Federalist Papers Summary 49
The Federalist Essays Summary No 49: James Madison February 2, 1788
Thomas Jefferson authored a plan entitled “Notes on the state of Virginia” which was to be considered for the establishment of a constitution for that commonwealth. It was quoted in the last paper to show that the separation of powers cannot be total or enumerated on parchment even though that was the desired goal of the Virginia Constitution. In this short paper his plan for “correcting breaches of” the constitution or taking actions where one or more of the government departments exceeds its constitutional authority is addressed. Since the people “are the only legitimate fountain of power” according to Jefferson, the encroachments of power cannot be addressed “without an appeal to the people themselves”.
Madison agrees that in the rare cases of correcting the constitution the people should be involved but for the probably frequent encroachments of power by one branch over another the inclusion of the people would not be a good idea. Several reasons are given; frequent appeals to the people would imply there was some defect in the government thus decreasing the people’s support for its laws, and these appeals would disturb the people’s tranquility by exciting their passions, but most importantly the appeals would not likely solve the problems. This last point follows from the earlier discussion where in a republic the legislative branch is the one most likely to encroach upon the powers of the other two branches and therefore those making the appeals would be the judiciary or executive departments. But these departments have little direct contact with the people compared to that of the legislature so by the nature of familiarity the trust of the people would be with the members of the legislature resulting in the appeals likely falling short of correcting the problems.
Federalist Papers Summary 49 Written by Donald Mellon