger From the Powers of the Union to the State
Governments Considered
For the Independent Fournal.

MADISON

To the People of the State of New York:
HAVING shown that no one of the powers transferred to the federal
government is unnecessary or improper, the next question to be
considered is, whether the whole mass of them will be dangerous
to the portion of authority left in the several States. The
adversaries to the plan of the convention, instead of considering
in the first place what degree of power was absolutely necessary
for the purposes of the federal government, have exhausted
themselves in a secondary inquiry into the possible consequences
of the proposed degree of power to the governments of the
particular States. But if the Union, as has been shown, be
essential to the security of the people of America against
foreign danger; if it be essential to their security against
contentions and wars among the different States; if it be
essential to guard them against those violent and oppressive
factions which embitter the blessings of liberty, and against
those military establishments which must gradually poison its
very fountain; if, in a word, the Union be essential to the
happiness of the people of America, is it not preposterous, to
urge as an objection to a government, without which the objects
of the Union cannot be attained, that such a government may
derogate from the importance of the governments of the individual
States? Was, then, the American Revolution effected, was the
American Confederacy formed, was the precious blood of thousands
spilt, and the hard-earned substance of millions lavished, not
that the people of America should enjoy peace, liberty, and
safety, but that the government of the individual States, that
particular municipal establishments, might enjoy a certain extent
of power, and be arrayed with certain dignities and attributes of
sovereignty? We have heard of the impious doctrine in the Old
World, that the people were made for kings, not kings for the
people. Is the same doctrine to be revived in the New, in another
shape that the solid happiness of the people is to be sacrificed
to the views of political institutions of a different form? It is
too early for politicians to presume on our forgetting that the
public good, the real welfare of the great body of the people, is
the supreme object to be pursued; and that no form of government
whatever has any other value than as it may be fitted for the
attainment of this object. Were the plan of the convention
adverse to the public happiness, my voice would be, Reject the
plan. Were the Union itself inconsistent with the public
happiness, it would be, Abolish the Union. In like manner, as far
as the sovereignty of the States cannot be reconciled to the
happiness of the people, the voice of every good citizen must be,
Let the former be sacrificed to the latter. How far the sacrifice
is necessary, has been shown. How far the unsacrificed residue
will be endangered, is the question before us. Several important
considerations have been touched in the course of these papers,
which discountenance the supposition that the operation of the
federal government will by degrees prove fatal to the State
governments. The more I revolve the subject, the more fully I am
persuaded that the balance is much more likely to be disturbed by
the preponderancy of the last than of the first scale. We have
seen, in all the examples of ancient and modern confederacies,
the strongest tendency continually betraying itself in the
members, to despoil the general government of its authorities,
with a very ineffectual capacity in the latter to defend itself
against the encroachments. Although, in most of these examples,
the system has been so dissimilar from that under consideration
as greatly to weaken any inference concerning the latter from the
fate of the former, yet, as the States will retain, under the
proposed Constitution, a very extensive portion of active
sovereignty, the inference ought not to be wholly disregarded. In
the Achaean league it is probable that the federal head had a
degree and species of power, which gave it a considerable
likeness to the government framed by the convention. The Lycian
Confederacy, as far as its principles and form are transmitted,
must have borne a still greater analogy to it. Yet history does
not inform us that either of them ever degenerated, or tended to
degenerate, into one consolidated government. On the contrary, we
know that the ruin of one of them proceeded from the incapacity
of the federal authority to prevent the dissensions, and finally
the disunion, of the subordinate authorities. These cases are the
more worthy of our attention, as the external causes by which the
component parts were pressed together were much more numerous and
powerful than in our case; and consequently less powerful
ligaments within would be sufficient to bind the members to the
head, and to each other. In the feudal system, we have seen a
similar propensity exemplified. Notwithstanding the want of
proper sympathy in every instance between the local sovereigns
and the people, and the sympathy in some instances between the
general sovereign and the latter, it usually happened that the
local sovereigns prevailed in the rivalship for encroachments.
Had no external dangers enforced internal harmony and
subordination, and particularly, had the local sovereigns
possessed the affections of the people, the great kingdoms in
Europe would at this time consist of as many independent princes
as there were formerly feudatory barons. The State government
will have the advantage of the Federal government, whether we
compare them in respect to the immediate dependence of the one on
the other; to the weight of personal influence which each side
will possess; to the powers respectively vested in them; to the
predilection and probable support of the people; to the
disposition and faculty of resisting and frustrating the measures
of each other. The State governments may be regarded as
constituent and essential parts of the federal government; whilst
the latter is nowise essential to the operation or organization
of the former. Without the intervention of the State
legislatures, the President of the United States cannot be
elected at all. They must in all cases have a great share in his
appointment, and will, perhaps, in most cases, of themselves
determine it. The Senate will be elected absolutely and
exclusively by the State legislatures. Even the House of
Representatives, though drawn immediately from the people, will
be chosen very much under the influence of that class of men,
whose influence over the people obtains for themselves an
election into the State legislatures. Thus, each of the principal
branches of the federal government will owe its existence more or
less to the favor of the State governments, and must consequently
feel a dependence, which is much more likely to beget a
disposition too obsequious than too overbearing towards them. On
the other side, the component parts of the State governments will
in no instance be indebted for their appointment to the direct
agency of the federal government, and very little, if at all, to
the local influence of its members. The number of individuals
employed under the Constitution of the United States will be much
smaller than the number employed under the particular States.
There will consequently be less of personal influence on the side
of the former than of the latter. The members of the legislative,
executive, and judiciary departments of thirteen and more States,
the justices of peace, officers of militia, ministerial officers
of justice, with all the county, corporation, and town officers,
for three millions and more of people, intermixed, and having
particular acquaintance with every class and circle of people,
must exceed, beyond all proportion, both in number and influence,
those of every description who will be employed in the
administration of the federal system. Compare the members of the
three great departments of the thirteen States, excluding from
the judiciary department the justices of peace, with the members
of the corresponding departments of the single government of the
Union; compare the militia officers of three millions of people
with the military and marine officers of any establishment which
is within the compass of probability, or, I may add, of
possibility, and in this view alone, we may pronounce the
advantage of the States to be decisive. If the federal government
is to have collectors of revenue, the State governments will have
theirs also. And as those of the former will be principally on
the seacoast, and not very numerous, whilst those of the latter
will be spread over the face of the country, and will be very
numerous, the advantage in this view also lies on the same side.
It is true, that the Confederacy is to possess, and may exercise,
the power of collecting internal as well as external taxes
throughout the States; but it is probable that this power will
not be resorted to, except for supplemental purposes of revenue;
that an option will then be given to the States to supply their
quotas by previous collections of their own; and that the
eventual collection, under the immediate authority of the Union,
will generally be made by the officers, and according to the
rules, appointed by the several States. Indeed it is extremely
probable, that in other instances, particularly in the
organization of the judicial power, the officers of the States
will be clothed with the correspondent authority of the Union.
Should it happen, however, that separate collectors of internal
revenue should be appointed under the federal government, the
influence of the whole number would not bear a comparison with
that of the multitude of State officers in the opposite scale.
Within every district to which a federal collector would be
allotted, there would not be less than thirty or forty, or even
more, officers of different descriptions, and many of them
persons of character and weight, whose influence would lie on the
side of the State. 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. The former will be exercised principally on external
objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce; with
which last the power of taxation will, for the most part, be
connected. The powers reserved to the several States will extend
to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs,
concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people, and
the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State. The
operations of the federal government will be most extensive and
important in times of war and danger; those of the State
governments, in times of peace and security. As the former
periods will probably bear a small proportion to the latter, the
State governments will here enjoy another advantage over the
federal government. The more adequate, indeed, the federal powers
may be rendered to the national defense, the less frequent will
be those scenes of danger which might favor their ascendancy over
the governments of the particular States. If the new Constitution
be examined with accuracy and candor, it will be found that the
change which it proposes consists much less in the addition of
NEW POWERS to the Union, than in the invigoration of its ORIGINAL
POWERS. The regulation of commerce, it is true, is a new power;
but that seems to be an addition which few oppose, and from which
no apprehensions are entertained. The powers relating to war and
peace, armies and fleets, treaties and finance, with the other
more considerable powers, are all vested in the existing Congress
by the articles of Confederation. The proposed change does not
enlarge these powers; it only substitutes a more effectual mode
of administering them. The change relating to taxation may be
regarded as the most important; and yet the present Congress have
as complete authority to REQUIRE of the States indefinite
supplies of money for the common defense and general welfare, as
the future Congress will have to require them of individual
citizens; and the latter will be no more bound than the States
themselves have been, to pay the quotas respectively taxed on
them. Had the States complied punctually with the articles of
Confederation, or could their compliance have been enforced by as
peaceable means as may be used with success towards single
persons, our past experience is very far from countenancing an
opinion, that the State governments would have lost their
constitutional powers, and have gradually undergone an entire
consolidation. To maintain that such an event would have ensued,
would be to say at once, that the existence of the State
governments is incompatible with any system whatever that
accomplishes the essental purposes of the Union.

