America is much more than a geographical fact. It is a political and moral fact - the first community in which men set out in principle to institutionalize freedom, responsible government, and human equality.
- Adlai Stevenson -

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

ambition must be made to counteract ambition.

The Federalist Papers are a set of eighty-five essays in support of the ratification of the United States of America. These essays were published in newspapers and later bound in a book called The Federalist. Articles circulated from 1787 until 1788 when the United States was finally ratified. Although the articles were originally published under the name Publius, they were actually written Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay. They are often considered some of the most important contributions to American politics. The Federalist reassured Americans that the Constitution protected them, saying that government is the allowance for freedom.

While there were three authors of The Federalist, the work was not equal. Alexander Hamilton wrote 50 of the 85, James Madison wrote 30 and John Jay wrote five. Today I am going to write about one of the articles written by James Madison, Federalist Paper Number 51.

Federalist Paper Number 51 was published on February 6, 1788. It is considered one of the most popular of the Federalist Papers. In the Federalist Paper Number 1, Alexander Hamilton said that articles 37-84 would be about “The conformity of the proposed constitution to the true principles of republican government.” Federalist Paper 51 definitely falls under this category. Its purpose is to “form a more correct judgment of the principles and structure of the government planned by the Constitutional Convention.” And within the writings, Madison emphasizes the ability of the constitution to maintain separate branched of government and protect the rights of each citizen.

The main argument within the 51st paper is the idea of appropriate checks and balances in government and the importance of the separation of powers. A common thought within the Founding Fathers is that if men were angles, we could have a perfect government. One of the ideas James Madison stresses is essentially that men are not angels, and we cannot expect them to be. James Madison accepted the Human Dilemma of power and realized that there needs to be restrictions set up to contradict the human nature.

One of Madison’s key points is that each department in the government should be individual. No branch of the government should be involved in another branch’s duties. For example, it would not be fair if those who make the laws also decide if they are just or not. There must be a clear separation of responsibilities. Madison believed that in order to keep this idea safe there needed to be limited power along with the division of power so that each branch of the government doesn’t have too much power in itself.

Madison believed that the legislature should be divided into three branches to remove predomination. The Legislative Branch is the strongest part of the government and that power could cause problems. He believed that each of these branches should be connected as little as possible. He also thought that member of each part of the legislature should be voted in by distinctive forms for election. This correlates with his idea of proper checks and balances.

Madison also believed that there should be repeated elections. He felt this was important so that politicians did not become lazy in their actions. They have to constantly fight for positive public opinion because of the frequent elections and this keeps them in check and doing correct things. He also believed that judges should be given permanent tenure so that they may not be kicked out of their position if someone does not agree with their decision.

James Madison felt that the challenge of all this was that they needed to enable the government to control the governed which basically means enliven the government to control itself. No member of any government position is under different laws than the rest of the country. They have to falls the same laws and regulations as the average citizen and this helps keep an honest government.

James Madison also believed that people should vote for their political leaders but there should still be precautions with the voting process so as to again, not give someone more power than they ought to have.

Madison’s most famous quote from Federalist Paper Number 51 is “Ambition must be made to counteract ambition.” I believe this quote summarizes this paper quite well. A system of checks and balances and a separation of power are essential for the United Stated Government to work. 

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