The "power to advance the public happiness," James Madison wrote in 1788, "involves a discretion which may be misapplied and abused."
If power is given, as it is in the US Constitution, how do we keep in from being "misapplied and abused?"
As the Constitutional Convention of 1787 met to contemplate a new form of government that would correct the deficiencies of the Articles of Confederation, one of the first proposals accepted by the delegates was to divide national power into three branches. By separating power into multiple departments--"...that a national government ought to be established consisting of a supreme Legislative, Executive and Judiciary"--the new government structure would be a departure from the structure under the Articles, which was a one-branch legislature.
In our thread/discussion, we will discuss the benefits and complications of having a three-branch government. Use Articles I, II and III (which we will use again in the next few weeks) to analyze how power is checked by the other branches. Each post should try to find a different example of the branches checking each other and provide some analysis over whether you think this check is adequate prevention of one branch getting too powerful or whether increased protections may be needed. Keep in mind that the Framers of the Constitution meant for one branch to not have too much power. Your post will want to include some opinion about why the Framers wanted to provide such protection. Are these checks and balances effective to keep a balance of power between the branches or do they fall short of this objective? If they are effective, state why you feel this way using examples of checked power in our government today. If you don't think these checks are adequate, state what you believe could be put in to structurally do things differently to be more effective.
Prior to the Constitution being approved in June 1788, a debate took place in conventions in the states and in newspapers about whether it should be ratified. The Federalists were individual newspaper opinion essays advocating for approval of the document to become the "supreme law of the land" in 1787-1788. The essays were written by James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay. Our Readings for this week includes excerpts from The Federalist, which Thomas Jefferson called "the best commentary on the principles of government which ever was written." Another reading, listed under The Centinal, was part of a larger series of essays known as The Antifederalist papers. These essays were against the ratification of the Constitution for a variety of reasons (some of which will be examined over the next few weeks).
What does John Adams write about the benefits in a system that encourages checks and balances? How does The Centinal counteract his reasoning?
Federalist No. 51 articulates Madison's viewpoint on the problems inherent when one branch gained too much power over another/the others. How does Madison envision "ambition" as a check on the branches from infiltrating each other? How successful has ambition been as a check on alternate branches exceeding their authority?
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