Federalist Papers Summary 53

 

Federalist Papers Summary No. 53

 
 

Federalist Papers Author James Madison
James Madison

Federalist Papers Summary Number 53

The Federalist Papers Summary No 53: Madison
February 9, 1788

This paper answers the second question asked in the last paper, whether biennial elections be necessary or useful?  The first question, answered in the last paper, was are biennial elections safe in preserving the liberty of the people.  Before addressing the question, he needs to discredit a proverb that states that where annual elections end, tyranny begins.  This is done first using ridicule by observing no man will pretend there is a “connection between the sun or the seasons and the period within which human virtue can bear the temptations of power”.  Then logic, in South Carolina elections are biennial while in Connecticut and Rhode-Island they are half yearly but even with this four to one difference is one better governed than the other?  And finally suggesting the proverb was formed concerning a government practice in Great Britain not applicable to the current US government.  In Great Britain the the authority of the parliament is uncontrollable with regard to their constitution as well as laws.  They have on several occasions changed the frequency of elections for themselves and in one case extended their tenure from three to seven years or four years longer than the term for which they were elected by the people.  In our case of course the government cannot change the Constitution, he says.

The paper the asks the question of interest, whether biennial elections be necessary or useful?  The bulk of the response is based on the amount of knowledge required to be an effective legislature.  The majority of States have elections for their representatives annually but the argument goes that the knowledge needed at the State level is considerably less than at the national level since one needs to know about foreign affairs and have some knowledge concerning the other States.  This added knowledge will take time to acquire and thus requires a longer term in office.  Other considerations in favor of a longer term are the distance traveled, the need for guidance of new members and for interactions with the Senate from those having gained extended knowledge by being elected numerous times, and leaving sufficient time to investigate claims of “spurious elections”. 

 

Summary Written by Donald Mellon

 

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