The Federalist Papers, No. 70 by Alexander Hamilton

Published on March 18, 1788, this essay argues that the executive office should be led by a strong president rather than several leaders with equal powers. Read the full text here.
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Explore the Words

definitions & notes only words
  1. conversant
    well informed about or knowing thoroughly
    Every man the least conversant in Roman story, knows how often that republic was obliged to take refuge in the absolute power of a single man, under the formidable title of Dictator, as well against the intrigues of ambitious individuals who aspired to the tyranny, and the seditions of whole classes of the community whose conduct threatened the existence of all government, as against the invasions of external enemies who menaced the conquest and destruction of Rome.
  2. sedition
    an illegal action inciting resistance to lawful authority
    Every man the least conversant in Roman story, knows how often that republic was obliged to take refuge in the absolute power of a single man, under the formidable title of Dictator, as well against the intrigues of ambitious individuals who aspired to the tyranny, and the seditions of whole classes of the community whose conduct threatened the existence of all government, as against the invasions of external enemies who menaced the conquest and destruction of Rome.
  3. propriety
    correct behavior
    They have with great propriety, considered energy as the most necessary qualification of the former, and have regarded this as most applicable to power in a single hand, while they have, with equal propriety, considered the latter as best adapted to deliberation and wisdom, and best calculated to conciliate the confidence of the people and to secure their privileges and interests.
  4. eminent
    standing above others in quality or position
    Decision, activity, secrecy, and despatch will generally characterize the proceedings of one man in a much more eminent degree than the proceedings of any greater number; and in proportion as the number is increased, these qualities will be diminished.
  5. ostensibly
    from appearances alone
    This unity may be destroyed in two ways: either by vesting the power in two or more magistrates of equal dignity and authority; or by vesting it ostensibly in one man, subject, in whole or in part, to the control and co-operation of others, in the capacity of counsellors to him.
  6. partisan
    a fervent and even militant proponent of something
    Both these methods of destroying the unity of the Executive have their partisans; but the votaries of an executive council are the most numerous.
  7. votary
    a devoted adherent of a cause or person or activity
    Both these methods of destroying the unity of the Executive have their partisans; but the votaries of an executive council are the most numerous.
  8. advert
    make reference to
    That the dissensions between them were not more frequent or more fatal, is a matter of astonishment, until we advert to the singular position in which the republic was almost continually placed, and to the prudent policy pointed out by the circumstances of the state, and pursued by the Consuls, of making a division of the government between them.
  9. patrician
    a member of the aristocracy
    The patricians engaged in a perpetual struggle with the plebeians for the preservation of their ancient authorities and dignities; the Consuls, who were generally chosen out of the former body, were commonly united by the personal interest they had in the defense of the privileges of their order.
  10. plebeian
    one of the common people
    The patricians engaged in a perpetual struggle with the plebeians for the preservation of their ancient authorities and dignities; the Consuls, who were generally chosen out of the former body, were commonly united by the personal interest they had in the defense of the privileges of their order.
  11. environs
    an outer adjacent area of any place
    In addition to this motive of union, after the arms of the republic had considerably expanded the bounds of its empire, it became an established custom with the Consuls to divide the administration between themselves by lot one of them remaining at Rome to govern the city and its environs, the other taking the command in the more distant provinces.
  12. expedient
    a means to an end
    This expedient must, no doubt, have had great influence in preventing those collisions and rivalships which might otherwise have embroiled the peace of the republic.
  13. embroil
    force into some kind of situation or course of action
    This expedient must, no doubt, have had great influence in preventing those collisions and rivalships which might otherwise have embroiled the peace of the republic.
  14. apt
    at risk of or subject to experiencing something
    From either, and especially from all these causes, the most bitter dissensions are apt to spring.
  15. infallibility
    the quality of never making an error
    They seem to think themselves bound in honor, and by all the motives of personal infallibility, to defeat the success of what has been resolved upon contrary to their sentiments.
  16. disposition
    an attitude of mind that favors one alternative over others
    Men of upright, benevolent tempers have too many opportunities of remarking, with horror, to what desperate lengths this disposition is sometimes carried, and how often the great interests of society are sacrificed to the vanity, to the conceit, and to the obstinacy of individuals, who have credit enough to make their passions and their caprices interesting to mankind.
  17. conceit
    feelings of excessive pride
    Men of upright, benevolent tempers have too many opportunities of remarking, with horror, to what desperate lengths this disposition is sometimes carried, and how often the great interests of society are sacrificed to the vanity, to the conceit, and to the obstinacy of individuals, who have credit enough to make their passions and their caprices interesting to mankind.
