Federalist Papers Summary 57

 

Federalist Papers Summary No. 57

 
 

Federalist Papers Author James Madison
James Madison

Federalist Papers Summary Number 57

The Federalist Papers Summary No 57: Madison
February 19, 1788

This paper addresses the third charge against the House of Representatives, that it will be taken from the class of citizens which will have the least in common with the mass of of the people and be the most likely to sacrifice the many for the aggrandizement of the few.  Good grief, crooks and corruption in our government, say it isn't so.  A republican form of government with “a limitation on the term of appointments will maintain a proper responsibility to the people”.

But he asks is there something in the Constitution of the House of Representatives that violates the principle of republican government and favors the elevation of the few on the ruins of the many?  Who are the electors?  Not the rich more than the poor or the learned more than the ignorant.  They are the same body of people of the United States who elect in every State the corresponding branch of the legislature. 

And what are the situations of the people elected?  In the first place since they have been elected by the people they will have those qualifications that warrant being distinguished.  In the second, having been elected by the people they will have gratitude and affection toward their constituents.  In the third, his pride and  vanity will favor his creation of a government in which he can share its honors and distinctions.  Fourth is the restrain of frequent elections which will keep him dependent of the people.

And he adds a fifth circumstance, which is news to us, that restrains the members and that is they can pass no law that does not also have its full operation on themselves.  Further, this is one of the strongest bonds connecting rulers and the people together.  Without this connection of interests and sentiments “every government degenerates into tyranny”.  “If this spirit (of America which nourishes freedom) shall ever be so far debased as to tolerate a law not obligatory on the Legislature as well as on the people, the people will be prepared to tolerate anything but liberty.”  Has our spirit been so far debased  that we now are prepared to tolerate anything but liberty?

He argues that critics that are opposed to a Federal republican government are in favor of State republican government and this makes no sense.  The only difference between the two is that federal representatives are elected by five to six thousand citizens while those in the individual States are elected by many hundreds.  Reason tells us that in either case a fit representative would be found.  If we say that five or six hundred is the most that can be used to elect officials then what happens in cases where the ratio of needed representatives to population is less than that.  And as in many papers after making the arguments he gives examples.  In this case as in others he uses the governments of many of the States to show that officials are often elected by large numbers of citizens without dire consequences.

 

Summary Written by Donald Mellon

 

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