Original Argument: The Lost Chapters. Translated by Joshua Charles

The Federalist No. 53

The House of Representatives (continued)

James Madison

Independent Journal

Saturday, February 9, 1788

At this point, I am reminded of a saying that seems to be popular these days, “that where annual elections end, tyranny begins.”  If it is true (as it if often said) that sayings that have become proverbial are generally based in reason, then it is just as true that once such sayings are established, they are often applied and used in ways which are not justified by the reasoning which originally led to them!

We need not look any further for proof of this than the case before us.  What is the reasoning upon which this proverbial saying is founded?  Surely no one wishes to subject themselves to the ridicule they would endure if they pretended that there was, in reality, some sort of natural connection between the sun or the seasons, and the time period during which human virtue can resist the temptations of power.  Fortunately for mankind, liberty is not confined to a single point in time in this respect, but rather exists within extremes which leave plenty of room for the changes which may be required by the various situations and circumstances of civil society.

If it was found to be convenient, the election of judges might be, and actually have been conducted daily, weekly, monthly, as well as annually.  So if circumstances may require a deviation from the rule on one side, why not also on the other side?  Turning our attention to the frequency of elections which have been established amongst ourselves, we find that the elections of the most numerous branches of the state legislatures by no means coincide with each other anymore than do the elections of other civil officers.  In Connecticut and Rhode Island, elections are held every six months, while in all of the other states (except South Carolina), they are held annually.  As for South Carolina, the elections are biennial (every two years), as has been proposed for the Federal government (for the House of Representatives).[1] The difference between the longest and shortest election cycles throughout the states represents a ratio of 4:1, and yet it would not be easy to show that Connecticut or Rhode Island are either better governed or enjoy a greater share of rational liberty than South Carolina, or that any of these three states are different in these respects and for these reasons from the states whose elections may be more or less frequent.

In my search for the basis of this political doctrine, I have only been able to discover one, and it doesn’t apply to us at all.  The important distinction, which is so well understood in America and seems to have been little understood (and even less observed) in any other country, is the difference that exists between a Constitution established by the People and therefore unable to be changed by the government,[2] and a law established by the government and therefore able to be changed by the government.  Wherever the supreme power of legislation has been placed, it has been assumed that in that place there was also complete power to change the form of government.  Even in Great Britain, where the principles of political and civil liberty have been most discussed, and where we frequently hear about the rights of its constitution, it is maintained that the authority of Parliament is transcendent and uncontrollable with regard to both the British constitution, as well as the normal, everyday objects of legislative authority.  In several examples, they have lived up to this claim by actually changing, via legislative acts, some of the most fundamental articles of the government.  Specifically, they have on several occasions changed the length of the terms of elected offices, and most recently they not only introduced septennial (every seven years) in place of triennial (every three years) elections, but also (by the same act) extended their own terms in office four years beyond the term which they were elected to by the People in the first place.  These dangerous practices have naturally alarmed the devoted followers of free government (whose foundation is frequency of elections), and has forced them to search for something which can secure liberty against the dangers which these actions have exposed it to.  Where no constitution either existed or might possibly be formed, and which was completely superior to the government, no one tried to establish any constitutional security similar to that which exists in the United States.  Therefore, they had to search for some other source of security, and what better source could they utilize then simply selecting and relying on some simple and familiar period of time as a standard by which to measure the actions which had been taken by the government, by which to measure the feelings of the nation, and during which patriotic efforts could be made to bring about the desired changes?  The simplest and most familiar period of time which could be used for the sake of such security was one year, so the admirable desire to erect some sort of barrier against the gradual intrusions of an unlimited government gave rise to the idea that amount, or degree of tyranny that exists could be calculated by how far the government had strayed from the fixed point of annual elections.  But how necessary would such a security be for a government which will be as limited as the proposed Federal government, and which will be established by the superior authority of the Constitution?  Who will try and pretend that the liberties of the People of America will not be more secure under biennial elections (which are permanently fixed by the Constitution) than the People of any other nation where elections are annual or even more frequent, but which are also at the mercy of being changed simply by the ordinary power of the government (as occurred in Great Britain)?

The second question is whether biennial elections are necessary or useful (referenced in No. 52)?  Several obvious considerations will show just how appropriate it is to answer “yes” to this question.  No one can be a competent legislator unless, in addition to good intentions and sound judgment, they also possess a certain degree of knowledge of the subjects on which they will legislate.