  18. obstinacy
    resolute adherence to your own ideas or desires
    Men of upright, benevolent tempers have too many opportunities of remarking, with horror, to what desperate lengths this disposition is sometimes carried, and how often the great interests of society are sacrificed to the vanity, to the conceit, and to the obstinacy of individuals, who have credit enough to make their passions and their caprices interesting to mankind.
  19. caprice
    a sudden desire
    Men of upright, benevolent tempers have too many opportunities of remarking, with horror, to what desperate lengths this disposition is sometimes carried, and how often the great interests of society are sacrificed to the vanity, to the conceit, and to the obstinacy of individuals, who have credit enough to make their passions and their caprices interesting to mankind.
  20. vice
    moral weakness
    Perhaps the question now before the public may, in its consequences, afford melancholy proofs of the effects of this despicable frailty, or rather detestable vice, in the human character.
  21. pernicious
    working or spreading in a hidden and usually injurious way
    It is here too that they may be most pernicious.
  22. salutary
    tending to promote physical well-being; beneficial to health
    The differences of opinion, and the jarrings of parties in that department of the government, though they may sometimes obstruct salutary plans, yet often promote deliberation and circumspection, and serve to check excesses in the majority.
  23. palliate
    lessen or to try to lessen the seriousness or extent of
    But no favorable circumstances palliate or atone for the disadvantages of dissension in the executive department.
  24. cabal
    a clique that seeks power usually through intrigue
    An artful cabal in that council would be able to distract and to enervate the whole system of administration.
  25. enervate
    weaken mentally or morally
    An artful cabal in that council would be able to distract and to enervate the whole system of administration.
  26. tincture
    fill, as with a certain quality
    If no such cabal should exist, the mere diversity of views and opinions would alone be sufficient to tincture the exercise of the executive authority with a spirit of habitual feebleness and dilatoriness.
  27. dilatory
    wasting time
    If no such cabal should exist, the mere diversity of views and opinions would alone be sufficient to tincture the exercise of the executive authority with a spirit of habitual feebleness and dilatoriness.
  28. censure
    harsh criticism or disapproval
    Responsibility is of two kinds to censure and to punishment.
  29. render
    cause to become
    Man, in public trust, will much oftener act in such a manner as to render him unworthy of being any longer trusted, than in such a manner as to make him obnoxious to legal punishment.
  30. incur
    make oneself subject to
    The circumstances which may have led to any national miscarriage or misfortune are sometimes so complicated that, where there are a number of actors who may have had different degrees and kinds of agency, though we may clearly see upon the whole that there has been mismanagement, yet it may be impracticable to pronounce to whose account the evil which may have been incurred is truly chargeable.
  31. pretext
    a fictitious reason that conceals the real reason
    These and similar pretexts are constantly at hand, whether true or false.
  32. odium
    state of disgrace resulting from detestable behavior
    And who is there that will either take the trouble or incur the odium, of a strict scrutiny into the secret springs of the transaction?
  33. collusion
    agreement on a secret plot
    Should there be found a citizen zealous enough to undertake the unpromising task, if there happen to be collusion between the parties concerned, how easy it is to clothe the circumstances with so much ambiguity, as to render it uncertain what was the precise conduct of any of those parties?
  34. flagrant
    conspicuously and outrageously bad or reprehensible
    Some cases, indeed, have been so flagrant that all parties have agreed in the impropriety of the thing.
  35. manifest
    clearly revealed to the mind or the senses or judgment
    When inquiry has been made, the blame has been laid by the governor on the members of the council, who, on their part, have charged it upon his nomination; while the people remain altogether at a loss to determine, by whose influence their interests have been committed to hands so unqualified and so manifestly improper.
  36. forbear
    refrain from doing
    In tenderness to individuals, I forbear to descend to particulars.
  37. maxim
    a saying that is widely accepted on its own merits
    In England, the king is a perpetual magistrate; and it is a maxim which has obtained for the sake of the public peace, that he is unaccountable for his administration, and his person sacred.
  38. contend
    maintain or assert
    If the maxim should be admitted to be applicable to the case, I should contend that the advantage on that side would not counterbalance the numerous disadvantages on the opposite side.
  39. usurpation
    wrongfully seizing and holding by force
    The Decemvirs of Rome, whose name denotes their number, were more to be dreaded in their usurpation than any one of them would have been.
  40. equivocal
    open to question
    I forbear to dwell upon the subject of expense; though it be evident that if the council should be numerous enough to answer the principal end aimed at by the institution, the salaries of the members, who must be drawn from their homes to reside at the seat of government, would form an item in the catalogue of public expenditures too serious to be incurred for an object of equivocal utility.
Created on January 28, 2020 (updated February 3, 2020)

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