PUBLIUS

FEDERALIST No. 46

The Influence of the State and Federal Governments Compared
From the New York Packet. Tuesday, January 29, 1788.

MADISON

To the People of the State of New York:
RESUMING the subject of the last paper, I proceed to inquire
whether the federal government or the State governments will have
the advantage with regard to the predilection and support of the
people. Notwithstanding the different modes in which they are
appointed, we must consider both of them as substantially
dependent on the great body of the citizens of the United States.
I assume this position here as it respects the first, reserving
the proofs for another place. The federal and State governments
are in fact but different agents and trustees of the people,
constituted with different powers, and designed for different
purposes. The adversaries of the Constitution seem to have lost
sight of the people altogether in their reasonings on this
subject; and to have viewed these different establishments, not
only as mutual rivals and enemies, but as uncontrolled by any
common superior in their efforts to usurp the authorities of each
other. These gentlemen must here be reminded of their error. They
must be told that the ultimate authority, wherever the derivative
may be found, resides in the people alone, and that it will not
depend merely on the comparative ambition or address of the
different governments, whether either, or which of them, will be
able to enlarge its sphere of jurisdiction at the expense of the
other. Truth, no less than decency, requires that the event in
every case should be supposed to depend on the sentiments and
sanction of their common constituents. Many considerations,
besides those suggested on a former occasion, seem to place it
beyond doubt that the first and most natural attachment of the
people will be to the governments of their respective States.
Into the administration of these a greater number of individuals
will expect to rise. From the gift of these a greater number of
offices and emoluments will flow. By the superintending care of
these, all the more domestic and personal interests of the people
will be regulated and provided for. With the affairs of these,
the people will be more familiarly and minutely conversant. And
with the members of these, will a greater proportion of the
people have the ties of personal acquaintance and friendship, and
of family and party attachments; on the side of these,
therefore, the popular bias may well be expected most strongly to
incline. Experience speaks the same language in this case. The
federal administration, though hitherto very defective in
comparison with what may be hoped under a better system, had,
during the war, and particularly whilst the independent fund of
paper emissions was in credit, an activity and importance as
great as it can well have in any future circumstances whatever.
It was engaged, too, in a course of measures which had for their
object the protection of everything that was dear, and the
acquisition of everything that could be desirable to the people
at large. It was, nevertheless, invariably found, after the
transient enthusiasm for the early Congresses was over, that the
attention and attachment of the people were turned anew to their
own particular governments; that the federal council was at no
time the idol of popular favor; and that opposition to proposed
enlargements of its powers and importance was the side usually
taken by the men who wished to build their political consequence
on the prepossessions of their fellow-citizens. If, therefore,
as has been elsewhere remarked, the people should in future
become more partial to the federal than to the State governments,
the change can only result from such manifest and irresistible
proofs of a better administration, as will overcome all their
antecedent propensities. And in that case, the people ought not
surely to be precluded from giving most of their confidence where
they may discover it to be most due; but even in that case the
State governments could have little to apprehend, because it is
only within a certain sphere that the federal power can, in the
nature of things, be advantageously administered. The remaining
points on which I propose to compare the federal and State
governments, are the disposition and the faculty they may
respectively possess, to resist and frustrate the measures of
each other. It has been already proved that the members of the
federal will be more dependent on the members of the State
governments, than the latter will be on the former. It has
appeared also, that the prepossessions of the people, on whom
both will depend, will be more on the side of the State
governments, than of the federal government. So far as the
disposition of each towards the other may be influenced by these
causes, the State governments must clearly have the advantage.
But in a distinct and very important point of view, the advantage
will lie on the same side. The prepossessions, which the members
themselves will carry into the federal government, will generally
be favorable to the States; whilst it will rarely happen, that
the members of the State governments will carry into the public
councils a bias in favor of the general government. A local
spirit will infallibly prevail much more in the members of
Congress, than a national spirit will prevail in the legislatures
of the particular States. Every one knows that a great proportion
of the errors committed by the State legislatures proceeds from
the disposition of the members to sacrifice the comprehensive and
permanent interest of the State, to the particular and separate
views of the counties or districts in which they reside. And if
they do not sufficiently enlarge their policy to embrace the
collective welfare of their particular State, how can it be
imagined that they will make the aggregate prosperity of the
Union, and the dignity and respectability of its government, the
objects of their affections and consultations? For the same
reason that the members of the State legislatures will be
unlikely to attach themselves sufficiently to national objects,
the members of the federal legislature will be likely to attach
themselves too much to local objects. The States will be to the
latter what counties and towns are to the former. Measures will
too often be decided according to their probable effect, not on
the national prosperity and happiness, but on the prejudices,
interests, and pursuits of the governments and people of the
individual States. What is the spirit that has in general
characterized the proceedings of Congress? A perusal of their
journals, as well as the candid acknowledgments of such as have
had a seat in that assembly, will inform us, that the members
have but too frequently displayed the character, rather of
partisans of their respective States, than of impartial guardians
of a common interest; that where on one occasion improper
sacrifices have been made of local considerations, to the
aggrandizement of the federal government, the great interests of
the nation have suffered on a hundred, from an undue attention to
the local prejudices, interests, and views of the particular
States. I mean not by these reflections to insinuate, that the
new federal government will not embrace a more enlarged plan of
policy than the existing government may have pursued; much less,
that its views will be as confined as those of the State
legislatures; but only that it will partake sufficiently of the
spirit of both, to be disinclined to invade the rights of the
individual States, or the preorgatives of their governments. The
motives on the part of the State governments, to augment their
prerogatives by defalcations from the federal government, will be
overruled by no reciprocal predispositions in the members. Were
it admitted, however, that the Federal government may feel an
equal disposition with the State governments to extend its power
beyond the due limits, the latter would still have the advantage
in the means of defeating such encroachments. If an act of a
particular State, though unfriendly to the national government,
be generally popular in that State and should not too grossly
violate the oaths of the State officers, it is executed
immediately and, of course, by means on the spot and depending on
the State alone. The opposition of the federal government, or the
interposition of federal officers, would but inflame the zeal of
all parties on the side of the State, and the evil could not be
prevented or repaired, if at all, without the employment of means
which must always be resorted to with reluctance and difficulty.
On the other hand, should an unwarrantable measure of the federal
government be unpopular in particular States, which would seldom
fail to be the case, or even a warrantable measure be so, which
may sometimes be the case, the means of opposition to it are
powerful and at hand. The disquietude of the people; their
repugnance and, perhaps, refusal to co-operate with the officers
of the Union; the frowns of the executive magistracy of the
State; the embarrassments created by legislative devices, which
would often be added on such occasions, would oppose, in any
State, difficulties not to be despised; would form, in a large
State, very serious impediments; and where the sentiments of
several adjoining States happened to be in unison, would present
obstructions which the federal government would hardly be willing
to encounter. But ambitious encroachments of the federal
government, on the authority of the State governments, would not
excite the opposition of a single State, or of a few States
only. They would be signals of general alarm. Every government
would espouse the common cause. A correspondence would be
opened. Plans of resistance would be concerted. One spirit would
animate and conduct the whole. The same combinations, in short,
would result from an apprehension of the federal, as was produced
by the dread of a foreign, yoke; and unless the projected
innovations should be voluntarily renounced, the same appeal to
a trial of force would be made in the one case as was made in the
other. But what degree of madness could ever drive the federal
government to such an extremity. In the contest with Great
Britain, one part of the empire was employed against the other.
The more numerous part invaded the rights of the less numerous
part. The attempt was unjust and unwise; but it was not in
speculation absolutely chimerical. But what would be the contest
in the case we are supposing? Who would be the parties? A few
representatives of the people would be opposed to the people
themselves; or rather one set of representatives would be
contending against thirteen sets of representatives, with the
whole body of their common constituents on the side of the
latter. The only refuge left for those who prophesy the downfall
of the State governments is the visionary supposition that the
federal government may previously accumulate a military force for
the projects of ambition. The reasonings contained in these
papers must have been employed to little purpose indeed, if it
could be necessary now to disprove the reality of this danger.
That the people and the States should, for a sufficient period of
time, elect an uninterupted succession of men ready to betray
both; that the traitors should, throughout this period,
uniformly and systematically pursue some fixed plan for the
extension of the military establishment; that the governments
and the people of the States should silently and patiently behold
the gathering storm, and continue to supply the materials, until
it should be prepared to burst on their own heads, must appear to
every one more like the incoherent dreams of a delirious
jealousy, or the misjudged exaggerations of a counterfeit zeal,
than like the sober apprehensions of genuine patriotism.
Extravagant as the supposition is, let it however be made. Let a
regular army, fully equal to the resources of the country, be
formed; and let it be entirely at the devotion of the federal
government; still it would not be going too far to say, that the
State governments, with the people on their side, would be able
to repel the danger. The highest number to which, according to
the best computation, a standing army can be carried in any
country, does not exceed one hundredth part of the whole number
of souls; or one twenty-fifth part of the number able to bear
arms. This proportion would not yield, in the United States, an
army of more than twenty-five or thirty thousand men. To these
would be opposed a militia amounting to near half a million of
citizens with arms in their hands, officered by men chosen from
among themselves, fighting for their common liberties, and united
and conducted by governments possessing their affections and
confidence. It may well be doubted, whether a militia thus
circumstanced could ever be conquered by such a proportion of
regular troops. Those who are best acquainted with the last
successful resistance of this country against the British arms,
will be most inclined to deny the possibility of it. Besides the
advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the
people of almost every other nation, the existence of
subordinate governments, to which the people are attached, and by
which the militia officers are appointed, forms a barrier against
the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any which a
simple government of any form can admit of. Notwithstanding the
military establishments in the several kingdoms of Europe, which
are carried as far as the public resources will bear, the
governments are afraid to trust the people with arms. And it is
not certain, that with this aid alone they would not be able to
shake off their yokes. But were the people to possess the
additional advantages of local governments chosen by themselves,
who could collect the national will and direct the national
force, and of officers appointed out of the militia, by these
governments, and attached both to them and to the militia, it may
be affirmed with the greatest assurance, that the throne of every
tyranny in Europe would be speedily overturned in spite of the
legions which surround it. Let us not insult the free and gallant
citizens of America with the suspicion, that they would be less
able to defend the rights of which they would be in actual
possession, than the debased subjects of arbitrary power would be
to rescue theirs from the hands of their oppressors. Let us
rather no longer insult them with the supposition that they can
ever reduce themselves to the necessity of making the experiment,
by a blind and tame submission to the long train of insidious
measures which must precede and produce it. The argument under
the present head may be put into a very concise form, which
appears altogether conclusive. Either the mode in which the
federal government is to be constructed will render it
sufficiently dependent on the people, or it will not. On the
first supposition, it will be restrained by that dependence from
forming schemes obnoxious to their constituents. On the other
supposition, it will not possess the confidence of the people,
and its schemes of usurpation will be easily defeated by the
State governments, who will be supported by the people. On
summing up the considerations stated in this and the last paper,
they seem to amount to the most convincing evidence, that the
powers proposed to be lodged in the federal government are as
little formidable to those reserved to the individual States, as
they are indispensably necessary to accomplish the purposes of
the Union; and that all those alarms which have been sounded, of
a meditated and consequential annihilation of the State
governments, must, on the most favorable interpretation, be
ascribed to the chimerical fears of the authors of them.

