The Federalist Papers, No. 51 by James Madison

Published on February 8, 1788, this essay by Madison advocates for a system of checks and balances within the United States government. Read the full text here.
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Explore the Words

definitions & notes only words
  1. expedient
    a means to an end
    To what expedient, then, shall we finally resort, for maintaining in practice the necessary partition of power among the several departments, as laid down in the Constitution?
  2. provision
    a stipulated condition
    The only answer that can be given is, that as all these exterior provisions are found to be inadequate, the defect must be supplied, by so contriving the interior structure of the government as that its several constituent parts may, by their mutual relations, be the means of keeping each other in their proper places.
  3. contrive
    make or work out a plan for; devise
    The only answer that can be given is, that as all these exterior provisions are found to be inadequate, the defect must be supplied, by so contriving the interior structure of the government as that its several constituent parts may, by their mutual relations, be the means of keeping each other in their proper places.
  4. constituent
    essential in the structure of something
    The only answer that can be given is, that as all these exterior provisions are found to be inadequate, the defect must be supplied, by so contriving the interior structure of the government as that its several constituent parts may, by their mutual relations, be the means of keeping each other in their proper places.
  5. rigorous
    rigidly accurate; allowing no deviation from a standard
    Were this principle rigorously adhered to, it would require that all the appointments for the supreme executive, legislative, and judiciary magistracies should be drawn from the same fountain of authority, the people, through channels having no communication whatever with one another.
  6. deviation
    a variation from the standard or norm
    Some deviations, therefore, from the principle must be admitted.
  7. tenure
    the term during which some position is held
    In the constitution of the judiciary department in particular, it might be inexpedient to insist rigorously on the principle: first, because peculiar qualifications being essential in the members, the primary consideration ought to be to select that mode of choice which best secures these qualifications; secondly, because the permanent tenure by which the appointments are held in that department, must soon destroy all sense of dependence on the authority conferring them.
  8. confer
    present
    In the constitution of the judiciary department in particular, it might be inexpedient to insist rigorously on the principle: first, because peculiar qualifications being essential in the members, the primary consideration ought to be to select that mode of choice which best secures these qualifications; secondly, because the permanent tenure by which the appointments are held in that department, must soon destroy all sense of dependence on the authority conferring them.
  9. emolument
    compensation received by virtue of holding an office
    It is equally evident, that the members of each department should be as little dependent as possible on those of the others, for the emoluments annexed to their offices.
  10. annex
    attach to
    It is equally evident, that the members of each department should be as little dependent as possible on those of the others, for the emoluments annexed to their offices.
  11. magistrate
    a lay judge or civil authority who administers the law
    Were the executive magistrate, or the judges, not independent of the legislature in this particular, their independence in every other would be merely nominal.
  12. nominal
    existing in name only
    Were the executive magistrate, or the judges, not independent of the legislature in this particular, their independence in every other would be merely nominal.
  13. encroachment
    the act or state of having strong influence
    But the great security against a gradual concentration of the several powers in the same department, consists in giving to those who administer each department the necessary constitutional means and personal motives to resist encroachments of the others.
  14. commensurate
    corresponding in size or degree or extent
    The provision for defense must in this, as in all other cases, be made commensurate to the danger of attack.
  15. oblige
    force somebody to do something
    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.
  16. auxiliary
    furnishing added support
    A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.
  17. subordinate
    lower in rank or importance
    We see it particularly displayed in all the subordinate distributions of power, where the constant aim is to divide and arrange the several offices in such a manner as that each may be a check on the other that the private interest of every individual may be a sentinel over the public rights.
  18. sentinel
    a person employed to keep watch for some anticipated event
    We see it particularly displayed in all the subordinate distributions of power, where the constant aim is to divide and arrange the several offices in such a manner as that each may be a check on the other that the private interest of every individual may be a sentinel over the public rights.
  19. prudence
    discretion in practical affairs
    These inventions of prudence cannot be less requisite in the distribution of the supreme powers of the State.
  20. requisite
    necessary for relief or supply
    These inventions of prudence cannot be less requisite in the distribution of the supreme powers of the State.
  21. render
    cause to become
    The remedy for this inconveniency is to divide the legislature into different branches; and to render them, by different modes of election and different principles of action, as little connected with each other as the nature of their common functions and their common dependence on the society will admit.
