Council Of Censors

Background

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Created in 1776 by the Pennsylvania Legislature, “the duty of this group was to ascertain if the Pennsylvania constitution had been preserved; and whether the Legislative and Executive branches of government had performed their duty as guardians of the people.”1The Council's job wasto determine whether the actions of the legislative and executive branches of government were constitutional—if the legislators and the executive worked for the people or for themselves. The Council believed that the Constitution was not a living document, therefore, should not be amended. Originally the council was supposed to be replaced every seven years with every city and county allotted two representatives and was based on Roman practices.2


Relation to Federalist No. 48

This council is referenced in paragraph ninth paragraph of Federalist 48. James Madison sets it as an example for proving how the legislative branch is overpowering the executive and judicial branch, which is essentially what Federalist No. 48 is about. Madison claims, “in the execution of this trust, the council were necessarily led to a comparison, of both the legislative and executive proceedings, with the constitutional powers of these departments; and from the facts enumerated I and to the truth of most of which, both sides in the council subscribed, it appears that the Constitution had been flagrantly violated by the Legislature in a variety of important instances.”3 The duty of the Council was clearly stated, therefore, Madison was able use incidents with the Council as valid evidence for making his argument.

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