Federalist Papers – Essay #81

In Essay #81, The Judiciary Continued, and the Distribution of the Judicial Authority, Alexander Hamilton describes the separation of judicial authority among the different types of courts and the relationship between these courts.

Article 3, Section 1, of the Constitution states, “The judicial power of the United States is to be vested in one supreme court, and in such inferior courts as the congress may from time to time ordain and establish.”

Hamilton’s aim was to address the anti-federalist fear that the supreme court would have the power to interpret laws according to the “spirit” of the Constitution – thus being able to mold laws “into whatever shape it may think proper” – thus making the court superior to Congress.

Hamilton dismisses this fear and argues that “there is not a syllable in the plan, which directly empowers the national courts to construe the laws according to the spirit of the constitution.”

He discusses the creation of inferior federal courts – contending that a “local spirit” may bias the opinions of state judges.

Hamilton clarifies cases that would go to the supreme court as those “affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, and those in which a state shall be a party.” Thus, they feared, that in most instances, the Supreme Court will only be a court of appeals.

Hamilton also addresses the concern that the supreme court’s role as an appellate court might abolish trial by jury. Anti-federalists feared that if the Supreme Court could hear appeals and base its decisions on the facts of the case, instead of just legal theory, then trial juries would essentially become powerless.

Hamilton’s fundamental point is that the people who make the law cannot also be trusted to always apply the law impartially.

Credit for the summary and analysis of Essay #81 is given to Brittany Nelson and Christopher Higgins (second revision 09/15/2011). Weinbloom, Elizabeth ed. “The Federalist Papers Essay #81 Summary and Analysis”. GradeSaver, 30 December 2011 Web. 20 February 2019.

You can read a summary and analysis of Essay #81 by clicking HERE.

You can read the entire text of Essay #81 by clicking HERE.

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