Who Controls a Republican Government? - Federalist #46

Who Controls a Republican Government? - Federalist #46

In Federalist #46 James Madison continues his discussion on the powers of the State vs Federal Government.

Among the several conclusions Madison draws, the most important is that the people are the final authority in a republican government, whether or not the Constitution was ratified.

Therefore, the citizens would be able to make sure the Federal Government does not assume too much power.



Federalist #46

January 29, 1788

James Madison


In Federalist #46 James Madison finishes a series of Papers geared at assuring citizens that the National Government will not make the State Governments obsolete.

Madison initially says that, under the Constitution, the States are not ceding authority to the Federal Government. Instead, they have different powers with the goal of accomplishing different tasks.


State Power

The most prominent point Madison makes in #46 is that the Federal Government is only responsible for ‘big picture’ decisions.

The States are still in charge of regulations which have a direct effect on people's lives.

Extending on this thought, Madison believed the States were more directly responsible for the citizens and, conversely, the citizens could have more control over the States.


Power to the People

Madison pushes his thoughts further when he claims that the State representatives in the Federal Government would have a bias toward their homes, limiting its ability to adversely affect the States and the people. 

Additionally, James believed that the ultimate authority rested in the hands of the citizens, who could use the power of the ballot to remove politicians who were acting against their interests in both the State and Federal Governments.


A Naive Prediction

Lastly, Madison reiterated an idea that Alexander Hamilton had presented in Federalist #16, which said that the Federal Government could not possibly raise an army powerful enough to suppress the State Militias.

This is an eerie anti-prediction in hindsight, as quite the opposite would happen 80 years later with the outbreak of the Civil War. 


I publish Federalist summaries every Friday.

If you’ve missed on, you can catch up here.

There are dozens (maybe hundreds) of biographies about James Madison.

Personally, I love everything Richard Brookhiser rights, so if you wanted to learn more about the 4th President I highly recommend his book.

If you’d like a copy you can get it through the Amazon affiliate link below (you’ll support this site, but don’t worry, Amazon pays me while your price stays the same).

James Madison
By Richard Brookhiser

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