PUBLIUS.

FEDERALIST No. 47

The Particular Structure of the New Government and the
Distribution of Power Among Its Different Parts
From the New York Packet. Friday, February 1, 1788.

MADISON

To the People of the State of New York:
HAVING reviewed the general form of the proposed government and
the general mass of power allotted to it, I proceed to examine
the particular structure of this government, and the distribution
of this mass of power among its constituent parts. One of the
principal objections inculcated by the more respectable
adversaries to the Constitution, is its supposed violation of the
political maxim, that the legislative, executive, and judiciary
departments ought to be separate and distinct. In the structure
of the federal government, no regard, it is said, seems to have
been paid to this essential precaution in favor of liberty. The
several departments of power are distributed and blended in such
a manner as at once to destroy all symmetry and beauty of form,
and to expose some of the essential parts of the edifice to the
danger of being crushed by the disproportionate weight of other
parts. No political truth is certainly of greater intrinsic
value, or is stamped with the authority of more enlightened
patrons of liberty, than that on which the objection is founded.
The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and
judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and
whether hereditary, selfappointed, or elective, may justly be
pronounced the very definition of tyranny. Were the federal
Constitution, therefore, really chargeable with the accumulation
of power, or with a mixture of powers, having a dangerous
tendency to such an accumulation, no further arguments would be
necessary to inspire a universal reprobation of the system. I
persuade myself, however, that it will be made apparent to every
one, that the charge cannot be supported, and that the maxim on
which it relies has been totally misconceived and misapplied. In
order to form correct ideas on this important subject, it will be
proper to investigate the sense in which the preservation of
liberty requires that the three great departments of power should
be separate and distinct. The oracle who is always consulted and
cited on this subject is the celebrated Montesquieu. If he be not
the author of this invaluable precept in the science of politics,
he has the merit at least of displaying and recommending it most
effectually to the attention of mankind. Let us endeavor, in the
first place, to ascertain his meaning on this point. The British
Constitution was to Montesquieu what Homer has been to the
didactic writers on epic poetry. As the latter have considered
the work of the immortal bard as the perfect model from which the
principles and rules of the epic art were to be drawn, and by
which all similar works were to be judged, so this great
political critic appears to have viewed the Constitution of
England as the standard, or to use his own expression, as the
mirror of political liberty; and to have delivered, in the form
of elementary truths, the several characteristic principles of
that particular system. That we may be sure, then, not to mistake
his meaning in this case, let us recur to the source from which
the maxim was drawn.
On the slightest view of the British
Constitution, we must perceive that the legislative, executive,
and judiciary departments are by no means totally separate and
distinct from each other. The executive magistrate forms an
integral part of the legislative authority. He alone has the
prerogative of making treaties with foreign sovereigns, which,
when made, have, under certain limitations, the force of
legislative acts. All the members of the judiciary department are
appointed by him, can be removed by him on the address of the two
Houses of Parliament, and form, when he pleases to consult them,
one of his constitutional councils. One branch of the legislative
department forms also a great constitutional council to the
executive chief, as, on another hand, it is the sole depositary
of judicial power in cases of impeachment, and is invested with
the supreme appellate jurisdiction in all other cases. The
judges, again, are so far connected with the legislative
department as often to attend and participate in its
deliberations, though not admitted to a legislative vote. From
these facts, by which Montesquieu was guided, it may clearly be
inferred that, in saying “There can be no liberty where the
legislative and executive powers are united in the same person,
or body of magistrates,” or, “if the power of judging be not
separated from the legislative and executive powers,” he did not
mean that these departments ought to have no PARTIAL AGENCY in,
or no CONTROL over, the acts of each other. His meaning, as his
own words import, and still more conclusively as illustrated by
the example in his eye, can amount to no more than this, that
where the WHOLE power of one department is exercised by the same
hands which possess the WHOLE power of another department, the
fundamental principles of a free constitution are subverted. This
would have been the case in the constitution examined by him, if
the king, who is the sole executive magistrate, had possessed
also the complete legislative power, or the supreme
administration of justice; or if the entire legislative body had
possessed the supreme judiciary, or the supreme executive
authority. This, however, is not among the vices of that
constitution. The magistrate in whom the whole executive power
resides cannot of himself make a law, though he can put a
negative on every law; nor administer justice in person, though
he has the appointment of those who do administer it. The judges
can exercise no executive prerogative, though they are shoots
from the executive stock; nor any legislative function, though
they may be advised with by the legislative councils. The entire
legislature can perform no judiciary act, though by the joint act
of two of its branches the judges may be removed from their
offices, and though one of its branches is possessed of the
judicial power in the last resort. The entire legislature, again,
can exercise no executive prerogative, though one of its branches
constitutes the supreme executive magistracy, and another, on the
impeachment of a third, can try and condemn all the subordinate
officers in the executive department. The reasons on which
Montesquieu grounds his maxim are a further demonstration of his
meaning. “When the legislative and executive powers are united
in the same person or body,” says he, “there can be no liberty,
because apprehensions may arise lest THE SAME monarch or senate
should ENACT tyrannical laws to EXECUTE them in a tyrannical
manner. ” Again: “Were the power of judging joined with the
legislative, the life and liberty of the subject would be exposed
to arbitrary control, for THE JUDGE would then be THE LEGISLATOR.
Were it joined to the executive power, THE JUDGE might behave
with all the violence of AN OPPRESSOR. ” Some of these reasons
are more fully explained in other passages; but briefly stated as
they are here, they sufficiently establish the meaning which we
have put on this celebrated maxim of this celebrated author.

If we look into the constitutions of the several States, we find
that, notwithstanding the emphatical and, in some instances, the
unqualified terms in which this axiom has been laid down, there
is not a single instance in which the several departments of
power have been kept absolutely separate and distinct. New
Hampshire, whose constitution was the last formed, seems to have
been fully aware of the impossibility and inexpediency of
avoiding any mixture whatever of these departments, and has
qualified the doctrine by declaring “that the legislative,
executive, and judiciary powers ought to be kept as separate
from, and independent of, each other AS THE NATURE OF A FREE
GOVERNMENT WILL ADMIT; OR AS IS CONSISTENT WITH THAT CHAIN OF
CONNECTION THAT BINDS THE WHOLE FABRIC OF THE CONSTITUTION IN ONE
INDISSOLUBLE BOND OF UNITY AND AMITY. ” Her constitution
accordingly mixes these departments in several respects. The
Senate, which is a branch of the legislative department, is also
a judicial tribunal for the trial of impeachments. The
President, who is the head of the executive department, is the
presiding member also of the Senate; and, besides an equal vote
in all cases, has a casting vote in case of a tie. The executive
head is himself eventually elective every year by the
