- Published: October 31, 2021
- Updated: October 31, 2021
- University / College: University of Strathclyde
- Language: English
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Federalist 57 James Madison
Federalist 57 is an article that was authored by James Madison. In this magazine, James came up with various arguments regarding the constitution. From the list of the federal papers, this article was ranked 57th. The federal papers are articles that consist of arguments of people who wanted citizens to be involved in the adoption of the constitution1. The movement by people who supported federalism took active part mostly in the late 1780s. The people who took active part in this were the state men and other public figures in the United States of America.
The arguments of James Madison were consistent with what other federalists argued, although there were little differences that could be viewed. In order to analyze his arguments, it is important to comment on what federalism is. Federalism is a system where the sovereignty of a country consists of a central unit that governs the country and other units that are political in nature. The political units are in the nature of states. Where states are not used, provinces may be used to work together with the central governing body. Initially, the federal government of the United States of America was controlled by a political party which was known as The Federal Party. One notable point is that the federalists supported the motion that the constitution of the United States of America should be adopted.
On the other hand, the people who acted as anti-federalists were of the idea that the constitution of the United States of America should not be adopted. They argued that the national government was given more power than the state government. The other argument was based on the executive arm of the government. The anti-federalists argued that this branch consisted of excess powers that were unnecessary. They felt that various citizens needed to have various rights which should be incorporated in the constitution. They therefore argued that the constitution did not have any bill that covered the rights of individuals2.
Based on the arguments of the anti-federalists, the federalists came up with answers for them. The federalists argued that if power was separated into branches, the rights of the people would be protected. This is because each branch would consist of functional organs that would help in exercising the rights of individuals. The people against federalism tried as much as possible to prevent the adoption of the constitution. However, their opposition was met with strong arguments from the federalist’s side. More so, the federalists were so united that the constitution was adopted in many states. It later emerged that a bill that included the rights of individuals was important in the constitution.
The arguments of James Madison can also be analyzed from the title of his article. The title of the article was “The Alleged Tendency of the New Plan to Elevate the Few at the Expense of the Many.” His arguments were also focused on the election of individuals as representatives in the house. He pointed out that people should be very cautious in electing leaders. They should not choose leaders according to their social backgrounds or race. He argued that it is difficult to know which leader is the best since all leaders are good among the eyes of the citizens. People should therefore elect people based on their wisdom and their ability to improve the welfare of the society.
James Madison has made a major contribution in the United States of America since he took an active participation in the constitution. He was one of the people who were involved in drafting this supreme law. He also contributed in the writing of the bill of rights in the country. His association with the Federalist Party ended in 1791. In the same year, his relations with Hamilton ended. After this period, James Madison collaborated with Thomas Jefferson. Together, they opposed some policies that were formulated by the federalists.
Federalist 57 was written to defend a just political structure designed to balance the House of Representatives and the political power it represents. Within the House of Representatives, officials are elected by the majority and the common public act as authority and carry the support and confidence of the said public. He additionally suggests that there should be a term limit imposed upon each position as that would further aid and motivate the representatives to uphold their electoral promises, because not doing so will cost them their position in the next election. Madison further discusses the republican government, which enforces the rule of law as well as promotes political equality and merit. By employing a government where the people have elected the representatives the welfare of the general public is better looked after compared to a government where only the elites hold authority, and thus are more likely to only support the minority that they represent. Madison argues that although both oligarchy and aristocracy exist in Europe, they are unjust to the common citizens and therefore will not exist if an elected government is in place. He believes that an elected legislature is responsive to the people and will not favor the elites over the majority.
Representatives should be elected for public service by the public’s merit through the ballot and not be a guaranteed right through birth or inherited social status. A representative democracy that forces the elected representatives to face the electorates at the ballot box is the best way to end corruption. He writes:
The aim of every political constitution is, or ought to be, first to obtain for rulers men who possess most wisdom to discern, and most virtue to pursue, the common good of the society; and in the next place, to take the most effectual precautions for keeping them virtuous whilst they continue to hold their public trust.
The elective mode of obtaining rulers is the characteristic policy of republican government. The means relied on in this form of government for preventing their degeneracy is numerous and various. The most effectual one is such a limitation of the term of appointments as will maintain a proper responsibility to the people (Federalist 348).
Madison suggests that the electorate is a group of vengeful individuals who will “throw” the representatives out of office, should they fail to follow through with their promises or uphold the trust. Representatives will remain loyal to the constituents for several reasons. First, they will have the obligation to stand by their words as that is what people expect from these distinguished men. Second, the representatives will have a sense of gratitude and honor from the electors for upholding their promises. Third, in order to be re-elected they must have the trust and votes of the people or they will not advance in their political career. Finally, the laws created by the representatives will apply to all members of the society, including representatives themselves. These statements, however, have not proven to be true in practice.
Per Madison’s beliefs, no individual is above the law regardless of his or her social or political status, but such is not the case. The officials can and often will find and use loopholes to get around the law and its rules. Though the impression of a universal law abidance is present, but in reality, it does not exist and nor is it enforced upon certain individuals, organizations, agencies, and government officials; there are always exception that exist. One way for the representative democracy that Madison desires can be preserved is that, the United States government, executive to be exact, must first follow its own preaching that no one is above the law. All should be viewed and receive equal protection and treatment under the law of the land as well as the rule of law.
However, Madison does not account for people being fickle and partisan in the choices when voting for their representatives of Congress. Constituents may keep a congressperson in power simply because their affiliation with a particular political party. In essence the constituents believe that the political party’s ideology is to be followed rather than the individual decision made by the congressperson. It is commonly then referred to as straight picket voting, a voter only votes for members of a particular political party rather than what he or she is promoting and if is capable of keeping the public welfare of upmost importance.
It seems that the framers only thought of the intellectual aspect of why term limits as well as other regulations should be imposed on the legislature. They believed that certain individuals who possessed a greater understanding of complex issues would feel obligated to use their sophisticated knowledge for the betterment of their country. They further seem to have assumed that the people would elect the best amongst them as representatives, because they wanted the best for their country. What they discounted was the competitiveness, the power that political individuals and parties would be vying for, and the majority’s inability to have patience and give adequate time for political decisions to reach fruition.
Ralph K. James Madison: A Biography. New York Hedge Publishers, 1971.
Labunski, R. James Madison and the Struggle for the Bill of Rights. New York. Blake Publishers, 2000.