The Federalist Papers

The Federalist Papers Summary and Analysis of Essay 61

Summary

In this paper, Hamilton responds to the claim that the Constitution should have required elections to be held in the counties where the electors reside. This would prevent Congress from forcing States to hold elections in a location inconvenient to the voters, or a certain segment of voters.

Hamilton responds that in many state constitutions, including New York’s, there is no such provision for the location of elections and that no harm resulted from this omission.

Furthermore, Hamilton asserts that there will be a significant advantage in allowing Congress to set a uniform time for elections to be held. He argues that placing the entire house and one third of the senate before the people for reelection at the same time will help ensure that the same detrimental “spirit” or “faction” will not continue for long in Congress. He speculates that if each state could hold elections at different times, then members of Congress would be added and removed gradually and thus make new members, few in number, susceptible to pressure from the majority of Congress to support a particular faction detrimental to the public good.

Analysis

Hamilton suggests that the issue discussed in this paper ought not to be considered significant enough to hold up the ratification of the entire Constitution. He admits that it would not really have been detrimental if the Constitution had included a provision specifying where elections were to be held in the States. However, he suggests that it was not really necessary either. He therefore dismisses the critics who use this issue as a justification for opposing the constitution as partisans of a “predetermined opposition.” His opponents are not candidly attempting to “research after truth” but merely to obstruct the passing of the Constitution with petty and insignificant objections.

Hamilton also expands on the important theme of “faction” discussed in earlier papers. One of the core concerns of the founders was that a particular faction, or interest group, would succeed in obtaining undue influence over the government. It was particularly feared that a particular “spirit of faction,” such as temporary but intense support for a narrow political position, could take over the government and lead to the adoption of laws detrimental to the rights and interests of the people. However, by requiring most of the Congress to stand for election every two years, the Constitution gives the American people ample opportunity to remove from office politicians who support these factions.