Federalist No. 51 – James Madison (1787-1788)

Federalist No. 51 – James Madison

  • Explains how the structure of government has an effect on liberty.
  • Each branch should be mostly independent – no branch should have too much power in selecting members of the other branches.
  • Easy to make executive and legislative branches elected positions but it’s difficult for judges to be chosen this way because the average person lacks the ability to determine if judges are qualified and reliable or not. Judges must be free from political pressures. Lifetime appointments get around this pressure.
  • Members of the branch should not depend much on members of the other branches with respect to salaries.
  • The Constitution must check against a government official’s ambitions and interests but we must be honest enough that this happens.
  • Government is to control the people and itself à this depends on the will of the people to control itself.
  • While all branches should be fairly equal, the legislature tends to be the strongest and it needs to be split into 2 parts to slow it down.
  • Also, the government must watch out for citizens and group of majorities who threaten minorities. To avoid evil:
    • Create a community that will be larger than and independent of a simple majority – This is dangerous because government might get involved to our collective detriment.
    • Authority should come from all of society.
    • The Constitution has society divided into many groups with different views and interests. This will make it difficult to dominate other groups.
    • Make the purpose of government and civil society justice.
    • If government allows or encourages tyranny against other groups, liberty is dead and you get mob rule.
    • With many different groups, self-government flourishes. Aiming to design something like the Constitution to allow for this on a large scale.

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