Federalist No. 49
Federalist No. 49, authored by James Madison under the pen name Publius, is the forty ninth of 85 essays. Titled "Method of Guarding Against the Encroachments of Any One Department of Government", Madison responds to ideas written in Notes on the State of Virginia. He addresses topics such as a second convention, public passions vs public reason, and the separation of powers between the branches.
It was published on February 2, 1788.
Madison warned against constant changes and the impracticability of providing for every opportunity to make changes when they arise. He wrote:
- A nation of philosophers is as little to be expected as the philosophical race of kings wished for by Plato. And in every other nation, the most rational government will not find it a superfluous advantage to have the prejudices of the community on its side. The danger of disturbing the public tranquillity by interesting too strongly the public passions, is a still more serious objection against a frequent reference of constitutional questions to the decision of the whole society.
Passion and reason are typically on opposite sides, which is why the modes for proposing changes to the Constitution are so high. It forces time to pass in order for support to be built, which allows for passion to subside and be overtaken by reason and experience.