The Federalist Papers

The Federalist Papers Summary and Analysis of Essay 73


Hamilton discusses the provisions in the Constitution guaranteeing a salary for the president that cannot be adjusted by Congress during his term and defends the president’s right to veto congressional legislation. Hamilton contends that if the president’s salary could be raised or lowered by Congress during his term, the legislative branch would gain an undue degree of power over the executive.

Hamilton defends the presidential veto by pointing to the necessity of holding legislative authority in check. He warns that Congress may at various points be convulsed by the influence of faction and, as a result, seek to pass laws detrimental to the public interest. In such situations, it is necessary for the president to be able to obstruct such legislation. Hamilton claims that in a republican society the executive will always hesitate to overrule the decisions of the legislative branch. He also points out that the veto is only a qualified negative; that is, the congress can override the veto with a two-thirds vote in both houses.


This paper illustrates the principle of checks and balances on which much of the Constitution is based. The founders believed it was necessary to distribute power among multiple branches of government and ensure that none of these branches became too powerful. This paper focuses in particular on limiting the power of the legislature. Hamilton claims that, in republican societies, the legislative branch of government is always the most powerful since it directly represents the voice of the people. In order to prevent this branch from completely monopolizing the government, the other branches must have means of constitutional “self-defense.”

Thus, in many respects, the Constitution was designed to produce conflict among the branches. The founders felt that it was important to design a system in which one locus of power would compete with another so as to prevent the rise of tyranny or the rash implementation of policies detrimental to the public good.