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James Madison, Executive Power, and the Question of Consistency
Unformatted Document Text:  republican government to succeed structural improvements must be made to ensure that the most enlightened and virtuous men control the reigns of power. It was the only way he thought that stability could be incorporated into republics. He first shared his ideas about how this could be done in 1785 in a letter to Caleb Wallace, an old college friend, in response to Wallace’s enquiries concerning his opinion on framing a constitution for the state of Kentucky. He told Wallace, “The Legislative department ought to by all means, as I think to include a Senate constituted on such principles as will give wisdom and steadiness to legislation. The want of these qualities is the grievance complained of in all our republics.” He went on to recommend Maryland’s Senate “with a few amendments as a good model.” Madison admitted that even Virginia’s Senate as poorly constructed as he thought it was, nevertheless acted as “a useful bit in the mouth of the House of Delegates.” Madison explained that the House of Delegates often impetuously passed bad resolutions that they later regretted. Armed with a veto, the Virginia Senate would negative the bill and save the state from the anguish of living under the foolish or oppressive measure. 21 Here was the embryo of Madison’s solution to the problem of providing an impartial judge or umpire within the republic. On several occasions he asserted that within every government there must be an impartial referee or umpire. He concluded that this was what was missing in the American Political System under the Articles of Confederation. As he wrote in “Federalist #10,” No man is allowed to be a judge in his own cause; and, not improbably, corrupt his integrity.” Likewise he asserted, “A body of men,” are unfit to be both judges and parties, at the same time.” The problem in small republics like the American states was that “acts of legislation” were really “judicial determinations” made by a factious majority who were both “advocates and parties to the cause which they determine.” 22 Somehow the sovereignty in the Union must be modified in such a way that these factious majorities in the states could no longer be judges and juries in their own cases. The solution was to extend the Republic, transfer sovereignty from the States to the central government, allow the central government to act directly on the citizens of the states, and create within the extended republic an umpire to act as referee over state legislation to ensure that 21 James Madison to Caleb Wallace, Orange, 23 August 1785, PJM 8:351-352. 22 James Madison to George Washington, New York, 16 April, 1787, Ibid., 9: 384; James Madison to Thomas Jefferson, New York, 24 October, 1787, Ibid, 10: 212-213; .James Madison, “Federalist #10,” The Federalist Papers, 86. 12

Authors: Edwards, Gregory.
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republican government to succeed structural improvements must be made to ensure that the most enlightened and
virtuous men control the reigns of power. It was the only way he thought that stability could be incorporated into
republics. He first shared his ideas about how this could be done in 1785 in a letter to Caleb Wallace, an old college
friend, in response to Wallace’s enquiries concerning his opinion on framing a constitution for the state of Kentucky.
He told Wallace, “The Legislative department ought to by all means, as I think to include a Senate constituted on
such principles as will give wisdom and steadiness to legislation. The want of these qualities is the grievance
complained of in all our republics.” He went on to recommend Maryland’s Senate “with a few amendments as a
good model.” Madison admitted that even Virginia’s Senate as poorly constructed as he thought it was, nevertheless
acted as “a useful bit in the mouth of the House of Delegates.” Madison explained that the House of Delegates often
impetuously passed bad resolutions that they later regretted. Armed with a veto, the Virginia Senate would negative
the bill and save the state from the anguish of living under the foolish or oppressive measure.
Here was the embryo of Madison’s solution to the problem of providing an impartial judge or umpire
within the republic. On several occasions he asserted that within every government there must be an impartial
referee or umpire. He concluded that this was what was missing in the American Political System under the Articles
of Confederation. As he wrote in “Federalist #10,” No man is allowed to be a judge in his own cause; and, not
improbably, corrupt his integrity.” Likewise he asserted, “A body of men,” are unfit to be both judges and parties, at
the same time.” The problem in small republics like the American states was that “acts of legislation” were really
“judicial determinations” made by a factious majority who were both “advocates and parties to the cause which they
determine.”
Somehow the sovereignty in the Union must be modified in such a way that these factious majorities in the
states could no longer be judges and juries in their own cases. The solution was to extend the Republic, transfer
sovereignty from the States to the central government, allow the central government to act directly on the citizens of
the states, and create within the extended republic an umpire to act as referee over state legislation to ensure that
21
James Madison to Caleb Wallace, Orange, 23 August 1785, PJM 8:351-352.
22
James Madison to George Washington, New York, 16 April, 1787, Ibid., 9: 384; James Madison to Thomas
Jefferson, New York, 24 October, 1787, Ibid, 10: 212-213; .James Madison, “Federalist #10,” The Federalist
Papers,
86.
12


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