Why Are There No Public Reviews of the Government? - Federalist #50

Why Are There No Public Reviews of the Government? - Federalist #50

In Federalist #50, James Madison discusses why a regular public review of the Federal Government would be a waste of time.


Federalist #50

February 5, 1788

James Madison

During the debates on ratification of the Constitution, many Anti-Federalists proposed that the people be allowed to review the Federal Government at regular intervals to make sure that one branch has not exceeded its power and intruded on the responsibilities of another branch.

James Madison argues against this idea with Federalist #50.

Madison claims that these periodic examinations would never work properly and, therefore, would be pointless.


Why Public Review Won’t Work

James Madison has three main arguments in Federalist #50.

First, he says that irregular reviews cannot work as they would simply never be timed right.

Second, Madison states that intervals that are too close together would halt the government because it would feel constantly threatened.

Third, intervals that are too far apart would allow those in the government to grow indifferent to the examinations they would be treated as if they did not exist.


The Council of Censors Example

Madison uses Pennsylvania’s Council of Censors as an example throughout this Paper.

The Council of Censors was a briefly used device in that State’s government which had people elected to a second board. This board reviewed what the actual State Government accomplished and decided whether or not the actions taken were constitutional.

Madison points out, correctly, that those on the Council of Censors had ties to political parties before they were on the Council and, therefore, had natural biases that represented their party more than the people.

Despite his belief in Separation of Powers and Checks and Balance, James Madison did not think regular reviews were a viable option for keeping the government beholden to its citizens.


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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.

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James Madison
By Richard Brookhiser

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