The Federalist Papers Reader and Historical Documents of Our American Heritage

By Frederick Quinn | Go to book overview

No. 37
Concerning the Difficulties Which the Convention Must Have Experienced in the Formation of a Proper Plan

As in Federalists No. 10 and 51, Madison reflects on both the practical problems at hand and the general nature of government. His remarks are aimed at "those only who add to a sincere zeal for the happiness of their country, a temper favorable to a just estimate of the means of promoting it." Madison faces the problem of how to balance "energy" and "stability" in government with liberty and a republican structure. Madison applauds the convention for writing a Constitution free "from the pestilential influence of party animosities -- the disease most incident to deliberative bodies." Madison again reflects on human nature in dark tones; the history of experiments in government represents "a history of factions, contentions, and disappointments, and may be classed among the most dark and degrading pictures which display the infirmities and depravities of the human character." He says the Constitution writers avoided such acrimony by both "a deep conviction of the necessity of sacrificing public opinions and partial interests to the public good, and by a despair of seeing this necessity diminished by delays or by new experiments."

In reviewing the defects of the existing Confederation, and showing that they cannot be supplied by a government of less energy than that before the public, several of the most important principles of the latter fell of course under consideration. But as the ultimate object of these papers is to

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