In Essay #62, The Senate, James Madison obviously turns his attention to the Senate. The Constitution establishes a bicameral legislative system (two bodies) that serve to check on one another. A unicameral legislative system (one body) would be more susceptible to passing too many laws whereas the addition of a second body would serve as in impediment on unnecessary and perhaps harmful legislation.
In Madison’s words, “Another advantage accruing from this ingredient in the constitution of the Senate is the additional impediment it must prove against improper acts of legislation. No law or resolution can now be passed without the concurrence, first, of a majority of the people, and then of a majority of the States.” Similarly, “a Senate, as a second branch of the legislative assembly distinct from and dividing the power with a first, must be in all cases a salutary check on the government. It doubles the security to the people by requiring the concurrence of two distinct bodies in schemes of usurpation or perfidy, where the ambition or corruption of one would otherwise be sufficient.”
Madison focuses on several points concerning the Senate:
- the qualification of the senators;
- the method by which they are selected;
- equal representation in the Senate;
- the number of senators; and
- the six-year term.
Remember that when the Constitution was adopted, it provided that Senators should be selected by the state legislatures. This created a big problem – and its effects were felt for the next 125 years. Specifically:
- Several state legislatures deadlocked over the election of senators, which led to Senate vacancies lasting months and even years!
- Political machines gained control over state legislatures, and the Senators elected with their support were dismissed as puppets;
- The Senate was seen as a “millionaire’s club” serving powerful private interests.
This situation endured until April 8, 1913 when the 17th amendment to the Constitution was ratified – providing direct elections of Senators instead of state legislation selection.
Credit for the summary and analysis of Essay #62 is given to Brittany Nelson and Christopher Higgins (second revision 09/15/2011). Weinbloom, Elizabeth ed. “The Federalist Papers Essay #62 Summary and Analysis”. GradeSaver, 30 December 2011 Web. 15 February 2019.