In “Federalist 47,” James Madison defines tyranny as “the accumulation of all powers legislative, executive and judiciary in the same hands, whether of one, a few or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed or elected.” In order to prevent tyranny, Madison argues in “Federalist 51” that it is first necessary to separate powers among the three branches of government and between the state and national governments. While this separation is a necessary protection against tyranny, it is not sufficient. In addition, second, it is also necessary to conform “the interior structure of the government, as that its constituent parts may, by their mutual relations, be the means of keeping each other in their proper places” (Federalist 51). This happens when each department (House, Senate, Presidency, and Supreme Court) has “a will of its own; and consequently, should be so constituted, that the members of each should have as little agency as possible in the appointment of the members of the others” (Federalist 51). With both of these institutional protections in place, Madison famously identifies political ambition as the motivation that drives the system of checks and balances, protects liberty, and allows government to pursue its end—justice. Madison writes, “Ambition must be made to counteract ambition” (Federalist 51). Ambition, according to Madison, is the cornerstone of America’s constitutional system rather than moral and religious motives which “lose their efficacy in proportion to the number combined together; that is, in proportion as their efficacy becomes needful” (Federalist 10).
Dr. Jordon B. Barkalow, Thesis Advisor
Dr. Melinda Tarsi, Committee Member
Dr. Kevin Donnelly, Committee Member
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Original document was submitted as an Honors Program requirement. Copyright is held by the author.
Taylor, Emily. (2021). Cornerstone or Threat? Political Ambition and The Federalist. In BSU Honors Program Theses and Projects. Item 496. Available at: https://vc.bridgew.edu/honors_proj/496
Copyright © 2021 Emily Taylor