Federalist No. 39

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James Madison

Federalist No. 39, authored by James Madison under the pen name Publius, is the thirty ninth of 85 essays. Titled "The Conformity of the Plan to Republican Principles", Madison describes the Republican character of the newly formed government. Specifically, Madison details some of the tenets of Federalism, or the sharing of power between the general government and the state governments.

He wrote that it is a "government whereby political power is divided between a central or national authority and smaller, locally autonomous units such as provinces or states, generally under the terms of a constitution."

It was published on January 18, 1788.

States retain sovereignty

Under the original construct of Madisonian Federalism, states do not lose their sovereignty to the national body. He wrote: "Each State, in ratifying the Constitution, is considered as a sovereign body, independent of all others, and only to be bound by its own voluntary act. In this relation, then, the new Constitution will, if established, be a FEDERAL, and not a NATIONAL constitution."

American Republic

In this paper, Madison defines three rules of a republic:

  1. In relation to the foundation on which it is to be established as to the sources from which its ordinary powers are to be drawn
  2. In relation to the operation of those powers and to the extent of them
  3. In relation to the authority by which future changes in the government are to be introduced

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