legislative department, and his council is every year chosen by
and from the members of the same department. Several of the
officers of state are also appointed by the legislature. And the
members of the judiciary department are appointed by the
executive department. The constitution of Massachusetts has
observed a sufficient though less pointed caution, in expressing
this fundamental article of liberty. It declares “that the
legislative department shall never exercise the executive and
judicial powers, or either of them; the executive shall never
exercise the legislative and judicial powers, or either of them;
the judicial shall never exercise the legislative and executive
powers, or either of them. ” This declaration corresponds
precisely with the doctrine of Montesquieu, as it has been
explained, and is not in a single point violated by the plan of
the convention. It goes no farther than to prohibit any one of
the entire departments from exercising the powers of another
department. In the very Constitution to which it is prefixed, a
partial mixture of powers has been admitted. The executive
magistrate has a qualified negative on the legislative body, and
the Senate, which is a part of the legislature, is a court of
impeachment for members both of the executive and judiciary
departments. The members of the judiciary department, again, are
appointable by the executive department, and removable by the
same authority on the address of the two legislative branches.
Lastly, a number of the officers of government are annually
appointed by the legislative department. As the appointment to
offices, particularly executive offices, is in its nature an
executive function, the compilers of the Constitution have, in
this last point at least, violated the rule established by
themselves. I pass over the constitutions of Rhode Island and
Connecticut, because they were formed prior to the Revolution,
and even before the principle under examination had become an
object of political attention. The constitution of New York
contains no declaration on this subject; but appears very
clearly to have been framed with an eye to the danger of
improperly blending the different departments. It gives,
nevertheless, to the executive magistrate, a partial control over
the legislative department; and, what is more, gives a like
control to the judiciary department; and even blends the
executive and judiciary departments in the exercise of this
control. In its council of appointment members of the
legislative are associated with the executive authority, in the
appointment of officers, both executive and judiciary. And its
court for the trial of impeachments and correction of errors is
to consist of one branch of the legislature and the principal
members of the judiciary department. The constitution of New
Jersey has blended the different powers of government more than
any of the preceding. The governor, who is the executive
magistrate, is appointed by the legislature; is chancellor and
ordinary, or surrogate of the State; is a member of the Supreme
Court of Appeals, and president, with a casting vote, of one of
the legislative branches. The same legislative branch acts again
as executive council of the governor, and with him constitutes
the Court of Appeals. The members of the judiciary department are
appointed by the legislative department and removable by one
branch of it, on the impeachment of the other. According to the
constitution of Pennsylvania, the president, who is the head of
the executive department, is annually elected by a vote in which
the legislative department predominates. In conjunction with an
executive council, he appoints the members of the judiciary
department, and forms a court of impeachment for trial of all
officers, judiciary as well as executive. The judges of the
Supreme Court and justices of the peace seem also to be removable
by the legislature; and the executive power of pardoning in
certain cases, to be referred to the same department. The members
of the executive counoil are made EX-OFFICIO justices of peace
throughout the State. In Delaware, the chief executive magistrate
is annually elected by the legislative department. The speakers
of the two legislative branches are vice-presidents in the
executive department. The executive chief, with six others,
appointed, three by each of the legislative branches constitutes
the Supreme Court of Appeals; he is joined with the legislative
department in the appointment of the other judges. Throughout the
States, it appears that the members of the legislature may at the
same time be justices of the peace; in this State, the members of
one branch of it are EX-OFFICIO justices of the peace; as are
also the members of the executive council. The principal officers
of the executive department are appointed by the legislative; and
one branch of the latter forms a court of impeachments. All
officers may be removed on address of the legislature. Maryland
has adopted the maxim in the most unqualified terms; declaring
that the legislative, executive, and judicial powers of
government ought to be forever separate and distinct from each
other. Her constitution, notwithstanding, makes the executive
magistrate appointable by the legislative department; and the
members of the judiciary by the executive department. The
language of Virginia is still more pointed on this subject. Her
constitution declares, “that the legislative, executive, and
judiciary departments shall be separate and distinct; so that
neither exercise the powers properly belonging to the other; nor
shall any person exercise the powers of more than one of them at
the same time, except that the justices of county courts shall be
eligible to either House of Assembly. ” Yet we find not only
this express exception, with respect to the members of the
irferior courts, but that the chief magistrate, with his
executive council, are appointable by the legislature; that two
members of the latter are triennially displaced at the pleasure
of the legislature; and that all the principal offices, both
executive and judiciary, are filled by the same department. The
executive prerogative of pardon, also, is in one case vested in
the legislative department. The constitution of North Carolina,
which declares “that the legislative, executive, and supreme
judicial powers of government ought to be forever separate and
distinct from each other,” refers, at the same time, to the
legislative department, the appointment not only of the executive
chief, but all the principal officers within both that and the
judiciary department. In South Carolina, the constitution makes
the executive magistracy eligible by the legislative department.
It gives to the latter, also, the appointment of the members of
the judiciary department, including even justices of the peace
and sheriffs; and the appointment of officers in the executive
department, down to captains in the army and navy of the State.
In the constitution of Georgia, where it is declared “that the
legislative, executive, and judiciary departments shall be
separate and distinct, so that neither exercise the powers
properly belonging to the other,” we find that the executive
department is to be filled by appointments of the legislature;
and the executive prerogative of pardon to be finally exercised
by the same authority. Even justices of the peace are to be
appointed by the legislature. In citing these cases, in which
the legislative, executive, and judiciary departments have not
been kept totally separate and distinct, I wish not to be
regarded as an advocate for the particular organizations of the
several State governments. I am fully aware that among the many
excellent principles which they exemplify, they carry strong
marks of the haste, and still stronger of the inexperience, under
which they were framed. It is but too obvious that in some
instances the fundamental principle under consideration has been
violated by too great a mixture, and even an actual
consolidation, of the different powers; and that in no instance
has a competent provision been made for maintaining in practice
the separation delineated on paper. What I have wished to evince
is, that the charge brought against the proposed Constitution, of
violating the sacred maxim of free government, is warranted
neither by the real meaning annexed to that maxim by its author,
nor by the sense in which it has hitherto been understood in
America. This interesting subject will be resumed in the ensuing
paper.

