Federalist Papers Summary 52
The Federalist Essays Summary No 52: James Madison February 8, 1788
This paper concerning the House of Representatives begins a more detailed examination of the branches of government. Two issues are considered, the qualifications for representatives and their term of office. It is interesting to note that much has been said to this point in the Federalist papers about a republican form of government where the people elect their representatives. But in our Constitution that only applies to the House of Representatives since Senators are chosen by the State legislatures and Presidents by electors appointed by the same legislatures. Perhaps as we progress through the remaining papers we will discover why Madison and Hamilton thought it best that the people did not directly elect Senators and the President.
Madison begins this many paper discussion of the House by stating it was important to establish in the Constitution the right of the people to chose the members since it is “regarded as a fundamental article of republican government”. This right was too important to allow Congress or State legislatures to modify for this branch of government “ought to be dependent on the people alone”. But who can vote is left up to the State legislatures as long as the qualifications to vote are the same as that for electing the members of the most numerous branch of the State Legislature.
The convention that wrote the draft Constitution believed that for uniformity it needed to include qualifications for the members, thus twenty five years old, seven years a citizen of the US, live in the State he represents, and hold no other US office are required qualifications.
The rest of the paper discusses the appropriate term of office by addressing the question are biennial elections safe and necessary or useful? . This branch of government is to be immediately dependent on the people and in sympathy with the people and that requires frequent elections. But there is no formula by which the frequency can be selected so he turns to the experience of history. He fist considers the British House of Commons where through its entire history the shortest election frequency was three years thus suggesting that our two year cycle would be even more satisfactory. Two years is also better than Ireland’s best frequency of eight years. When considering what frequency is necessary to protect the liberties of the people our own revolution must also be considered. Clearly the people’s liberty was not endangered by a non-responsive State government even in Virginia which was the first colony to resist the usurpations of Great Britain and their frequency of elections was seven years. This discussion therefore proves “that the liberties of the people can be in no danger from biennial elections”.
Federalist Papers Summary 52 Written by Donald Mellon