The Federalist Papers

Summary and Analysis of Essay 59

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Summary

Hamilton defends the provision in the Constitution for national control over the scheduling and regulation of elections to the House. He argues that if state governments were given control over national elections, then the national government would find itself at the mercy of states. Hamilton does recognize that state governments do have the right to control the elections of senators and that this creates the opportunity for states to delay or prevent the election of senators. However, he argues that this was a necessary compromise so as to maintain the federal principle of shared power between the states and the national government.

Hamilton sees no reason for extending this risk to include the House, especially since the House is elected every two years. If House elections were delayed, it would be truly detrimental. In contrast, senators are elected every six years and only one third of all Senate seats are up for election every two years. Thus, even if certain states tried to prevent an election from taking place, it would difficult for them to completely shut down the Senate.

Analysis

Perhaps the most striking part of this paper is Hamilton’s admission that allowing state legislatures to control elections of senators “is an evil.” He describes this evil as one that could not be avoided since to do so would exclude the states “from a place in the organization of the national government.” This discussion illustrates the importance of federalism in the American system of government. The states and the union share power. They are not entirely distinct from one another, but, in certain respects, interdependent.