PUBLIUS

FEDERALIST No. 48

These Departments Should Not Be So Far Separated as to Have No
Constitutional Control Over Each Other
From the New York Packet. Friday, February 1, 1788.

MADISON

To the People of the State of New York:
IT WAS shown in the last paper that the political apothegm there
examined does not require that the legislative, executive, and
judiciary departments should be wholly unconnected with each
other. I shall undertake, in the next place, to show that unless
these departments be so far connected and blended as to give to
each a constitutional control over the others, the degree of
separation which the maxim requires, as essential to a free
government, can never in practice be duly maintained. It is
agreed on all sides, that the powers properly belonging to one of
the departments ought not to be directly and completely
administered by either of the other departments. It is equally
evident, that none of them ought to possess, directly or
indirectly, an overruling influence over the others, in the
administration of their respective powers. It will not be denied,
that power is of an encroaching nature, and that it ought to be
effectually restrained from passing the limits assigned to it.
After discriminating, therefore, in theory, the several classes
of power, as they may in their nature be legislative, executive,
or judiciary, the next and most difficult task is to provide some
practical security for each, against the invasion of the others.
What this security ought to be, is the great problem to be
solved. Will it be sufficient to mark, with precision, the
boundaries of these departments, in the constitution of the
government, and to trust to these parchment barriers against the
encroaching spirit of power? This is the security which appears
to have been principally relied on by the compilers of most of
the American constitutions. But experience assures us, that the
efficacy of the provision has been greatly overrated; and that
some more adequate defense is indispensably necessary for the
more feeble, against the more powerful, members of the
government. The legislative department is everywhere extending
the sphere of its activity, and drawing all power into its
impetuous vortex. The founders of our republics have so much
merit for the wisdom which they have displayed, that no task can
be less pleasing than that of pointing out the errors into which
they have fallen. A respect for truth, however, obliges us to
remark, that they seem never for a moment to have turned their
eyes from the danger to liberty from the overgrown and
all-grasping prerogative of an hereditary magistrate, supported
and fortified by an hereditary branch of the legislative
authority. They seem never to have recollected the danger from
legislative usurpations, which, by assembling all power in the
same hands, must lead to the same tyranny as is threatened by
executive usurpations. In a government where numerous and
extensive prerogatives are placed in the hands of an hereditary
monarch, the executive department is very justly regarded as the
source of danger, and watched with all the jealousy which a zeal
for liberty ought to inspire. In a democracy, where a multitude
of people exercise in person the legislative functions, and are
continually exposed, by their incapacity for regular deliberation
and concerted measures, to the ambitious intrigues of their
executive magistrates, tyranny may well be apprehended, on some
favorable emergency, to start up in the same quarter. But in a
representative republic, where the executive magistracy is
carefully limited; both in the extent and the duration of its
power; and where the legislative power is exercised by an
assembly, which is inspired, by a supposed influence over the
people, with an intrepid confidence in its own strength; which is
sufficiently numerous to feel all the passions which actuate a
multitude, yet not so numerous as to be incapable of pursuing the
objects of its passions, by means which reason prescribes; it is
against the enterprising ambition of this department that the
people ought to indulge all their jealousy and exhaust all their
precautions. The legislative department derives a superiority in
our governments from other circumstances. Its constitutional
powers being at once more extensive, and less susceptible of
precise limits, it can, with the greater facility, mask, under
complicated and indirect measures, the encroachments which it
makes on the co-ordinate departments. It is not unfrequently a
question of real nicety in legislative bodies, whether the
operation of a particular measure will, or will not, extend
beyond the legislative sphere. On the other side, the executive
power being restrained within a narrower compass, and being more
simple in its nature, and the judiciary being described by
landmarks still less uncertain, projects of usurpation by either
of these departments would immediately betray and defeat
themselves. Nor is this all: as the legislative department alone
has access to the pockets of the people, and has in some
constitutions full discretion, and in all a prevailing influence,
over the pecuniary rewards of those who fill the other
departments, a dependence is thus created in the latter, which
gives still greater facility to encroachments of the former. I
have appealed to our own experience for the truth of what I
advance on this subject. Were it necessary to verify this
experience by particular proofs, they might be multiplied
without end. I might find a witness in every citizen who has
shared in, or been attentive to, the course of public
administrations. I might collect vouchers in abundance from the
records and archives of every State in the Union. But as a more
concise, and at the same time equally satisfactory, evidence, I
will refer to the example of two States, attested by two
unexceptionable authorities. The first example is that of
Virginia, a State which, as we have seen, has expressly declared
in its constitution, that the three great departments ought not
to be intermixed. The authority in support of it is Mr.
Jefferson, who, besides his other advantages for remarking the
operation of the government, was himself the chief magistrate of
it. In order to convey fully the ideas with which his experience
had impressed him on this subject, it will be necessary to quote
a passage of some length from his very interesting “Notes on the
State of Virginia,” p. 195. “All the powers of government,
legislative, executive, and judiciary, result to the legislative
body. The concentrating these in the same hands, is precisely the
definition of despotic government. It will be no alleviation,
that these powers will be exercised by a plurality of hands, and
not by a single one. One hundred and seventy-three despots would
surely be as oppressive as one. Let those who doubt it, turn
their eyes on the republic of Venice. As little will it avail us,
that they are chosen by ourselves. An ELECTIVE DESPOTISM was not
the government we fought for; but one which should not only be
founded on free principles, but in which the powers of government
should be so divided and balanced among several bodies of
magistracy, as that no one could transcend their legal limits,
without being effectually checked and restrained by the others.
For this reason, that convention which passed the ordinance of
government, laid its foundation on this basis, that the
legislative, executive, and judiciary departments should be
separate and distinct, so that no person should exercise the
powers of more than one of them at the same time. BUT NO BARRIER
WAS PROVIDED BETWEEN THESE SEVERAL POWERS. The judiciary and the
executive members were left dependent on the legislative for
their subsistence in office, and some of them for their
continuance in it. If, therefore, the legislature assumes
executive and judiciary powers, no opposition is likely to be
made; nor, if made, can be effectual; because in that case they
may put their proceedings into the form of acts of Assembly,
which will render them obligatory on the other branches. They
have accordingly, IN MANY instances, DECIDED RIGHTS which should
have been left to JUDICIARY CONTROVERSY, and THE DIRECTION OF THE
EXECUTIVE, DURING THE WHOLE TIME OF THEIR SESSION, IS BECOMING
HABITUAL AND FAMILIAR. ”The other State which I shall take for
an example is Pennsylvania; and the other authority, the Council
of Censors, which assembled in the years 1783 and 1784. A part of
the duty of this body, as marked out by the constitution, was
“to inquire whether the constitution had been preserved
inviolate in every part; and whether the legislative and
executive branches of government had performed their duty as
guardians of the people, or assumed to themselves, or exercised,
other or greater powers than they are entitled to by the
constitution. ” In the execution of this trust, the council were
necessarily led to a comparison of both the legislative and
executive proceedings, with the constitutional powers of these
departments; and from the facts enumerated, and to the truth of
most of which both sides in the council subscribed, it appears
that the constitution had been flagrantly violated by the
legislature in a variety of important instances. A great number
of laws had been passed, violating, without any apparent
necessity, the rule requiring that all bills of a public nature
shall be previously printed for the consideration of the people;
although this is one of the precautions chiefly relied on by the
constitution against improper acts of legislature. The
constitutional trial by jury had been violated, and powers
assumed which had not been delegated by the constitution.
Executive powers had been usurped. The salaries of the judges,
which the constitution expressly requires to be fixed, had been
occasionally varied; and cases belonging to the judiciary
department frequently drawn within legislative cognizance and
determination. Those who wish to see the several particulars
falling under each of these heads, may consult the journals of
the council, which are in print. Some of them, it will be found,
may be imputable to peculiar circumstances connected with the
war; but the greater part of them may be considered as the
spontaneous shoots of an ill-constituted government. It appears,
also, that the executive department had not been innocent of
frequent breaches of the constitution. There are three
observations, however, which ought to be made on this head:
FIRST, a great proportion of the instances were either
immediately produced by the necessities of the war, or
recommended by Congress or the commander-in-chief; SECONDLY, in
most of the other instances, they conformed either to the
declared or the known sentiments of the legislative department;
THIRDLY, the executive department of Pennsylvania is
distinguished from that of the other States by the number of
members composing it. In this respect, it has as much affinity
to a legislative assembly as to an executive council. And being
at once exempt from the restraint of an individual responsibility
for the acts of the body, and deriving confidence from mutual
example and joint influence, unauthorized measures would, of
course, be more freely hazarded, than where the executive
department is administered by a single hand, or by a few hands.
The conclusion which I am warranted in drawing from these
observations is, that a mere demarcation on parchment of the
constitutional limits of the several departments, is not a
sufficient guard against those encroachments which lead to a
tyrannical concentration of all the powers of government in the
same hands.

