Sample Essay on Federalism

After New Hampshire became the ninth state to ratify the new constitution it effectively became the law of the land. However, a problem arose; not all states had ratified including the two largest, Virginia and New York. To combat this problem and unify the states under the new constitution, prominent federalists James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay began writing the Federalist Papers in New York. The Federalist Papers served as the impetus for New York’s ratification of the constitution by quieting anxieties and highlighting the advantages of the new constitution to the New York public.

A common public fear of the new constitution is that it would compromise liberty and freedom. James Madison in Federalist No. 10 successfully addresses the issue when speaking of the Union as a safeguard against domestic faction. He states the two ways of dealing with factions as removing its causes or controlling its effects. To remove its causes, he states, is to destroy liberty and diversity. Madison quickly refutes this: “It [is] folly to abolish liberty, which is essential to political life” (Fed. 10, p25).

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He continues to say that the best way to deal with factions is to control their effects by establishing a large centralized government to rule over a large populace, thereby limiting factions to a smaller percentage of the population (Rompf, lecture notes, 8/28/03). Federalist No. 10 expresses to New Yorkers the government’s interest in protecting liberty and personal freedoms. At the same time, Madison argues the “safety-in-numbers” benefits of joining a large republic capable of controlling factions.

Again addressing the issue of liberty, Federalist No. 51 calls for a separation of powers providing checks and balances on each other. The author argues that in order to preserve liberty, the government must not only control the governed but also control itself (Fed. 51, p29). Written to reassure New Yorker’s of liberty’s protection, Federalist No. 51 explicitly outlines the division of government in to different branches. These separate branches would be elected differently and have separate functions. The cornerstone of the idea is that the duties of each branch of government must inherently be a check on another branch so that power remains balanced and corruption unable to survive. Like Federalist No. 51, Federalist No. 78 is a reassuring writing on the power of the government, specifically, the judicial branch.

Federalist No. 78 begins by discussing the nature of constituting the courts. Author Alexander Hamilton states that judges must be independent, secure in their jobs and the most qualified of any branch intellectually (Rompf, lecture notes, 8/28/03). The tenure of judges and the independence of the judicial branch lead some to question about judicial supremacy. Hamilton counters by stating that the courts should only check the constitutionality of legislative actions. He goes further, saying that the judicial branch is the least dangerous to the political rights of the people because its power is that of judicial review only.

The Federalist Papers enticed and persuaded New Yorker’s to accept federalism and ratify the new constitution by relaxing anxieties and explaining in a clear voice the fundamentals of the new constitution. By fostering discussion among New Yorkers, the Federalist Papers accelerated New York’s ratification of the new constitution and intentionally strengthened the Union.

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