The Federalist Papers

The Federalist Papers Summary and Analysis of Essay 44

Summary

Madison discusses restrictions on the authority of the states. He defends the prohibition on states entering into treaties, authorizing ships to attack enemy ships, printing money, granting titles of nobility, imposing import and export duties without the consent of Congress, and passing bills of attainder, ex post facto laws, and laws “impairing the obligation of contracts.” Madison describes many of these restrictions as so obviously proper as to be unnecessary of a long discussion. He defends the restriction on states printing money by asserting that if every state could regulate the value of money, “there might be as many different currencies as states; and thus, the intercourse among [states] would be impeded.” He defends the prohibition on bills of attainder, ex post facto laws, and laws impairing the obligation of contracts as violations of personal rights and “contrary to the first principles of the social compact.”

Madison also defends the “necessary and proper” clause and the supremacy clause of the Constitution as essential to give “efficacy” to all the other powers and provisions granted to the national government in the Constitution. He asserts that granting the union the right to make all laws “necessary and proper” to fulfilling its responsibilities is based on the simple principle that “wherever the end is required, the means are authorized.” If a government has the authority to perform a particular function, it must necessarily have the power to do what is necessary and proper to perform that function. He defends the supremacy clause by asserting that it is a basic characteristic of government to have the authority to pass authoritative law.

Analysis

This paper concludes Madison’s very methodical and careful defense of the specific powers granted to the union by the Constitution. Many of these powers had been discussed in previous papers, a fact which Madison acknowledges at several points. Such an approach reminds the readers that the Federalist Papers were not a single document, but a series of articles written in defense of the Constitution. They constituted part of a much larger national debate on the ratification of the Constitution. As in any debate, protagonists may restate their position at numerous points for emphasis or clarification.

Madison raises the stakes of the debate in the closing lines of this paper by asserting that the powers contained in the constitution are absolutely necessary for the preservation of the union: “the question, therefore, whether this amount of power shall be granted or not, resolves itself into another question, whether or not a government commensurate to the exigencies of the union, shall be established; or, in other words, whether the union itself shall be preserved.”