The Federalist Papers, No. 39 by James Madison

Published on January 18, 1788, this essay argues that the new U.S. government should be a republic guided by both national and federal principles. Read the full text here.
Read more...

Start learning with an activity...

  • Practice

    Answer a few questions on each word. Get one wrong? We'll ask some follow-up questions. Use it to prep for your next quiz!
  • Spelling Bee

    Test your spelling acumen. See the definition, listen to the word, then try to spell it correctly. Beat your last streak, or best your overall time. Spellers of the world, untie!
  • Vocabulary Jam

    Compete head-to-head in real-time to see which team can answer the most questions correctly. Start a Jam and invite your friends and classmates to join!

Explore the Words

definitions & notes only words
  1. candid
    openly straightforward and direct without secretiveness
    The last paper having concluded the observations which were meant to introduce a candid survey of the plan of government reported by the convention, we now proceed to the execution of that part of our undertaking.
  2. undertaking
    any piece of work that is attempted
    The last paper having concluded the observations which were meant to introduce a candid survey of the plan of government reported by the convention, we now proceed to the execution of that part of our undertaking.
  3. animate
    give new life or energy to
    It is evident that no other form would be reconcilable with the genius of the people of America; with the fundamental principles of the Revolution; or with that honorable determination which animates every votary of freedom, to rest all our political experiments on the capacity of mankind for self-government.
  4. votary
    a devoted adherent of a cause or person or activity
    It is evident that no other form would be reconcilable with the genius of the people of America; with the fundamental principles of the Revolution; or with that honorable determination which animates every votary of freedom, to rest all our political experiments on the capacity of mankind for self-government.
  5. denomination
    identifying word by which someone or something is called
    Holland, in which no particle of the supreme authority is derived from the people, has passed almost universally under the denomination of a republic.
  6. noble
    a titled peer of the realm
    The same title has been bestowed on Venice, where absolute power over the great body of the people is exercised, in the most absolute manner, by a small body of hereditary nobles.
  7. appellation
    identifying words by which someone or something is called
    Poland, which is a mixture of aristocracy and of monarchy in their worst forms, has been dignified with the same appellation.
  8. impropriety
    the condition of being unsuitable or offensive
    The government of England, which has one republican branch only, combined with an hereditary aristocracy and monarchy, has, with equal impropriety, been frequently placed on the list of republics.
  9. disquisition
    an elaborate analytical or explanatory essay or discussion
    These examples, which are nearly as dissimilar to each other as to a genuine republic, show the extreme inaccuracy with which the term has been used in political disquisitions.
  10. tyrannical
    characteristic of an absolute ruler or absolute rule
    It is essential to such a government that it be derived from the great body of the society, not from an inconsiderable proportion, or a favored class of it; otherwise a handful of tyrannical nobles, exercising their oppressions by a delegation of their powers, might aspire to the rank of republicans, and claim for their government the honorable title of republic.
  11. tenure
    the term during which some position is held
    It is sufficient for such a government that the persons administering it be appointed, either directly or indirectly, by the people; and that they hold their appointments by either of the tenures just specified; otherwise every government in the United States, as well as every other popular government that has been or can be well organized or well executed, would be degraded from the republican character.
  12. magistrate
    a lay judge or civil authority who administers the law
    According to the constitution of every State in the Union, some or other of the officers of government are appointed indirectly only by the people.
    According to most of them, the chief magistrate himself is so appointed.
  13. conformable
    in keeping
    On comparing the Constitution planned by the convention with the standard here fixed, we perceive at once that it is, in the most rigid sense, conformable to it.
  14. provision
    a stipulated condition
    In several of the States, however, no constitutional provision is made for the impeachment of the chief magistrate.
  15. impeachment
    a formal document charging a public official with misconduct
    In several of the States, however, no constitutional provision is made for the impeachment of the chief magistrate.
  16. ministerial
    of or relating to a government department
    The tenure of the ministerial offices generally, will be a subject of legal regulation, conformably to the reason of the case and the example of the State constitutions.
  17. complexion
    a point of view or general attitude or inclination
    Could any further proof be required of the republican complexion of this system, the most decisive one might be found in its absolute prohibition of titles of nobility, both under the federal and the State governments; and in its express guaranty of the republican form to each of the latter.
  18. adversary
    someone who offers opposition
    “But it was not sufficient,” say the adversaries of the proposed Constitution, "for the convention to adhere to the republican form. They ought, with equal care, to have preserved the federal form, which regards the Union as a confederacy of sovereign states; instead of which, they have framed a national government, which regards the Union as a consolidation of the States.”
