The Federalist Papers

The Federalist Papers Summary and Analysis of Essay 66

Summary

Hamilton responds to four further objections raised against the powers granted to the Senate as a court for the trial of impeachment. The first objection is that the provision “confounds legislative and judiciary authorities in the same body.” Hamilton argues that this is necessary and proper since the congress must be able to hold the executive accountable. He further notes that the role of accusing and judging is split between the two houses of Congress and that similar systems have been used in the states without deleterious effect.

The second objection is that the Senate will have so much power as to become aristocratic in a nature. Hamilton argues that the house will have sufficient powers to counter the influence of the senate. The third objection is that the senators will not be able to impartially judge presidential appointees who they once voted to confirm. Hamilton argues that the Senate will not be so biased as to be blind to the “evidences of guilt so extraordinary” as to have induced the representatives in the House to have impeached the official.

The fourth objection is that senators will not be able to impartially judge themselves for the role they play in the ratification of foreign treaties. The critics imagine a situation in which senators act corruptly in ratifying a certain treaty. These critics claim that in such a situation the senators would end up being their own judges. Hamilton dismisses this on the basis that it would likely be only a few corrupt leaders in the senate who manipulated the treaty and that these men could be impeached and tried. He furthermore points out the rather obvious impossibility of fashioning a system in which a legislative body could impeach or convict itself by majority vote.

Analysis

That the Senate would eventually become an American aristocracy was a central argument of the anti-federalists. This argument was particularly power in the context of recent American history. The country had just fought a war to rid itself of the imperial yoke placed on them by Great Britain, a country known to have a powerful and extensive aristocracy. Americans at this time were deeply suspicious of political bodies that could become the center of power for a select segment of society.

In this final paper devoted to defending the constitutional provisions for the Senate, Hamilton takes these accusations on directly and seeks to show that the Constitution has numerous protections and limits on the powers of the Senate. He seeks to show that a diversity of competing interests would keep the Senate from successfully conspiring to threaten American liberty. Much of Hamilton’s argument is based on the role played by the House of Representatives in limiting the power of the Senate. The House was seen as a more democratic body directly accountable to the people since, in the original Constitution, only the members of the House were directly elected by the people. Senators, on the contrary, were chosen by state legislatures.