Essay PreviewMore ↓
Madison, incredibly, insisted that to be legitimate, a government must coerce people. "A sanction is essential to the idea of law, as coercion is to that of Government," he wrote in his paper Vices of the Political System of the United States (April 1787). The Confederation, he continued, "being destitute of both, wants the great vital principles of a Political Constitution. Under the form of such a constitution, it is in fact nothing more than a treaty of amity of commerce and alliance, between independent and Sovereign States." Madison called the lack of coercion "a fatal omission" in the Confederation.
On February 21, 1787, Madison and Alexander Hamilton, Washington's former assistant who believed passionately in a powerful central government, persuaded Congress to name delegates who would revise the Articles of Confederation.
Madison arrived in Philadelphia May 3, 1787. He was to be among 55 delegates from 12 states (Rhode Island refused to send delegates). The delegates included attorneys, merchants, physicians, and plantation owners. Thirty-nine delegates had served in the Continental Congress, and they were inclined to seek more power than permitted by the Articles of Confederation.
The Constitution attempted to limit the power of central government through intricate checks and balances. A key principle was separation of powers: those who make laws, enforce laws, and interpret laws should be substantially independent and capable of limiting each other's power. The two houses of Congress provide a check on each other. The President can veto legislation, but he can be overruled by a two-thirds majority in both houses. The judiciary can strike down laws considered unconstitutional. Proposed amendments become part of the Constitution when approved by two-thirds of Congress and by legislatures in three-quarters of the states.
Yet the Constitution did establish unprecedented government power in America. The Constitution authorized federal taxes which never existed before. It gave the federal government power to overrule elected state and local officials who were closer to the people.
How to Cite this Page
"James Madison's Contribution of Checks and Balances." 123HelpMe.com. 20 Nov 2019
Need Writing Help?
Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.Check your paper »
- “In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself,” are words written by James Madison in The Federalist Papers No. 51. The Federalist Paper No. 51 is one of several documents that compose the Federalist Papers, a series of essays written by James Madison, John Jay, and Alexander Hamilton promoting the ratification of the Constitution.... [tags: Checks and Balances]
574 words (1.6 pages)
- Checks and Balances When the framers of our revered Constitution came together to produce our governing system, they wanted to avoid the precedent of an all powerful entity that could control its citizens. They broke governments role into three important phases, which were the power to make laws, the power to interpret laws, and the ability to enforce them. To further decentralize these authority holding organizations, they created a system that allowed each of the three sections to have a say in each of the others ability to exercise said authority.... [tags: U.S. Government ]
1169 words (3.3 pages)
- James Madison joined with other founding fathers to defend the US Constitution. It was important that the government had a system in which power of the three branches (executive, legislative, and judicial) would be divided fairly. The separation of powers and checks and balances were created to obviously organize the powers and keep them in check by impeding the attention of authority. Madison’s thought process in the 51st essay of The Federalist Papers explains why there should be a separation of powers and checks and balances on the three branches of government.... [tags: Separation of powers, Judiciary]
732 words (2.1 pages)
- To be able to understand the system of checks and balances in our constitution, we must understand why it was made, who created it, and when it was made. During the time the United Sates approved the Articles of Confederation it had just defeated the British and started a country, but the rules they put in place had no authority behind them. Because of this the states would not work as one. The states began a path that led toward becoming their own countries. An example is that each state had its own currency.... [tags: Separation of powers]
1165 words (3.3 pages)
- Checks and balances In the United States Constitution, there is a specific system designed to prevent one of the three branches from gaining control or much power. This system is known as Checks and Balances. The system has been put on the effect due to many instances over the course of the year history. The designed system of Checks and Balances is very open yet complex. For example, if the President executive is not fulfilling his responsibilities as a leader or behaving inappropriately, the Legislative Branch Congress can limit him through the power of impeachment.... [tags: United States Government]
1079 words (3.1 pages)
- Checks and balances United States Constitution has specific system designed to prevent one of the three branches from gaining control or becoming powerful. Checks and Balances is the system that has been put on the effect due to many instances over the course of the year history. The designed system of Checks and Balances is very open yet complex. The president appointing powers can be limited through the judicial review if he is not fulfilling his responsibility as a leader. This is when a justice can declare a law unconstitutional.... [tags: Government]
2055 words (5.9 pages)
- The Founding Fathers were the political leaders who took part in the American Revolution and won American Independence from Great Britain in 1776. They also participated in framing and adopting the Constitution in 1788. They are known in our history books as “The Framers” and are responsible for putting the new government, outlined in the new Constitution into effect. The framers were afraid of majority rule, so they created three separate branches of the government; Legislative, Executive, and Judicial.... [tags: US Constitution]
