Federalist Papers Summary 41
The Federalist Essays Summary No 41: James Madison January 19, 1788
Madison, the recognized expert of the time on the proposed Constitution, has taken over the argument from Hamilton and it will be seventeen more papers before we again see Hamilton’s writings. The reader is asked to think about the Constitution in two parts, the powers invested in the Government and the restraints upon that power and secondly in the structure of the Government and the distribution of this power among the various branches. He starts this discussion with the focus of this paper on the powers invested in the Government and begins a multi-paper detailed discussion of two important questions, one “Whether any part of the powers transferred to the general Government be unnecessary or improper?” and two “Whether the entire mass of them de dangerous to the portion of jurisdiction left in the several States?”
To address the issue of whether the aggregate power of the general Government is greater than it should be one must first review the classes of powers conferred. Before reading Madison’s list you might want to ask yourself what your list of powers granted to the Federal Government would contain. His list is “1. security against foreign danger- 2. regulation of the intercourse with foreign nations-3. maintenance of harmony and proper intercourse among the States- 4. certain miscellaneous objects of general utility- 5. restraint of the States from certain injurious acts- 6. provisions for giving due efficacy to all these powers.” The whole of the proposed Constitution apparently is written to provide the National Government with this short list of functions that are limited to security, regulation of foreign and domestic commerce, and certain enumerated restraints against State actions.
The rest of this paper deals with the first of these powers, security, which consists of declaring war, providing for a navy and army, of regulating and calling up the militia and of levying taxes and borrowing money. No one argues the Government should not have the power to declare war but many are concerned about raising standing armies and navies in peacetime. Hamilton addressed the concern to the people’s liberty versus standing armies in Federalist No 28. Here the discussion is more toward why a standing army and navy is necessary which is of course self defense in a world of ambitious Nations.
The power of regulating and calling up the militia and of levying taxes and borrowing money have previously been sufficiently addressed but the critic’s argument that only external taxation should be allowed needed further discussion. This leads quickly to the fierce attack against the wording in the Constitutional “to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defence and general welfare of the United States”. Does this give the Government unlimited commission to exercise every alleged power necessary for the common defense or general welfare? Madison says no because this wording in Article 1. Section 8 is followed immediately by all the enumerated powers of Congress which would not be necessary if the disputed wording was intended to include all such powers. Also similar wording is included in the Article of Confederation which did not result in a Congressional power grab or complains from today’s critics.
Federalist Papers Summary 41 Written by Donald Mellon