PUBLIUS

FEDERALIST No. 49

Method of Guarding Against the Encroachments of Any One
Department of Government by Appealing to the People Through a
Convention
From the New York Packet. Tuesday, February 5, 1788.

HAMILTON OR MADISON

To the People of the State of New York:
THE author of the “Notes on the State of Virginia,” quoted in
the last paper, has subjoined to that valuable work the draught
of a constitution, which had been prepared in order to be laid
before a convention, expected to be called in 1783, by the
legislature, for the establishment of a constitution for that
commonwealth. The plan, like every thing from the same pen, marks
a turn of thinking, original, comprehensive, and accurate; and is
the more worthy of attention as it equally displays a fervent
attachment to republican government and an enlightened view of
the dangerous propensities against which it ought to be guarded.
One of the precautions which he proposes, and on which he appears
ultimately to rely as a palladium to the weaker departments of
power against the invasions of the stronger, is perhaps
altogether his own, and as it immediately relates to the subject
of our present inquiry, ought not to be overlooked. His
proposition is, “that whenever any two of the three branches of
government shall concur in opinion, each by the voices of two
thirds of their whole number, that a convention is necessary for
altering the constitution, or CORRECTING BREACHES OF IT, a
convention shall be called for the purpose. ”As the people are
the only legitimate fountain of power, and it is from them that
the constitutional charter, under which the several branches of
government hold their power, is derived, it seems strictly
consonant to the republican theory, to recur to the same original
authority, not only whenever it may be necessary to enlarge,
diminish, or new-model the powers of the government, but also
whenever any one of the departments may commit encroachments on
the chartered authorities of the others. The several departments
being perfectly co-ordinate by the terms of their common
commission, none of them, it is evident, can pretend to an
exclusive or superior right of settling the boundaries between
their respective powers; and how are the encroachments of the
stronger to be prevented, or the wrongs of the weaker to be
redressed, without an appeal to the people themselves, who, as
the grantors of the commissions, can alone declare its true
meaning, and enforce its observance? There is certainly great
force in this reasoning, and it must be allowed to prove that a
constitutional road to the decision of the people ought to be
marked out and kept open, for certain great and extraordinary
occasions. But there appear to be insuperable objections against
the proposed recurrence to the people, as a provision in all
cases for keeping the several departments of power within their
constitutional limits. In the first place, the provision does not
reach the case of a combination of two of the departments against
the third. If the legislative authority, which possesses so many
means of operating on the motives of the other departments,
should be able to gain to its interest either of the others, or
even one third of its members, the remaining department could
derive no advantage from its remedial provision. I do not dwell,
however, on this objection, because it may be thought to be
rather against the modification of the principle, than against
the principle itself. In the next place, it may be considered as
an objection inherent in the principle, that as every appeal to
the people would carry an implication of some defect in the
government, frequent appeals would, in a great measure, deprive
the government of that veneration which time bestows on every
thing, and without which perhaps the wisest and freest
governments would not possess the requisite stability. If it be
true that all governments rest on opinion, it is no less true
that the strength of opinion in each individual, and its
practical influence on his conduct, depend much on the number
which he supposes to have entertained the same opinion. The
reason of man, like man himself, is timid and cautious when left
alone, and acquires firmness and confidence in proportion to the
number with which it is associated. When the examples which
fortify opinion are ANCIENT as well as NUMEROUS, they are known
to have a double effect. In a nation of philosophers, this
consideration ought to be disregarded. A reverence for the laws
would be sufficiently inculcated by the voice of an enlightened
reason. But a nation of philosophers is as little to be expected
as the philosophical race of kings wished for by Plato. And in
every other nation, the most rational government will not find it
a superfluous advantage to have the prejudices of the community
on its side. The danger of disturbing the public tranquillity by
interesting too strongly the public passions, is a still more
serious objection against a frequent reference of constitutional
questions to the decision of the whole society. Notwithstanding
the success which has attended the revisions of our established
forms of government, and which does so much honor to the virtue
and intelligence of the people of America, it must be confessed
that the experiments are of too ticklish a nature to be
unnecessarily multiplied. We are to recollect that all the
existing constitutions were formed in the midst of a danger which
repressed the passions most unfriendly to order and concord; of
an enthusiastic confidence of the people in their patriotic
leaders, which stifled the ordinary diversity of opinions on
great national questions; of a universal ardor for new and
opposite forms, produced by a universal resentment and
indignation against the ancient government; and whilst no spirit
of party connected with the changes to be made, or the abuses to
be reformed, could mingle its leaven in the operation. The future
situations in which we must expect to be usually placed, do not
present any equivalent security against the danger which is
apprehended. But the greatest objection of all is, that the
decisions which would probably result from such appeals would not
answer the purpose of maintaining the constitutional equilibrium
of the government. We have seen that the tendency of republican
governments is to an aggrandizement of the legislative at the
expense of the other departments. The appeals to the people,
therefore, would usually be made by the executive and judiciary
departments. But whether made by one side or the other, would
each side enjoy equal advantages on the trial? Let us view their
different situations. The members of the executive and judiciary
departments are few in number, and can be personally known to a
small part only of the people. The latter, by the mode of their
appointment, as well as by the nature and permanency of it, are
too far removed from the people to share much in their
prepossessions. The former are generally the objects of jealousy,
and their administration is always liable to be discolored and
rendered unpopular. The members of the legislative department, on
the other hand, are numberous. They are distributed and dwell
among the people at large. Their connections of blood, of
friendship, and of acquaintance embrace a great proportion of the
most influential part of the society. The nature of their public
trust implies a personal influence among the people, and that
they are more immediately the confidential guardians of the
rights and liberties of the people. With these advantages, it can
hardly be supposed that the adverse party would have an equal
chance for a favorable issue. But the legislative party would not
only be able to plead their cause most successfully with the
people. They would probably be constituted themselves the judges.
The same influence which had gained them an election into the
legislature, would gain them a seat in the convention. If this
should not be the case with all, it would probably be the case
with many, and pretty certainly with those leading characters, on
whom every thing depends in such bodies. The convention, in
short, would be composed chiefly of men who had been, who
actually were, or who expected to be, members of the department
whose conduct was arraigned. They would consequently be parties
to the very question to be decided by them. It might, however,
sometimes happen, that appeals would be made under circumstances
less adverse to the executive and judiciary departments. The
usurpations of the legislature might be so flagrant and so
sudden, as to admit of no specious coloring. A strong party
among themselves might take side with the other branches. The
executive power might be in the hands of a peculiar favorite of
the people. In such a posture of things, the public decision
might be less swayed by prepossessions in favor of the
legislative party. But still it could never be expected to turn
on the true merits of the question. It would inevitably be
connected with the spirit of pre-existing parties, or of parties
springing out of the question itself. It would be connected with
persons of distinguished character and extensive influence in the
community. It would be pronounced by the very men who had been
agents in, or opponents of, the measures to which the decision
would relate. 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.
We found in the last paper, that mere declarations in the written
constitution are not sufficient to restrain the several
departments within their legal rights. It appears in this, that
occasional appeals to the people would be neither a proper nor an
effectual provision for that purpose. How far the provisions of a
different nature contained in the plan above quoted might be
adequate, I do not examine. Some of them are unquestionably
founded on sound political principles, and all of them are framed
with singular ingenuity and precision.

