The Federalist Papers

The Federalist Papers Summary and Analysis of Essay 69

Summary

Hamilton seeks to counter claims that the president would be an “elective monarch” as the anti-federalists claimed. Hamilton points to the fact that the president is elected, whereas the king of England inherits his position. The president furthermore has only a qualified negative on legislative acts—i.e. his veto can be overturned—whereas the king has an absolute negative. Both the president and the king serve as commander in chief, but the king also has the power to raise and maintain armies—a power reserved for the legislature in America. The president can only make treaties with the approval of the Senate. The king can make binding treaties as he sees fit. Similarly, the president can only appoint officers with the approval of the Senate, whereas the king can grant whatever titles he likes. The powers of the president in terms of commerce and currency are severely limited, whereas the king is “in several respects the arbiter of commerce.”

Hamilton furthermore suggests that, in many respects, the president would have less powers over his constituents than the governor of New York has over his.

Analysis

Hamilton structures his argument around a three-way comparison of the office of the presidency under the proposed constitution, the king of England, and the governor of New York. Hamilton’s chief concern is to counter claims that the president would have powers commensurate to the English monarch against whom Americans fought a war. He does this in a very specific and methodical way, taking a variety of issues and comparing the powers of the president and the king.

In order to make the argument more relevant to the people of New York, who Hamilton is addressing, he introduces a comparison between the president and the governor of New York as well. Surely, the people of New York would not claim that the president under the proposed constitution is an elected monarch if his powers are roughly commensurate to their own governor.