Federalist Papers Summary No. 20


Federalist Papers Summary No. 20


Federalist Papers Author James Madison
James Madison

Federalist Essays Summary Number 20

The Federalist Papers Summary No 20:  Madison
(With the Assistance of Alexander Hamilton)

December 11, 1787

This paper concludes the series of three discussing historical experiments with federations of sovereign members with a condemnation of the United Netherlands, a confederation of aristocracies of a very remarkable texture.  It is composed of seven co-equal and sovereign States composed of equal and independent cities which must agree unanimously on all important cases.  The Union is represented by 50 deputies known as the States General appointed by the States and given powers to execute treaties, collection of duties, etc. typical of the heads of confederacies. 

And the critique; such is the nature of the confederacy, as delineated on parchment.  But what is it really; “imbecility in the government, discord among the States, foreign influence and indignities; a precarious existence in peace and peculiar calamities from war”.  The paper then continues to expand upon the reality such that a reader familiar with the previous arguments will see a continuation of the same.

Madison sums up the last three papers in the final paragraph which is repeated here.  “I make no apology for having dwelt so long on the contemplation of these federal precedents.  Experience is the oracle of truth; and where its responses are unequivocal they ought to be conclusive and sacred.  The important truth, which it unequivocally pronounces in the present case, is that a sovereignty over sovereigns, a government over governments, a legislature for communities as contradistinguished from individuals; as it is a solecism in theory; so in practice, it is subversive of the order and ends of civil polity, by substituting violence in place of law, or the destructive coertion of the sword in place of the mind and salutary coertion of the magistracy.”

Summary Written by Donald Mellon


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