  22. fortify
    make strong or stronger
    As the weight of the legislative authority requires that it should be thus divided, the weakness of the executive may require, on the other hand, that it should be fortified.
  23. exert
    put to use
    On ordinary occasions it might not be exerted with the requisite firmness, and on extraordinary occasions it might be perfidiously abused.
  24. perfidious
    tending to betray
    On ordinary occasions it might not be exerted with the requisite firmness, and on extraordinary occasions it might be perfidiously abused.
  25. usurpation
    wrongfully seizing and holding by force
    In a single republic, all the power surrendered by the people is submitted to the administration of a single government; and the usurpations are guarded against by a division of the government into distinct and separate departments.
  26. compound
    composed of more than one part
    In the compound republic of America, the power surrendered by the people is first divided between two distinct governments, and then the portion allotted to each subdivided among distinct and separate departments.
  27. allot
    give out
    In the compound republic of America, the power surrendered by the people is first divided between two distinct governments, and then the portion allotted to each subdivided among distinct and separate departments.
  28. prevail
    prove superior
    The first method prevails in all governments possessing an hereditary or self-appointed authority.
  29. precarious
    not secure; beset with difficulties
    This, at best, is but a precarious security; because a power independent of the society may as well espouse the unjust views of the major, as the rightful interests of the minor party, and may possibly be turned against both parties.
  30. espouse
    take up the cause of someone and use it as one's own
    This, at best, is but a precarious security; because a power independent of the society may as well espouse the unjust views of the major, as the rightful interests of the minor party, and may possibly be turned against both parties.
  31. exemplify
    be characteristic of
    The second method will be exemplified in the federal republic of the United States.
  32. sect
    a dissenting clique
    It consists in the one case in the multiplicity of interests, and in the other in the multiplicity of sects.
  33. circumscribe
    restrict or confine
    This view of the subject must particularly recommend a proper federal system to all the sincere and considerate friends of republican government, since it shows that in exact proportion as the territory of the Union may be formed into more circumscribed Confederacies, or States oppressive combinations of a majority will be facilitated: the best security, under the republican forms, for the rights of every class of citizens, will be diminished...
  34. oppressive
    marked by unjust severity or arbitrary behavior
    This view of the subject must particularly recommend a proper federal system to all the sincere and considerate friends of republican government, since it shows that in exact proportion as the territory of the Union may be formed into more circumscribed Confederacies, or States oppressive combinations of a majority will be facilitated: the best security, under the republican forms, for the rights of every class of citizens, will be diminished...
  35. facilitate
    increase the likelihood of
    This view of the subject must particularly recommend a proper federal system to all the sincere and considerate friends of republican government, since it shows that in exact proportion as the territory of the Union may be formed into more circumscribed Confederacies, or States oppressive combinations of a majority will be facilitated: the best security, under the republican forms, for the rights of every class of citizens, will be diminished...
  36. induce
    cause to act in a specified manner
    ...and as, in the latter state, even the stronger individuals are prompted, by the uncertainty of their condition, to submit to a government which may protect the weak as well as themselves; so, in the former state, will the more powerful factions or parties be gradually induced, by a like motive, to wish for a government which will protect all parties, the weaker as well as the more powerful.
  37. factious
    dissenting with the majority opinion
    It can be little doubted that if the State of Rhode Island was separated from the Confederacy and left to itself, the insecurity of rights under the popular form of government within such narrow limits would be displayed by such reiterated oppressions of factious majorities that some power altogether independent of the people would soon be called for by the voice of the very factions whose misrule had proved the necessity of it.
  38. pretext
    a fictitious reason that conceals the real reason
    In the extended republic of the United States, and among the great variety of interests, parties, and sects which it embraces, a coalition of a majority of the whole society could seldom take place on any other principles than those of justice and the general good; whilst there being thus less danger to a minor from the will of a major party, there must be less pretext, also, to provide for the security of the former, by introducing into the government a will not dependent on the latter...
  39. notwithstanding
    despite anything to the contrary
    It is no less certain than it is important, notwithstanding the contrary opinions which have been entertained, that the larger the society, provided it lie within a practical sphere, the more duly capable it will be of self-government.
  40. duly
    at the proper time
    It is no less certain than it is important, notwithstanding the contrary opinions which have been entertained, that the larger the society, provided it lie within a practical sphere, the more duly capable it will be of self-government.
Created on September 25, 2019 (updated September 26, 2019)

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