Federalist Papers Summary 60


Federalist Papers Summary No. 60


Federalist Papers Author Alexander Hamilton
Alexander Hamilton

Federalist Papers Summary Number 60

The Federalist Papers Summary No 60: Hamilton
February 23, 1788

The last paper discussed why the Constitution does not give the states the whole power to regulate elections for members of the federal government.  This paper discusses why that power is not given exclusively to the federal government.  No one believes that this power would be used to exclude one or more states from holding elections but it is suggested that the regulations could be used to promote “some favorite class of men in exclusion of others by confining the places of election to particular districts and rendering it impracticable to the citizens at large to partake in the choice”.  The rest of the paper argues against this possibility.

If such an improbable attempt was made the people headed by the state governments would revolt over this loss of freedom.  Further it would be impracticable because of the various means of electing the representatives and the diversity across the states in property, genius, manners and habits so regulations that achieved the desired end in one state might fail across all states.  Since the house is elected by the people, the senate by the state legislatures, and the electors of the president chosen by the people,  “there would be little probability of a common interest to cement these different branches in a predilection for any particular class of electors”. 

But if the federal government could favor one class of men over others, which class would be selected?  Would it favor landed interests, monied interests, mercantile interests, manufacturing interests, or perhaps the wealthy and the well born?  He suggests the field would narrow to only landed men and merchants of which one should feel less danger from the former than the latter.  Agriculture is dominant in most states and that is reflected in the composition of their governments so particularly in the senate, those chosen by the states will certainly represent those interests and there can be little possibility that the federal government which can only regulate time and manner of senator elections can alter this outcome.  There is also little possibility that the federal government could bias elections such that the predominant class would not be elected for members of the House by the people of the state.

The critics seem to be mostly concerned about the federal government being able to elect only those “wealthy and well born” by being able to regulate the places of election.  But these people are scattered across the land so restricting elections to certain districts or towns would be useless.  Therefore the only means to ensure their selection would be through qualifications for holding office but those “are defined and fixed in the Constitution and are unalterable by the legislature”.  But suppose by some means the federal government was able to populate itself with the wealthy and well born over the objections of the people. To subdue the people in that case it would take a military force of considerable size and in the hands of such  rulers why would they merely execute election laws to favor a particular class of people, would they not rather perpetuate themselves in off ice by a decisive act of usurpation?  These rulers would suffer the consequences when the citizens “conscious of their rights would flock from the remotest extremes of their respective states to the places of election to overthrow their tyrants, and to substitute men who would be disposed to avenge the violated majesty of the people”.


Summary Written by Donald Mellon


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