  19. confederacy
    a union of political organizations
    “But it was not sufficient,” say the adversaries of the proposed Constitution, "for the convention to adhere to the republican form. They ought, with equal care, to have preserved the federal form, which regards the Union as a confederacy of sovereign states; instead of which, they have framed a national government, which regards the Union as a consolidation of the States.”
  20. ascertain
    establish after a calculation, investigation, or study
    Without inquiring into the accuracy of the distinction on which the objection is founded, it will be necessary to a just estimate of its force, first, to ascertain the real character of the government in question; secondly, to inquire how far the convention were authorized to propose such a government; and thirdly, how far the duty they owed to their country could supply any defect of regular authority.
  21. assent
    agreement with a statement or proposal to do something
    On examining the first relation, it appears, on one hand, that the Constitution is to be founded on the assent and ratification of the people of America, given by deputies elected for the special purpose; but, on the other, that this assent and ratification is to be given by the people, not as individuals composing one entire nation, but as composing the distinct and independent States to which they respectively belong.
  22. aggregate
    formed of separate units gathered into a mass or whole
    The act, therefore, establishing the Constitution, will not be a national, but a federal act. That it will be a federal and not a national act, as these terms are understood by the objectors; the act of the people, as forming so many independent States, not as forming one aggregate nation, is obvious from this single consideration, that it is to result neither from the decision of a majority of the people of the Union, nor from that of a majority of the States.
  23. unanimous
    in complete agreement
    It must result from the unanimous assent of the several States that are parties to it, differing no otherwise from their ordinary assent than in its being expressed, not by the legislative authority, but by that of the people themselves.
  24. allot
    give out
    The executive power will be derived from a very compound source. The immediate election of the President is to be made by the States in their political characters. The votes allotted to them are in a compound ratio, which considers them partly as distinct and coequal societies, partly as unequal members of the same society.
  25. countenance
    the appearance conveyed by a person's face
    So far the national countenance of the government on this side seems to be disfigured by a few federal features.
  26. municipal
    of or relating to the government of a district
    Among communities united for particular purposes, it is vested partly in the general and partly in the municipal legislatures.
  27. respective
    considered individually
    In the latter, the local or municipal authorities form distinct and independent portions of the supremacy, no more subject, within their respective spheres, to the general authority, than the general authority is subject to them, within its own sphere.
  28. enumerate
    specify individually
    In this relation, then, the proposed government cannot be deemed a national one; since its jurisdiction extends to certain enumerated objects only, and leaves to the several States a residuary and inviolable sovereignty over all other objects.
  29. inviolable
    incapable of being transgressed or dishonored
    In this relation, then, the proposed government cannot be deemed a national one; since its jurisdiction extends to certain enumerated objects only, and leaves to the several States a residuary and inviolable sovereignty over all other objects.
  30. tribunal
    an assembly to conduct judicial business
    It is true that in controversies relating to the boundary between the two jurisdictions, the tribunal which is ultimately to decide, is to be established under the general government.
  31. impartial
    showing lack of favoritism
    The decision is to be impartially made, according to the rules of the Constitution; and all the usual and most effectual precautions are taken to secure this impartiality.
  32. dissolution
    the termination or disintegration of a relationship
    Some such tribunal is clearly essential to prevent an appeal to the sword and a dissolution of the compact; and that it ought to be established under the general rather than under the local governments, or, to speak more properly, that it could be safely established under the first alone, is a position not likely to be combated.
  33. concurrence
    a state of cooperation
    Were it wholly federal, on the other hand, the concurrence of each State in the Union would be essential to every alteration that would be binding on all.
  34. render
    cause to become
    In requiring more than a majority, and particularly in computing the proportion by states, not by citizens, it departs from the national and advances towards the federal character; in rendering the concurrence of less than the whole number of States sufficient, it loses again the federal and partakes of the national character.
  35. partake
    have, give, or receive a share of
    In requiring more than a majority, and particularly in computing the proportion by states, not by citizens, it departs from the national and advances towards the federal character; in rendering the concurrence of less than the whole number of States sufficient, it loses again the federal and partakes of the national character.
Created on November 6, 2019 (updated December 5, 2019)

Sign up, it's free!

Whether you're a student, an educator, or a lifelong learner, Vocabulary.com can put you on the path to systematic vocabulary improvement.