Federalist Papers Summary 73
The Federalist Essays Summary No 73: Alexander Hamilton March 21, 1788
This paper continues discussing the energy of the executive with two subjects, salary and the veto power. The salary of the president should not be controlled by the legislature so that the legislature does not control the president. They could reduce him to famine or entice him through largeness to give up his independence and embrace the will of the legislature. For these reasons the draft document includes words that prevent the legislature from increasing or decreasing the president’s salary during his term in office.
The last of the requisites to energy is competent powers. The first of these is the veto of legislation passed by both houses and submitted for his signature. If vetoed it is returned to the legislature with comments for reconsideration by both houses. Only if two thirds of both houses agree it should be passed does it becomes law. The reason for including this power is the fear previously defined that the legislative branch will not be sufficiently constrained by the words on mere parchment and will attempt to expand its powers over the other branches. This power will enable the president to preserve his authority and as a further benefit it furnishes an additional security against the passage of improper laws.
Some have commented that this gives the power of one over the many and the many should have better judgment. But this is not the reason for the power, it is because the supposition is that the legislature will not be infallible and that the love of power may at times cause it to encroach on the powers of others. Therefor this power upon the executive is to enable him to protect himself and protect the community. It may also be said that the power to prevent bad laws includes that of preventing good ones and may be used to either purpose. But the injury from defeating several good laws will be compensated by the advantages of preventing a number of bad ones.
The veto will probably be seldom used. The King of Great Britain can negate any act of the legislature but a very considerable time has elapsed since this power has been used. If such a powerful monarch has scruples in exercising this power why would a president be more inclined? The danger is more likely that men will be too reluctant to use such a power unless against an unconstitutional attack on the presidency. The fact that the veto is only partial and that the law is returned for reconsideration will improve the likelihood that it is used when appropriate.
And finally, as Hamilton puts it “When men engaged in unjustifiable pursuits are aware that obstructions may come from a quarter which they cannot control they will often be restrained by the bare apprehension of opposition from doing what they would with eagerness rush into if no such external impediments were to be feared”.
Federalist Papers Summary 73 Written by Donald Mellon