Federalist Papers Summary 63

 

Federalist Papers Summary No. 63

 
 

Federalist Papers Author James Madison
James Madison

Federalist Papers Summary Number 63

The Federalist Papers Summary No 63: Madison
March 1, 1788

This paper begins with a continuation of the last discussing the number of senators and the term of office.  It is probably the longest one yet encountered so the opposition to the subject must have been considerable.  Halfway through the paper he summarizes the criticism as “that a senate appointed not immediately by the people and for the term of six years must gradually acquire a dangerous preeminence in the government and finally transform it into a tyrannical aristocracy”.  He Picks up the discussion from the fourth paragraph of the last paper.

            4.5  Fifth the senate as a  select and stable member of the government will be aware of the opinions of the world.  Being attentive to the judgment of other nations will ensure that our plans are perceived as wise and honorable policy and if debate on internal policy is unresolved, the opinions of impartial nations might be a prudent guide to follow.

4.6  Sixth a government to effectively serve the people must have a body that is in office long enough to link operations together to form a train of events extending over a period of time longer than that of the term of representatives in the House.

He now departs from the discussion of the circumstances that necessitate a well-constructed senate to provide a few additional reasons to have a cool and deliberate body of government.  Certainly not the people he is addressing who are not blinded by prejudice or corrupted by flattery, but some who will be “stimulated by some irregular passion or some illicit advantage or misled by the artful misrepresentations of interested men may call for measures which they themselves will afterwards be the most ready to lament and condemn”.  The cool deliberate body will save them from themselves, “from the tyranny of their own passions”, if this should happen.

History tells us that there were no long lived republics that did not have a senate. Only Sparta, Rome, and Carthage fit that characteristic of having a senate and a long life.  This demonstrates that it is necessary to have some institution that will blend stability with liberty.  Having this second body dissimilar from another will protect the people better than having the whole legislative trust in the hands of one body of men who may betray the people. 

Returning to the main question of whether the senate will transform itself into a tyrannical aristocracy, he gives several examples of senates designed similarly to the federal proposal that have shown no such tendency.  The first is Maryland with a senate very much like the federal senate.  Then the British example where the senate instead of being elected for six years is actually an hereditary assembly of opulent nobles and the house is elected for seven years by a small portion of the population.  Here we should have seen the aristocratic usurpation and tyranny but instead the senate has barely been able to defend itself against the encroachments of the house elected by the people. 

The example of Britain is the same as the examples from history.  It is more likely that the body of government elected by the people will eventually take power from the senate.  It happened in Sparta where the body annually elected by the people overmatched the senators for life, as did the tribunes of Rome also elected by the people, and a similar fate was in store for the senate in Carthage.  Drawing on these facts and previous arguments he concludes that the senate will never be able to transform itself into an independent and aristocratic body and if attempted the force of the representatives of the people will restore constitutional authority.

 

Summary Written by Donald Mellon

 

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