Federalist Papers – Essay #79

In Essay #79, The Judiciary Department Continued, Alexander Hamilton aims at reassuring people that age is not a factor in the judiciary and that appropriate compensation for judges – in addition to lifetime appointments – will diminish the possibility of corruption and/or abuse. Specifically, he writes:

“NEXT to permanency in office, nothing can contribute more to the independence of the judges than a fixed provision for their support.”

The Constitution proves that judges of the United States “shall at stated times receive for their services a compensation which shall not be diminished during their continuance in office.” The legislature can increase the amount of money at times (because of inflation) but cannot decrease the money, and therefore, does not have power to influence a judge and the separation of powers remains rigid.

Hamilton also reassures people that in the case of judicial misconduct, a judge can be removed by the Congress through the process of impeachment by the House and trial by the Senate.

Hamilton scoffs at the state of New York where judges could no longer serve after the age of 60. He considers age to be a silly consideration, because who can say when someone can no longer facilitate, and learning the laws of the land is a difficult and life-long task.

In Hamilton’s words, “The constitution of New York, to avoid investigations that must forever be vague and dangerous, has taken a particular age as the criterion of inability. No man can be a judge beyond sixty. I believe there are few at present who do not disapprove of this provision. There is no station, in relation to which it is less proper than to that of a judge. The deliberating and comparing faculties generally preserve their strength much beyond that period in men who survive it; and when, in addition to this circumstance, we consider how few there are who outlive the season of intellectual vigor, and how improbable it is that any considerable portion of the bench, whether more or less numerous, should be in such a situation at the same time, we shall be ready to conclude that limitations of this sort have little to recommend them. In a republic, where fortunes are not affluent, and pensions not expedient, the dismission of men from stations in which they have served their country long and usefully, on which they depend for subsistence, and from which it will be too late to resort to any other occupation for a livelihood, ought to have some better apology to humanity than is to be found in the imaginary danger of a superannuated bench”

Credit for the summary and analysis of Essay #79 is given to Brittany Nelson and Christopher Higgins (second revision 09/15/2011). Weinbloom, Elizabeth ed. “The Federalist Papers Essay #79 Summary and Analysis”. GradeSaver, 30 December 2011 Web. 20 February 2019

You can read a summary and analysis of Essay #79 by clicking HERE.

You can read the entire text of Essay #79 by clicking HERE.

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