Why Are Two Year Terms Practical For The House of Representatives? - Federalist #53

Why Are Two Year Terms Practical For The House of Representatives? - Federalist #53

In Federalist #53 James Madison elaborates on his previous discussion regarding the election of members of the House of Representatives.

Madison furthers his opinion on why biannual elections to this office is better than each year.

Federalist #53

February 8, 1788

James Madison

James Madison begins Federalist #53 by asserting that the small difference between annual and biannual elections to the House of Representatives will not affect the liberty held by the citizens.

To prove this, James points out that each State has different election cycles, yet the degree of liberty retained by the citizens of each is not in question.

Additionally, he attempts to ease fears of tyranny by demonstrating that Congress alone cannot amend the Constitution. Therefore, allowing Representative to serve a second year does not make it any more convenient for making radical changes to the government.

He then moves on to his main thesis…practicality.



The most pressing argument in favor of biannual elections, according to James Madison, is practicality.

For instance, learning the ins and outs of Congress takes time. Madison argues that one-year terms would barely give Representatives opportunity to learn the system, let alone govern properly.

Furthermore, if a Representative did something uncouth, one year would not be enough time to remove them from office and give them the appropriate punishment.



Madison loves to get into the details, even references things as seemingly benign as travel.

From his perspective, traveling (with horse and buggy) from places as distant as Maine and Georgia for just one year puts an unnecessary burden on the Representatives. Two-year terms would make accepting the position ‘worth it’ at a time when having people show up to Congress was a serious concern.

Granted, our modern modes of transportation are significantly better, but even today if a Representative rents a house for a year it feels temporary. Living in the Capital for two years can really make it feel like a home.

And don’t we want our leaders to feel comfortable?

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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