Federalist No. 41

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James Madison

Federalist No. 41, authored by James Madison under the pen name Publius, is the forty first of 85 essays. Titled "General View of the Powers Conferred by the Constitution", Madison goes into detail about the powers granted by the Constitution, and methods for restraining power by the federal government.

It was published on January 19, 1788.


At the time of the founding, some believed that the powers granted to the national government were too extensive. Anti-federalists argued that the powers could be too easily abused.

Madison answers these charges by asking if the powers are improper or unnecessary, and admits that in all forms of government, all powers are subject to abuse. He makes a comparison to foreign governments and puts the powers conferred by the Constitution into six classes:

  1. Security against foreign danger;
  2. Regulation of the intercourse with foreign nations;
  3. Maintenance of harmony and proper intercourse among the States;
  4. Certain miscellaneous objects of general utility;
  5. Restraint of the States from certain injurious acts;
  6. Provisions for giving due efficacy to all these powers.

His conclusion is that in America most problems would arise from internal conflicts in comparison with the problems that Europe faces with warring nations. The advantage would be that the general government would have limited authority to help settle any disputes without the typical bloodshed that had happened for centuries across Europe.

Modern interpretation

Some have written that perhaps the Constitution goes too far in restraining government, such as Anthony M. Bertelli, a central planner from NYU. Bertelli believes that because of the intense rigidity of the separation of powers and the polarization it creates, that it prevents cooperation between the various branches of the government.[1]

However, this viewpoint ignores that government is not supposed to be doing all of these things for us if it is not in the enumerated powers. We are supposed to be doing it ourselves, or the states are to do it.

See also


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