Federalist Papers Summary 69
The Federalist Essays Summary No 69: Alexander Hamilton March 14, 1788
This rather lengthy paper down plays the power of the President of the United States by comparing his powers to that of the King of Great Britain and in some instances to the governors of various States. The purpose, of course, it to counter arguments claiming the presidency has too much power and might become a monarchy. In the last paragraph Hamilton summarizes the differences between the powers of the President and the King of Great Britain so I will follow that as my summary of the paper followed by some mention of comparisons to governor’s powers.
The President is elected for four years by the people while the King is a perpetual and hereditary prince. One is subject to personal punishment and disgrace through impeachment while the other is sacred and inviolable. One has a qualified veto upon acts of the legislature while the other has an absolute negating veto. One has the right to command the armed forces while the other in addition to that can declare war and raise and regulate armed forces by his own authority. One has a concurrent power with the legislature to form treaties while the other has the sole power to form treaties. One has a like concurrent authority in making appointments to offices while the other is the sole author of appointments. One can infer no privileges whatever while the other can make denizens of aliens, noblemen of commoners, and can erect corporations with all the rights incident to corporate bodies. One can make no rules concerning commerce or currency while the other is the arbiter of commerce and can establish markets and fairs, can regulate weights and measures, can coin money, and can prohibit the circulation of foreign money. One has no particle of spiritual jurisdiction while the other is supreme head and Governor of the national church.
In the body of the paper comparisons are made between the powers of the President and the powers of various State Governors some of which are mentioned here. With regard to impeachment, the President is on similar ground as the Governor of New York and worse ground than the Governors of Virginia and Delaware. The President’s veto power is no more than that of the Governor of Massachusetts. The Governor of New York may pardon in all cases while the President may not pardon in cases of impeachment. Supposedly then the Governor could be involved in a conspiracy and if exposed prior to actual activities pardon all accomplices. A president could not shield others from impeachment and conviction for similar acts. A president can only adjourn the national legislature in the single case of disagreement about the time of adjournment. A British monarch may end any legislative session or even dissolve parliament and a governor of New York may end legislative sessions for a limited time. With regard to the appointment of judges and other officials, the Governor of New York has superior powers to the President. He not only appoints but can cast an approving vote if the council of four senators is divided on the appointment.
Hamilton ends the paper with a question. “What answer shall we give to those who would persuade us that things so unlike resemble each other?” In other word there is no similarity between the King’s powers and the President’s. What ever the answer is it should be the same as that given to those who tell us that a government the whole power of which would be in the hands of the elective and periodical servants of the people is an aristocracy, a monarchy, and a despotism.
Federalist Papers Summary 69 Written by Donald Mellon