PUBLIUS

FEDERALIST No. 50

Periodical Appeals to the People Considered
From the New York Packet. Tuesday, February 5, 1788.

HAMILTON OR MADISON

To the People of the State of New York:
IT MAY be contended, perhaps, that instead of OCCASIONAL appeals
to the people, which are liable to the objections urged against
them, PERIODICAL appeals are the proper and adequate means of
PREVENTING AND CORRECTING INFRACTIONS OF THE CONSTITUTION. It
will be attended to, that in the examination of these expedients,
I confine myself to their aptitude for ENFORCING the
Constitution, by keeping the several departments of power within
their due bounds, without particularly considering them as
provisions for ALTERING the Constitution itself. In the first
view, appeals to the people at fixed periods appear to be nearly
as ineligible as appeals on particular occasions as they emerge.
If the periods be separated by short intervals, the measures to
be reviewed and rectified will have been of recent date, and will
be connected with all the circumstances which tend to vitiate and
pervert the result of occasional revisions. If the periods be
distant from each other, the same remark will be applicable to
all recent measures; and in proportion as the remoteness of the
others may favor a dispassionate review of them, this advantage
is inseparable from inconveniences which seem to counterbalance
it. In the first place, a distant prospect of public censure
would be a very feeble restraint on power from those excesses to
which it might be urged by the force of present motives. Is it to
be imagined that a legislative assembly, consisting of a hundred
or two hundred members, eagerly bent on some favorite object, and
breaking through the restraints of the Constitution in pursuit of
it, would be arrested in their career, by considerations drawn
from a censorial revision of their conduct at the future distance
of ten, fifteen, or twenty years? In the next place, the abuses
would often have completed their mischievous effects before the
remedial provision would be applied. And in the last place, where
this might not be the case, they would be of long standing, would
have taken deep root, and would not easily be extirpated. The
scheme of revising the constitution, in order to correct recent
breaches of it, as well as for other purposes, has been actually
tried in one of the States. One of the objects of the Council of
Censors which met in Pennsylvania in 1783 and 1784, was, as we
have seen, to inquire, “whether the constitution had been
violated, and whether the legislative and executive departments
had encroached upon each other. ” This important and novel
experiment in politics merits, in several points of view, very
particular attention. In some of them it may, perhaps, as a
single experiment, made under circumstances somewhat peculiar, be
thought to be not absolutely conclusive. But as applied to the
case under consideration, it involves some facts, which I venture
to remark, as a complete and satisfactory illustration of the
reasoning which I have employed. First. It appears, from the
names of the gentlemen who composed the council, that some, at
least, of its most active members had also been active and
leading characters in the parties which pre-existed in the State.
Secondly. It appears that the same active and leading members of
the council had been active and influential members of the
legislative and executive branches, within the period to be
reviewed; and even patrons or opponents of the very measures to
be thus brought to the test of the constitution. Two of the
members had been vice-presidents of the State, and several other
members of the executive council, within the seven preceding
years. One of them had been speaker, and a number of others
distinguished members, of the legislative assembly within the
same period. Thirdly. Every page of their proceedings witnesses
the effect of all these circumstances on the temper of their
deliberations. Throughout the continuance of the council, it was
split into two fixed and violent parties. The fact is
acknowledged and lamented by themselves. Had this not been the
case, the face of their proceedings exhibits a proof equally
satisfactory. In all questions, however unimportant in
themselves, or unconnected with each other, the same names stand
invariably contrasted on the opposite columns. Every unbiased
observer may infer, without danger of mistake, and at the same
time without meaning to reflect on either party, or any
individuals of either party, that, unfortunately, PASSION, not
REASON, must have presided over their decisions. When men
exercise their reason coolly and freely on a variety of distinct
questions, they inevitably fall into different opinions on some
of them. When they are governed by a common passion, their
opinions, if they are so to be called, will be the same.
Fourthly. It is at least problematical, whether the decisions of
this body do not, in several instances, misconstrue the limits
prescribed for the legislative and executive departments, instead
of reducing and limiting them within their constitutional places.
Fifthly. I have never understood that the decisions of the
council on constitutional questions, whether rightly or
erroneously formed, have had any effect in varying the practice
founded on legislative constructions. It even appears, if I
mistake not, that in one instance the contemporary legislature
denied the constructions of the council, and actually prevailed
in the contest. This censorial body, therefore, proves at the
same time, by its researches, the existence of the disease, and
by its example, the inefficacy of the remedy. This conclusion
cannot be invalidated by alleging that the State in which the
experiment was made was at that crisis, and had been for a long
time before, violently heated and distracted by the rage of
party. Is it to be presumed, that at any future septennial epoch
the same State will be free from parties? Is it to be presumed
that any other State, at the same or any other given period, will
be exempt from them? Such an event ought to be neither presumed
nor desired; because an extinction of parties necessarily implies
either a universal alarm for the public safety, or an absolute
extinction of liberty. Were the precaution taken of excluding
from the assemblies elected by the people, to revise the
preceding administration of the government, all persons who
should have been concerned with the government within the given
period, the difficulties would not be obviated. The important
task would probably devolve on men, who, with inferior
capacities, would in other respects be little better qualified.
Although they might not have been personally concerned in the
administration, and therefore not immediately agents in the
measures to be examined, they would probably have been involved
in the parties connected with these measures, and have been
elected under their auspices.

