Federalist Papers Summary 47


Federalist Papers Summary No. 47


Federalist Papers Author James Madison
James Madison

Federalist Papers Summary Number 47

The Federalist Papers Summary No 47: Madison
January 30, 1788

The entire paper refutes the idea that there must be total separation between the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government.  The idea of total separation used by respected critics of the proposed Constitution appears to have originated by Montesquieu, a celebrated political critic who proclaimed, when speaking of the British constitution, “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”.   Madison then discusses the separations and interactions of the three branches in the British constitution and it may surprise readers to find that they parallel those in our Constitution with a president replacing a King.  For example the King is the sole executive magistrate but he cannot make a law although he can veto a law, and he cannot administer justice in person but he appoints those who do administer it.  Madison concludes this part of the argument by implying Montesquieu did not mean there had to be total separation of distinct branches of government only that the same person or group could not directly control the actions of more than one branch.

He then discusses each State's Constitution with respect to this issue.  Most of the thirteen States have words in their constitutions proclaiming emphatically in unqualified terms that there is total separation between the branches of government but as he shows none have kept the departments of power absolutely separate and distinct.  A diplomatic (he needs their votes on ratification) discussion of the thirteen constitutions included in the paper will be omitted with the assurance from Madison that none actually achieve this total separation.  Madison plans to continue this discussion in the following paper.


Summary Written by Donald Mellon


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