The Federalist Papers

The Federalist Papers Summary and Analysis of Essay 46


Madison continues and concludes the argument begun in the previous paper. He asserts that the powers of the federal government under the proposed constitution will not threaten the powers reserved to the states.

Madison begins the paper by reminding his audience that the American people are the common superior of both the federal and state governments. These two different types of governments have different powers, intended for different purposes, but nevertheless subject to the ultimate control of the voters.

Madison then employs a series of arguments to convince his audience that the state governments have several natural advantages over the federal government in terms of securing the support of the people. State officials and representatives live in close daily contact with the electorate and deal with issues that directly impact their lives. Furthermore, just as representatives in state governments are typically biased towards their home counties and towns, so will representatives in Congress be biased towards their home states: “A local spirit will infallibly prevail much more in the members of the congress, than a national spirit will prevail in the legislatures of the particular states.”

Furthermore, Madison argues that if the federal government were to encroach on the rights of the states, the latter would have a significant advantage in resisting such action. States could ultimately band together in resisting the federal government. Madison dismisses as highly unlikely the chances of the federal government being able to raise an army powerful enough to overcome all the state militias.


Madison repeats arguments made in previous papers by Hamilton, asserting the many advantages state governments have over the federal government in terms of securing the support of the people and resisting encroachments.

Although in previous papers Madison labored to convince his readers that the system proposed by the constitution would lead to stable and energetic government, he describes at length in this paper a series of hypothetical conflicts between state and federal government. Madison clearly does not expect or hope the constitution to lead to the kinds of conflicts between state and federal authority described here. Rather, he seeks to establish that his opponents’ “chimerical” predictions of federal authority crushing state governments are completely unfounded.