The Federalist Papers

The Federalist Papers Summary and Analysis of Essay 57

Summary

Madison answers the charge that the House of Representatives will consist of people who “will have least sympathy with the mass of the people; and be most likely to aim at an ambitious sacrifice of the many, to the aggrandizement of the few.” Madison points out that the electors of the representatives will not be confined to certain segments of the population, but will consist of “the great body of the people of the United States.”

Madison then outlines several reasons for why the representatives will remain faithful to the interests of the American people. He argues that a sense of duty, gratitude, interest, and ambition will ensure that the representatives serve the people well. In particular, he notes that the representatives owe their distinguished position to the people and, especially due to the frequency of elections, will be motivated to retain their support. If they want to stay in power, the representatives must behave properly in the eyes of the people.

Analysis

Madison seeks to address popular fears of oligarchy, or rule by a few. Americans, forever jealous of their liberty and suspicious of government, needed to be assured that this new, powerful national government would not use its authority to violate the interests of the people.

Madison employs two distinct strategies in seeking to allay these suspicious. First, he takes a very logical approach, backed up by examples from both the English system of government and the state governments, to show that the government outlined in the proposed constitution contains sufficient safeguards to protect against a tyrannical legislature.

However, he also appeals to the American “spirit,” which he describes as “vigilant and manly…a spirit which nourishes freedom.” This is the ultimate safeguard against encroachments on liberty by the government. Animated by this spirit, the American people would never tolerate attempts by the legislature to advance the interests of a few over those of the many.