PUBLIUS

FEDERALIST No. 51

The Structure of the Government Must Furnish the Proper Checks
and Balances Between the Different Departments
From the New York Packet. Friday, February 8, 1788.

HAMILTON OR MADISON

To the People of the State of New York:
TO WHAT expedient, then, shall we finally resort, for maintaining
in practice the necessary partition of power among the several
departments, as laid down in the Constitution? The only answer
that can be given is, that as all these exterior provisions are
found to be inadequate, the defect must be supplied, by so
contriving 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. Without
presuming to undertake a full development of this important idea,
I will hazard a few general observations, which may perhaps place
it in a clearer light, and enable us to form a more correct
judgment of the principles and structure of the government
planned by the convention. In order to lay a due foundation for
that separate and distinct exercise of the different powers of
government, which to a certain extent is admitted on all hands to
be essential to the preservation of liberty, it is evident that
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. Were this principle rigorously adhered to, it would
require that all the appointments for the supreme executive,
legislative, and judiciary magistracies should be drawn from the
same fountain of authority, the people, through channels having
no communication whatever with one another. Perhaps such a plan
of constructing the several departments would be less difficult
in practice than it may in contemplation appear. Some
difficulties, however, and some additional expense would attend
the execution of it. Some deviations, therefore, from the
principle must be admitted. In the constitution of the judiciary
department in particular, it might be inexpedient to insist
rigorously on the principle: first, because peculiar
qualifications being essential in the members, the primary
consideration ought to be to select that mode of choice which
best secures these qualifications; secondly, because the
permanent tenure by which the appointments are held in that
department, must soon destroy all sense of dependence on the
authority conferring them. 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. Were the executive magistrate, or the judges, not
independent of the legislature in this particular, their
independence in every other would be merely nominal. But 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. The
provision for defense must in this, as in all other cases, be
made commensurate to the danger of attack. Ambition must be made
to counteract ambition. The interest of the man must be
connected with the constitutional rights of the place. It may be
a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be
necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is
government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human
nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If
angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal
controls on government would be necessary. In framing a
government which is to be administered by men over men, the great
difficulty lies in this: 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. 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. We see it particularly displayed in all the
subordinate distributions of power, where the constant aim is to
divide and arrange the several offices in such a manner as that
each may be a check on the other that the private interest of
every individual may be a sentinel over the public rights. These
inventions of prudence cannot be less requisite in the
distribution of the supreme powers of the State. But it is not
possible to give to each department an equal power of
self-defense. In republican government, the legislative
authority necessarily predominates. The remedy for this
inconveniency is to divide the legislature into different
branches; and to render them, by different modes of election and
different principles of action, as little connected with each
other as the nature of their common functions and their common
dependence on the society will admit. It may even be necessary
to guard against dangerous encroachments by still further
precautions. As the weight of the legislative authority requires
that it should be thus divided, the weakness of the executive may
require, on the other hand, that it should be fortified. An
absolute negative on the legislature appears, at first view, to
be the natural defense with which the executive magistrate should
be armed. But perhaps it would be neither altogether safe nor
alone sufficient. On ordinary occasions it might not be exerted
with the requisite firmness, and on extraordinary occasions it
might be perfidiously abused. May not this defect of an absolute
negative be supplied by some qualified connection between this
weaker department and the weaker branch of the stronger
department, by which the latter may be led to support the
constitutional rights of the former, without being too much
detached from the rights of its own department? If the principles
on which these observations are founded be just, as I persuade
myself they are, and they be applied as a criterion to the
several State constitutions, and to the federal Constitution it
will be found that if the latter does not perfectly correspond
with them, the former are infinitely less able to bear such a
test. There are, moreover, two considerations particularly
applicable to the federal system of America, which place that
system in a very interesting point of view. First. In a single
republic, all the power surrendered by the people is submitted to
the administration of a single government; and the usurpations
are guarded against by a division of the government into distinct
and separate departments. In the compound republic of America,
the power surrendered by the people is first divided between two
distinct governments, and then the portion allotted to each
subdivided among distinct and separate departments. Hence a
double security arises to the rights of the people. The different
governments will control each other, at the same time that each
will be controlled by itself. Second. It is of great importance
in a republic not only to guard the society against the
oppression of its rulers, but to guard one part of the society
against the injustice of the other part. Different interests
necessarily exist in different classes of citizens. If a
majority be united by a common interest, the rights of the
minority will be insecure. There are but two methods of
providing against this evil: the one by creating a will in the
community independent of the majority that is, of the society
itself; the other, by comprehending in the society so many
separate descriptions of citizens as will render an unjust
combination of a majority of the whole very improbable, if not
impracticable. The first method prevails in all governments
possessing an hereditary or self-appointed authority. This, at
best, is but a precarious security; because a power independent
of the society may as well espouse the unjust views of the major,
as the rightful interests of the minor party, and may possibly be
turned against both parties. The second method will be
exemplified in the federal republic of the United States. Whilst
all authority in it will be derived from and dependent on the
society, the society itself will be broken into so many parts,
interests, and classes of citizens, that the rights of
individuals, or of the minority, will be in little danger from
interested combinations of the majority. In a free government
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. The degree of security in both cases will depend on
the number of interests and sects; and this may be presumed to
depend on the extent of country and number of people comprehended
under the same government. This view of the subject must
particularly recommend a proper federal system to all the sincere
and considerate friends of republican government, since it shows
that in exact proportion as the territory of the Union may be
formed into more circumscribed Confederacies, or States
oppressive combinations of a majority will be facilitated: the
best security, under the republican forms, for the rights of
every class of citizens, will be diminished: and consequently the
stability and independence of some member of the government, the
only other security, must be proportionately increased. 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. In a society under the
forms of which the stronger faction can readily unite and oppress
the weaker, anarchy may as truly be said to reign as in a state
of nature, where the weaker individual is not secured against the
violence of the stronger; and as, in the latter state, even the
stronger individuals are prompted, by the uncertainty of their
condition, to submit to a government which may protect the weak
as well as themselves; so, in the former state, will the more
powerful factions or parties be gradnally induced, by a like
motive, to wish for a government which will protect all parties,
the weaker as well as the more powerful. It can be little
doubted that if the State of Rhode Island was separated from the
Confederacy and left to itself, the insecurity of rights under
the popular form of government within such narrow limits would be
displayed by such reiterated oppressions of factious majorities
that some power altogether independent of the people would soon
be called for by the voice of the very factions whose misrule had
proved the necessity of it. In the extended republic of the
United States, and among the great variety of interests, parties,
and sects which it embraces, 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; whilst there being
thus less danger to a minor from the will of a major party, there
must be less pretext, also, to provide for the security of the
former, by introducing into the government a will not dependent
on the latter, or, in other words, a will independent of the
society itself. It is no less certain than it is important,
notwithstanding the contrary opinions which have been
entertained, that the larger the society, provided it lie within
a practical sphere, the more duly capable it will be of
self-government. And happily for the REPUBLICAN CAUSE, the
practicable sphere may be carried to a very great extent, by a
judicious modification and mixture of the FEDERAL PRINCIPLE.
PUBLIUS.

 

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