Federalist Papers – Essay #63

In Essay #63, The Senate, James Madison focuses on the importance of the Senate as a critical and stabilizing element in the democratic republic established by the Constitution.

Madison argues that the utility of a Senate is the “want of a due sense of national character.”

A strong and perceptive Senate, as envisioned, would ensure respect and confidence and gain favorable opinions from any foreign country for two reasons:

  • It would appeal to other countries as a wise policy; and
  • The opinion of the world, in difficult situations, can and should be followed.

Madison argued that the Senate must be small enough so that public opinion can guide members, yet, however important national character is, the Senate cannot be a numerous and changeable body. It must be small enough so that public opinion can guide each of the members, take pride in their actions, and be worthy of public trust. It should be a blend – or a balance – of the historical and stable senates in successful republics, but unlike these examples, senators should be representative of the people and should not be appointed for life.

The anti-federalists argued that the Senate was too powerful and aristocratic. For example, in the anti-federalist essays:

  • Federal Farmer argued that, “The formation of the senate, and the smallness of the house, being, therefore, the result of our situation, and the actual state of things, the evils which may attend the exercise of many powers in this national government may be considered as without remedy.”
  • Centinel lamented that the Senate is “the great efficient body in this plan of government” and that it “is constitution on the most unequal principles.”
  • Cincinatus argued: “We have seen powers, in every branch of government, in violation of all principle and all safety condensed in this aristocratic senate; we have seen the representative or democratic branch, weakened exactly in proportion to the strengthening of the aristocratic.”

Madison defends the Senate as providing the wisdom and the stability – “aristocratic virtues” – needed to check the fickle lack of wisdom that Madison considered a characteristic of the people’s branch of the new government – the lower house.

Credit for the summary and analysis of Essay #63 is given to Brittany Nelson and Christopher Higgins (second revision 09/15/2011). Weinbloom, Elizabeth ed. “The Federalist Papers Essay #63 Summary and Analysis”. GradeSaver, 30 December 2011 Web. 15 February 2019.

You can read a summary and analysis of Essay #63 by clicking HERE.

You can read the entire text of Essay #63 by clicking HERE.

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