The Federalist Papers

The Federalist Papers Summary and Analysis of Essay 63


Madison continues this essay where he left off, claming that the fifth desire of the utility of a Senate is the "want of a due sense of national character." To any foreign country, it is necessary to have a strong, perceptive senate to ensure respect and confidence. Other nation's opinions are important for two reasons: first, that a plan will appeal to other countries as a wise policy and second, the opinion of the world, in difficult situations, can be followed. Yet, however important national character is, the Senate cannot be a numerous and changeable body. It must be small enough so that public opinion can guide each of the members, as well as pride in their actions, because of the great amount of public trust in the body.

A sixth defect is the want of responsibility in the government to the people, because of the frequency of elections and other cases. The Senate, however, solves this defect because it is in power long enough to be responsible for the decisions that it makes.

The Senate is not a well-conceived idea, however, merely because it represents the people. It is also a good idea because at times the people need to be protected from their own ideas and prejudices. Although people are spread over an extensive region, they can still be "subject to the infection of violent passions"

In addition, "history informs us of no long lived republic which had not a senate." They, however, had senates elected for life. America, however, will not follow these examples because they are repugnant to the foundations upon which the country is built. The plan of the senate, however, blends the stability with the ideal of liberty. A senate, however, is still extremely important and necessary because they then represent the people but are immune from the people's whims. The people must be represented and in a senate that sits for life, this does not occur.

Some people, however, argue that six years is to long and leads to tyrannical situations. Madison answers, however, that in order for the Senate to corrupt, it must corrupt itself, the state legislatures, the House of Representatives, and the people at large. It, therefore, is not possible in only six years. If the people do not believe Madison, they should look at the examples of the State Constitution, particularly Maryland, which has a strong senate that has not corrupted the rest of the state. The best example, however, is Britain's House of Lords, a hereditary assembly, which has not infected the rest of the country. With the balance of the House of Representative to guard and represent the people, the Senate is a necessary and important function of government that will support the "people themselves."


In order to effectively understand James Madison's argument in this federalist paper, it is necessary to understand the constitution's opponent's critique of the senate. Anti-Federalists argued that the Senate was too powerful and aristocratic. Federal farmer argued that, "The formation of the senate, and the smallness of the house, being, therefore, the result of our situation, and the actual state of things, the evils which may attend the exercise of many powers in this national government may be considered as without remedy." Likewise, Centinel lamented that the Senate is "the great efficient body in this plan of government" and that it "is constitution on the most unequal principles." Cincinatus summed up the critique quite well: "We have seen powers, in every branch of government, in violation of all principle and all safety condensed in this aristocratic senate; we have seen the representative or democratic branch, weakened exactly in proportion to the strengthening of the aristocratic."

This Federalist paper defends the Senate as providing the wisdom and the stability ­ "aristocracy virtues" ­ needed to check the fickle lack of wisdom that Madison predicated would characterize the people's branch of the new government, the lower house. Nor were there other critics lacking who, recognizing that the Constitution ultimately rested on popular consent, who, seeing that despite the ingenious apparatus designed to temper the popular will by introducing into the compound modified monarchial/aristocratic ingredients, could argue that the new Constitution was too democratic to operate effectively as a national government in a country as large and with a population as diverse and the Americans'. One such was William Grayson, who doubted the need of any national government but who felt, if one was to be established, it ought to provide a president and a Senate elected for life terms, these to be balanced by a House of Representative elected triennially.

It is significant, therefore, to notice that present day critics of the Constitution argue about the exact nature of the Constitution, just as they did in 1787 and 1788. It is easy to see and disagree on whether the constitution is monarchical, aristocratic, or democratic in its essence. John Adams probably best described the constitution, however, in 1806, writing to Benjamin Rush. Adams, disapproving of Jefferson's style as president, bemoaned the fact that Jefferson and his followers had made the national government "to all intents and purposes, in virtue, spirit, and effect a democracy." -- Alas! "I once thought," sad Adams "our Constitution was quasi or mixed government."

An additional important note about this paper is Madison's use of the word "responsibility." According to the Oxford English Dictionary on Historical Principles the word itself is an American invention, and its first appearance in the language is credited by the OED long discussion of senatorial "responsibility" in Federalist Number 63. The word appears four times in two paragraphs, as well as in Hamilton's Number 70 and 77, as the differences between senatorial responsibility, presidential responsibility, and judicial responsibility are discussed in these issues.