Federalist Papers No 20

Author: James Madison with Alexander Hamilton

Written to: The People of New York

Date: December 11, 1787

Source: The Constitution Society



In the Federalist 20, Madison and Hamilton address the concern with the Articles of Confederation and furthermore how it fails to preserve the union. The first issue they discuss are states having too much power to make treaties and alliances with foreign nations. They continue by making the argument for an executive power and ways in which the powers can be limited as to not result in tyranny. If each state can deal with other nations, they have too much power as individuals and need to unified under one domain.

Original Text

Paragraph 3-6

The sovereignty of the Union is represented by the States-General, consisting usually of about fifty deputies appointed by the provinces. They hold their seats, some for life, some for six, three, and one years; from two provinces they continue in appointment during pleasure.

The States-General have authority to enter into treaties and alliances; to make war and peace; to raise armies and equip fleets; to ascertain quotas and demand contributions. In all these cases, however, unanimity and the sanction of their constituents are requisite. They have authority to appoint and receive ambassadors; to execute treaties and alliances already formed; to provide for the collection of duties on imports and exports; to regulate the mint, with a saving to the provincial rights; to govern as sovereigns the dependent territories. The provinces are restrained, unless with the general consent, from entering into foreign treaties; from establishing imposts injurious to others, or charging their neighbors with higher duties than their own subjects. A council of state, a chamber of accounts, with five colleges of admiralty, aid and fortify the federal administration.

The executive magistrate of the union is the stadtholder, who is now an hereditary prince. His principal weight and influence in the republic are derived from this independent title; from his great patrimonial estates; from his family connections with some of the chief potentates of Europe; and, more than all, perhaps, from his being stadtholder in the several provinces, as well as for the union; in which provincial quality he has the appointment of town magistrates under certain regulations, executes provincial decrees, presides when he pleases in the provincial tribunals, and has throughout the power of pardon.
As stadtholder of the union, he has, however, considerable prerogatives.

To read the rest of Federalist 20, click HERE.

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