850 words (2.4 pages)
- The American Government is a democratic Republic and the decision-making process fits in the democratic model and the pluralist model. The founders of the Constitution laid out a structural framework for the government. The first three articles of the Constitution define the separate branches of government and specify their internal operations and powers. The separation of powers is the assignment of law-making, law-enforcing, and law-interpreting functions to separate branches of government. The three branches in the United States are: The Executive, Judicial, and Legislative.... [tags: American Government, Republic]
970 words (2.8 pages)
- Constitutional Interpretation of Checks and Balances The problem of interpreting the Constitution and framer’s intent is a constantly permeating and troublesome question in the minds of Supreme Court Justices, judges, prominent politicians, and policy makers alike. It is a problem that has been pondered for years and years in the courtrooms and on paper with no real conclusion. One such essay arguing this dilemma is “How Not to Read the Constitution” by Laurence H. Tribe and Michael C. Dorf, who explore the questions “Is reading the text just a pretext for expressing the reader’s vision in the august, almost holy terms of constitutional law?” and “Is the Constitution simply a mirror in... [tags: Papers]
1683 words (4.8 pages)
- Checks and Balances The doctrine of separation of powers developed over many centuries. This practice doctrine can be traced to the British Parliament's gradual assertion of power and resistance to royal decrees during the 14th century. Political theorist, John Locke wrote about the concept of separation of powers in his Second Treatise of Government (1690). In the United States, the separation of powers is a fundamental constitutional principle. The framers of this Constitution saw the need to divide power within the government to prevent a single group from ruthlessly taking over the country.... [tags: Papers]
966 words (2.8 pages)
Because the Constitution proposed to expand government power, there was substantial opposition, spearheaded by the so- called "Antifederalists." They included New York governor George Clinton, Revolutionary War organizer Samuel Adams, and Virginians George Mason and Patrick Henry. Respected pro-Constitution historians Samuel Eliot Morison, Henry Steele Commager, and William E. Leuchtenburg admitted "There is little doubt that the Antifederalists would have won a Gallup poll."
The Antifederalists presented a wide range of often conflicting points against the Constitution. Most important: the lack of a Bill of Rights. Madison considered bills of rights to be mere "parchment barriers" which an oppressive majority could easily ignore. He was convinced that liberty would be best protected in a large republic with many competing interests, where it would be difficult for a single one to oppress the others.
Madison became nearly as radical as Jefferson. Both men praised Thomas Paine's The Rights of Man (1791), a clarion call for liberty which alarmed the Federalists. Hamilton unleashed nasty attacks against Jefferson in Philadelphia newspapers, and Madison together with James Monroe wrote counterattacks. Madison denounced Hamilton's view that the President should have considerable discretionary power to conduct foreign policy, even if it undermines Congressional power to declare war. In 1793, Madison spoke out against the military build-up sought by the Federalists. Three years later, Federalists wanted to suppress American societies sympathetic to the French Revolution, but Madison insisted they were innocent until proven guilty of some crime. Federalists warned that aliens posed grave dangers, while Madison introduced a bill which made it easier for aliens to become American citizens. Madison resisted Federalist demands for higher taxes. He denounced the Alien and Sedition Acts (1798), which empowered the government to silence, even deport critics. His was a crucial, courageous voice during the Federalist assault on liberty.
Jefferson won the 1800 presidential election, turning the Federalists out, and Madison became Secretary of State for two terms. Then Madison won the presidency twice himself. These years were marked by frustration as he groped for a way to discourage the warring British and French from seizing American merchant ships. He pursued an embargo which backfired, devastating American port cities. He stumbled into the War of 1812, and the British torched Washington, D.C.retaliation against the United States, which had torched Toronto. Demands of wartime finance spurred Madison to ask for higher taxes and a second government bank, since the term of Hamilton's bank had expired. Madison was vindicated on one point, though. He relied on volunteers, not conscripts, and it was American privateers who ravaged the British coastline, forcing the British government to negotiate peace. London merchants couldn't even get maritime insurance between Britain and Ireland.
Despite his inconsistencies, Madison outlived all the other Founders and continued expressing the ideals of republican liberty. As Jefferson wrote in his most poignant letter, February 17, 1826: "The friendship which has subsisted between us, now half a century, and the harmony of our political principles and pursuits, have been sources of constant happiness to me. . . . It has also been a great solace to me, to believe that you are engaged in vindicating to posterity the course we have pursued for preserving to them, in all their purity, the blessings of self-government. . . . To myself you have been a pillar of support through life. Take care of me when dead, and be assured that I shall leave with you my last affections."
Madison's time came a decade later when, in early 1836, he began suffering from chronic fevers, fatigue, and shortness of breath. On June 27th, Madison wrote his final words, about his friendship with Jefferson. During breakfast the next day, he suddenly slumped over and died. He was buried in the family plot a half-mile south of his house.
For all their flaws, constitutional checks and balances endure as the most effective means ever devised for limiting governmental tribute to the insight, industry, and devotion of James Madison.