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The Federalist Papers: No. 43

On this day in 1788, Federalist Paper No. 43 is published. James Madison (a.k.a. “Publius”) continues his step-by-step defense of the powers given to the new national government. This essay literally reads like a punch list!

In Federalist No. 41, Madison had divided the power granted to the government into six classes. Paper 41 discussed the first of these (national security); Paper 42 discussed the next two classes (foreign commerce and relations among states). Now, Madison turns to a discussion of the fourth class of powers, which he calls “certain miscellaneous objects of general utility.”


And they are truly miscellaneous.


Madison defends a variety of powers, including the new national government’s authority to protect copyrights and patents, punish treason, and admit new states into the Union. Most of these miscellaneous powers are fairly uncontroversial, but Madison engages in a more extensive discussion of one particular point. What does it mean to “guarantee to every State in the Union a republican form of government” and “to protect each of them against invasion”?


America, Madison observes, is “founded on republican principles, and composed of republican members.” Thus, it only makes sense to give the national government the “authority to defend the system against aristocratic or monarchial innovations.” The authority of the national government extends no further than to a “GUARANTY of a republican form of government” in each state. The states can continue their “existing republican forms” or “choose to substitute other republican forms.” The only restriction on the states is that “they shall not exchange republican for antirepublican Constitutions.” This restriction, Madison observed, “will hardly be considered as a grievance.”


Similarly, the national government should have the right to protect one of its members from invasion: “[T]here are certain parts of the State constitutions which are so interwoven with the federal Constitution, that a violent blow cannot be given to the one without communicating the wound to the other.” He cites the philosopher, Montesquieu, who named one advantage of a confederate republic: “‘[S]hould a popular insurrection happen in one of the States, the others are able to quell it. Should abuses creep into one part, they are reformed by those that remain sound.’”


In any event, Madison thinks that the “existence of a right to interpose, will generally prevent the necessity of exerting it.”


My post with more background on the Federalist Papers and their authorship can be found in the Federalist Paper No. 1 summary (see October 27 history post, HERE).

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