Madison explains and defends what he calls a “fourth class” of “miscellaneous powers.” These include the power to grant patents and copyrights, the power to pass all laws governing the capital city and federal buildings, the power to determine the definition of and punishment for treason, and the power to admit new states. The national government is not allowed, however, to join two or more states or separate off part of a state to form a new state, without the consent of the states involved. Madison furthermore defends the power of Congress to make rules and regulations regarding territory and property belonging to the United States.
One of the most important powers Madison defends in this paper is the power of the national government to guarantee the republican form of government in each state and to protect each state against invasion and domestic violence. Madison argues that in a union, the political institutions of one state can impact the interests of another. Therefore, the union has the right to ensure that state governments retain the republican character that characterizes American political culture nationwide. Madison furthermore claims that it is possible that a combination of foreign intervention and other malicious forces may result in a majority of a particular state changing the form of its government. In such cases, it is necessary for a higher power, separated from the conflict, to protect the republican character of state government.
Madison furthermore defends as commonsense the power of Congress to pay off all debts acquired by the United States under the Articles and to provide for amendments to the Constitution to be ratified by the states. Finally, Madison defends the article declaring that the Constitution will come into effect once nine states ratify it. He asserts that it would be unfair and unwise to let the objections of a few states hold hostage the interests of the great majority.
This paper continues Madison’s methodical, highly detailed discussion of the specific powers granted to the national government under the Constitution. As in other papers, he uses evidence from European history and philosophy to support his position and counter the arguments of the anti-federalists that the proposed constitution granted too much power to the national government.
One of the central and most controversial themes of the Federalist Papers is the power of the national government over the individual states. In this paper, Madison advances the notion that the national government will serve as a guarantee of the republican character of the individual states. At the time, this was a somewhat radical notion. Not only would the national government have numerous powers over interstate commerce and relations with foreign powers, but it would also serve as a check on the internal political situation of the constituent states. Madison is therefore advocating the extension of federal authority into the very heart of state political systems. This was a dramatic increase of federal authority in comparison to the Articles of Confederation. Madison defends this power by arguing that the internal politics of a state can influence other states as well. That is, the loss of liberty in Massachusetts could affect the liberties of New Yorkers. Therefore, a higher authority was needed to guarantee certain basic political rights in the states themselves. This argument of Madison’s is an interesting spin on the anti-federalists faith in states’ rights. Madison is positing that states may not always be the essential guardians of liberty anti-federalists believe them to be.