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Federalist Paper #48: These Departments Should Not Be So Far Separated as to Have No Constitutional Control Over Each Other

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University of Toronto St. George
Political Science
Ryan Hurl

stPOL203Y1 US Government and Politics October 21 2011The Federalist Papers 48 These Departments Should Not Be So Far Separated as to Have No Constitutional Control Over Each Other IT WAS shown in the last paper that the political apothegm there examined does not require that the legislative executive and judiciary departments should be wholly unconnected with each other I shall undertake in the next place to show that unless these departments be so far connected and blended as to give to each a constitutional control over the others the degree of separation which the maxim requires as essential to a free government can never in practice be duly maintained It is agreed on all sides that the powers properly belonging to one of the departments ought not to be directly and completely administered by either of the other departments It is equally evident that none of them ought to possess directly or indirectly an overruling influence over the others in the administration of their respective powers It will not be denied that power is of an encroaching nature and that it ought to be effectually restrained from passing the limits assigned to it After discriminating therefore in theory the several classes of power as they may in their nature be legislative executive or judiciary the next and most difficult task is to provide some practical security for each against the invasion of the others What this security ought to be is the great problem to be solved Will it be sufficient to mark with precision the boundaries of these departments in the constitution of the government and to trust to these parchment barriers against the encroaching spirit of power This is the security which appears to have been principally relied on by the compilers of most of the American constitutions But experience assures us that the efficacy of the provision has been greatly overrated and that some more adequate defense is indispensably necessary for the more feeble against the more powerful members of the government The legislative department is everywhere extending the sphere of its activity and drawing all power into its impetuous vortex The founders of our republics have so much merit for the wisdom which they have displayed that no task can be less pleasing than that of pointing out the errors into which they have fallen A respect for truth however obliges us to remark that they seem never for a moment to have turned their eyes from the danger to liberty from the overgrown and allgrasping prerogative of an hereditary magistrate supported and fortified by an hereditary branch of the legislative authority They seem never to have recollected the danger from legislative usurpations which by assembling all power in the same hands must lead to the same tyranny as is threatened by executive usurpations In a government where numerous and extensive prerogatives are placed in the hands of an hereditary monarch the executive department is very justly regarded as the source of danger and watched with all the jealousy which a zeal for liberty ought to inspire In a democracy where a multitude of people exercise in person the legislative functions and are continually exposed by their incapacity for regular deliberation and concerted measures to the ambitious intrigues of their executive magistrates tyranny may well be apprehended on some favorable emergency to start up in the same quarter But in a representative republic where the executive magistracy is carefully limited both in the extent and the duration of its power and where the legislative power is exercised by an assembly which is inspired by a supposed influence over the people with an intrepid confidence in its own strength which is sufficiently numerous to feel all the passions which actuate a multitude yet not so numerous as to be incapable of pursuing the objects
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