Does the Constitution Grant the National Government Too Much Power? (Federalist #41)

Does the Constitution Grant the National Government Too Much Power? (Federalist #41)

In Federalist #41 James Madison begins a series of Papers which argue that the United States needs the strong powers granted in the Constitution.

Madison looks very specifically at the powers granted to the Federal Government with a discussion of why each is necessary.

He further assesses that every government has an inherent risk of abuse and the Constitution was written to prevent this as best as possible.

Federalist #41

January 19, 1788

James Madison


Too Much Power?

James Madison begins Federalist #41 with an outline of the several questions he will be answering in the next few Papers.

Here, he asks: Does the United States Constitution grant the Nation Government too much power?

His answer, of course, is no.

He then proceeds to look at the six main tasks of the new Government at great length. 


Acknowledging the Dangers

What is curious about Federalist #41 is that Madison seems to have a very different perspective from that of Alexander Hamilton.

Hamilton, when he was not reprimanding Anti-Federalist critics, usually geared his efforts at singing the praises of a strong National Government. 

Madison, however, acknowledges the dangers of a strong government. He expands on this by saying there is risk of abuse from ANY government. 

The Answer is Federalism

The Constitution, Madison insists, was written with these risks in mind.

Therefore, by using the States to distribute power, the Constitution was built to simultaneously create a strong National Government while protecting the people from abuses that might be attempted by those in charge.

Because of its Federal nature, ceding large responsibilities to the individual States, the National Government is NOT (according to Madison) too strong to safely be ratified by the citizens of 1788.

So what do you think, did the Constitution create too powerful a government or was it like baby bear’s porridge (just right)?


Have you missed our previous Federalist Friday articles?

Take a look at the full list here.

You might also like this article on James Madison’s Congressional Campaign:

Madison Beats Monroe - The Small Election with Big Implications

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