Federalist No. 46

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James Madison, author of Federalist No. 46

Federalist No. 46 is an essay by James Madison, the forty-sixth of the Federalist Papers. It was published on January 29, 1788 under the pseudonym Publius, the name under which all the Federalist Papers were published. This essay examines the relative strength of the state and federal governments under the proposed United States Constitution. It is titled, "The Influence of the State and Federal Governments Compared."

Madison stresses that the federal and state governments are two totally different agencies. He articulates that they are separate yet can collaborate, and that the power lies in the people. The natural attachment of the people will always be to the governments of their respective states, so the federal government must be, in a sense, extraordinarily congenial to the people.

In an effort to further dissuade fears over a national military force, Madison indicates that, at any point, the maximum force that can be brought to bear by the government to enforce its mandates is but a small fraction of the might of an armed citizenry:

Let a regular army, fully equal to the resources of the country, be formed; and let it be entirely at the devotion of the federal government; still it would not be going too far to say, that the State governments, with the people on their side, would be able to repel the danger. The highest number to which, according to the best computation, a standing army can be carried in any country, does not exceed one hundredth part of the whole number of souls; or one twenty-fifth part of the number able to bear arms. This proportion would not yield, in the United States, an army of more than twenty-five or thirty thousand men. To these would be opposed a militia amounting to near half a million of citizens with arms in their hands, officered by men chosen from among themselves, fighting for their common liberties, and united and conducted by governments possessing their affections and confidence. It may well be doubted, whether a militia thus circumstanced could ever be conquered by such a proportion of regular troops. Those who are best acquainted with the last successful resistance of this country against the British arms, will be most inclined to deny the possibility of it. Besides the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation, the existence of subordinate governments, to which the people are attached, and by which the militia officers are appointed, forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any which a simple government of any form can admit of. Notwithstanding the military establishments in the several kingdoms of Europe, which are carried as far as the public resources will bear, the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms. And it is not certain, that with this aid alone they would not be able to shake off their yokes. But were the people to possess the additional advantages of local governments chosen by themselves, who could collect the national will and direct the national force, and of officers appointed out of the militia, by these governments, and attached both to them and to the militia, it may be affirmed with the greatest assurance, that the throne of every tyranny in Europe would be speedily overturned in spite of the legions which surround it.

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