Does the Constitution Make the State Governments Obsolete? - Federalist 45

Does the Constitution Make the State Governments Obsolete? - Federalist 45

In Federalist #45 James Madison discusses the amount of power left to the separate States under the Constitution.

Madison announces the vital role the States are expected to play under the Constitution and claims that if anyone’s power is at risk it is the Federal Government.

Federalist #45

January 26, 1788

James Madison

In Federalist #45 James Madison attempts to ease the fear that the Constitution will make the State Governments irrelevant. 

Madison acknowledges that the States will give up some of their power to the Federal Government, but this is necessary for the nation to operate properly.

The goal, he believed, was to promote the general happiness of the public at large and the best way to accomplish this was to unite under the Constitution. 

Traditional Control

To support his argument, Madison does one of his favorite things...he points at history.

Discussing feudal societies of the Middle Ages, James shows that smaller communities have traditionally maintained control over their people than their more centralized powers. 

Likewise, he believed, the States would continue to hold more sway over the daily lives of American citizens, despite the Federal Government retaining supreme power. 

The Real Risk

Madison completes his theory by mentioning that the Federal Government is at a greater risk of losing its authority than the State Governments. 

Just as the Articles of Confederation were frequently disobeyed by the States, the Constitution ran the same risk.

The Federal Government, he believed, was an attempted to remedy the issues suffered under the Articles, but could still fall victim to many of the same problems. The main difference was that the Constitution was an attempt to remedy these malfunctions, theoretically not giving the Federal Government any new powers but instead allowing it to operate as intended.

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‘Plain, Hones Men is one of my favorite books about the writing of the Constitution because it looks at the daily lives of the Founders as they spent the summer of 1787 in Philadelphia.

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