Federalist Papers Summary 50
The Federalist Essays Summary No 50: James Madison February 5, 1788
This paper continues the discussion of how to enforce the constitution by keeping the three departments within their constitutional bounds. The last paper rejected the idea of occasional appeals to the people so this one considers periodic appeals for enforcement of the constitution. As before, altering the Constitution is not considered. What period would be used for the appeals? If periods were short it would have the same problems as discussed in the previous paper dealing with occasional appeals whereas if the periods were long there would be little restraint on encroachments that would be examined long in the future.
Pennsylvania actually had a council of censors in 1783 to inquire whether the State Constitution had been violated and whether the legislative and executive departments had encroached on each other. Madison believes the results and the process of this review illustrate the reasoning he takes in this paper. First, the persons on the council were in the government at the time being reviewed. Second, the leading and active members on the council were the most influential members of the departments at the time being considered. Third the written proceedings show that there were two opposing parties on every important issue with same members always on opposite sides indicating a bias toward a party and that passion not reason prevailed. Forth the decisions of the body often misconstrued the limits in the Constitution, and fifth, the current legislature denied the results and constructions made by the council.
The Pennsylvania experiment failed because the members were those actively involved in government at the time being reviewed and because of party influences. But any review by representatives elected by the people even if not actively involved in the encroachments under review would still have party influences that would bias their conclusions.
Federalist Papers Summary 50 Written by Donald Mellon