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Distributed quarterly by mail and email, the Conservative Caucus of Delaware's newsletter contains relevant information and insights from noted leaders, authoritative stakeholders and like-minded members who demonstrate their passion for the truths we hold dear by putting pen to paper!

Federalist Paper #51


     The Mainstream Media has complained that our government is “broken.”  In their viewpoint, Congress is an obstructionist to the Obama Agenda.  The public has bought into that viewpoint, although given some of the administration current failures, support for that viewpoint may be waning.  But, is the Mainstream Media correct, is our government “broken” or is it, in fact, beginning to “function” as the Founding Fathers intended it to operate?

     James Madison, Founding Father and 4th President, would likely disagree with the media’s viewpoint.  He famously promulgated that the form of government must be structured so that the ambition of one group counteracts the ambition of another.  Madison was one of three writers of This column, reproduced with the author's permission, was originally published in the Washington Examiner on July 29, 2014 David Freddoso, Columnist for the Washington Examiner: The other two writers were Alexander Hamilton and John Jay.  The Federalist Papers are a series of 85 articles and essays explaining how the new government would operate and intending to persuade the citizens of New York to ratify the U. S. Constitution. Seventy-seven essays were published serially in The Independent Journal, The New York Packet, and Daily Advertiser between October of 1787 and August 1788.

A compilation of these and eight others, called The Federalist or The New Constitution, was published in two volumes in 1788. The series' correct title is The Federalist; but in the 20th century, the title was changed to The Federalist Papers.

     Federalist Paper #51 clearly explains the dangers of power from a governmental and human perspective and the means by which to minimize that power.  It was published on February 6, 1788, under the pseudonym “Publius,” the name under which all the Federalist Papers were published.  The authors used the pseudonym



”Publius,” in honor of Roman consul Publius Valerius Publicola (one of four Roman aristocrats who led the overthrow of the monarchy and established the Roman Republic in 509 BC).

     It is critical to understanding our constitutional structure that the Framers intended to disperse power among a number of different government entities. Indeed, the

Framers viewed dispersing governmental authority as one of the most important means of preventing tyranny and consequently protecting the rights of the people.  Federalist Paper #51 is titled “The Structure of the Government Must Furnish the Proper Checks and Balances Between the Different Departments,” to the people of New York,

Madison states:

     TO WHAT expedient, then, shall we finally resort, for maintaining in practice the necessary partition of power among the several departments, as laid down in the Constitution? The only answer that can be given is, that as all these exterior provisions are found to be inadequate, the defect must be supplied, by so contriving the interior structure of the government as that its several constituent parts may, by their mutual relations, be the means of keeping each other in their proper places….It is equally evident, that the members of each department should be as little dependent as possible on those of the others, for the emoluments annexed to their offices.

Madison further explains:

But the great security against a gradual concentration of the several powers in the same department, consists in giving to those who administer each department the necessary constitutional means and personal motives to resist encroachments of the others. The provision for defense must in this, as in all other cases, be made commensurate to the danger of attack. Ambition must be made to counteract ambition. The interests of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place. It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?

     If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed: and in the next place, oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is no doubt the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.

     Today, we have a president who uses Executive Orders to by-pass Congress, who makes recess judicial appointments to by-pass the Senate; a president who, of his own accord, even ignores provisions of his signature law; a president who acts extra-constitutionally.  Therefore, it is the constitutional duty of the two others branches, the Judiciary and the Congress, to thwart his actions; “ambition must be made to counteract ambition.”  The U.S. Supreme Court, in NLRB v. Canning, has curbed the President’s recess appointment power.  John Boehner, House Majority Leader, appears poised to sue Obama for his Executive Orders.  Madison would not have been surprised by Obama’s grab for power, he anticipated such a scenario; he might, however, have been disappointed by the delay in acting against him. 

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