A portion of this knowledge can be acquired via information which is accessible to individuals in private, as well as public positions.  Another portion of this knowledge can only be attainted (at least thoroughly) by actual experience in the position which requires the use of it.  Therefore, the period of service should in all cases be somewhat proportional to the extent of practical knowledge which is required to adequately perform the service.  As we have seen, the period of legislative service which is established in most of the states for the more numerous branch of the legislature is one year.  The question may now be asked in this simple way: does the period of two years bear no greater proportion to the knowledge which will be required for Federal legislation, than one year does to the knowledge required for state legislation?  The very way in which the question is worded suggests the answer which should be given to it.

In a single state, the knowledge required for a legislator relates to the existing laws, which are both uniform throughout the state and are all more or less familiar to all of the citizens, as well as the general affairs of the state, which are confined to a small area, not very diverse, and also occupy much of the attention and conversation of every class of people.  The great theatre of the United States presents a very different scene.  The laws are so far from being uniform that they are in fact different in every state, while the actual public affairs of the Union are spread throughout a very large area and are extremely diversified by the local affairs which are connected with them.  Indeed, the affairs of the Union would be difficult to learn in any place other than Congress, which is where the knowledge of each state will be brought by the representatives of every part of the empire.  Even so, some knowledge of the affairs, and even of the laws of all the states, should be possessed by the Representatives from each of the states.  How can foreign trade be properly regulated by uniform laws without some familiarity with the commerce, the ports, the customs, and the regulations of the different states?  How can trade between the states themselves be properly regulated without some knowledge of their particular situation with regards to commerce and other things?[3] How could taxes be fairly imposed, and effectively collected if they were not adapted to the different laws and local circumstances of the states with regard to both commerce and these other things?[4] How could uniform regulations for the militia be properly provided without a similar knowledge of the internal circumstances that distinguish the states from each other?[5] These things are the primary objects of Federal legislation, and as such, they very clearly hint at the extensive information that the Representatives ought to acquire.  The less important objects of Federal legislation will require a proportional degree of information with regard to them as well.

It’s true that all of these difficulties will be gradually, but significantly diminished.  The most difficult task will be the initial establishment of the government, and the formation of an appropriate, primitive Federal Code.  Improvements on the very first set of laws will become easier and fewer with every passing year, since the past transactions of government will be a readily available and accurate source of information for new Representatives to work from.  The affairs of the Union will become more and more a subject of curiosity and conversation among the citizens at large, and the increased interaction between the citizens of different states will greatly contribute to the diffusion of a mutual knowledge of their affairs, which will also contribute to a nationwide assimilation of their cultures and laws.  But, even with all of this spreading and sharing of knowledge, the business of Federal legislation will continue to exceed the legislative business of a single state both in originality and difficulty, which in and of itself justifies the longer period of service that has been assigned to those who will actually carry out the work of legislation (the Federal Representatives in Congress).

An area of knowledge which has not yet been mentioned, but which a Federal Representative should be familiar with nonetheless, is foreign affairs.  If they are to play a part in regulating our own commerce, then Representatives ought to be acquainted with not only the treaties between the United States and other nations, but also with the commercial policy and laws of other nations.  They should not be completely ignorant of international law, for insofar as it is an appropriate object of municipal legislation, it also falls under the jurisdiction of the Federal government.  And even though the House of Representatives will not directly participate in foreign negotiations and arrangements, the many connections which will exist between the many areas of public affairs will sometimes require that ordinary legislation be passed in order to provide both legal sanction and/or cooperation between any particular areas of policy.  Some of this knowledge may, no doubt, be acquired in any man’s closet, but some of it can only be acquired from public sources of information, and all of it will be most effectively[6] acquired by a Representative putting forth a real, and practical effort towards understanding the subject during the time of their actual service in Congress.

In considering the periods of service for Federal Representatives, there are other perhaps less important considerations, but ones which we should think about nonetheless.  The distance which many of the Representatives will be required to travel (along with the travel arrangements they’ll have to make) could’ve been a much more serious objection among those who would be fit for this service if the period of service was limited to a single year, rather than extended to two years.  The situation of the current representatives in the present congress will not provide any arguments related to this subject.  While it is true that they are elected annually, their respective legislative assemblies consider their re-election as almost inevitable.  The election of the Representatives by the People will not be governed by the same principle.

As happens in all such assemblies, a few Representatives will possess superior talent, will become long standing members of Congress after frequent re-elections, and will likely become very thorough masters of the public business, and thus perhaps not unwilling to avail themselves of these advantages.  The greater the number of new Representatives, and the less information which is available to the bulk of them, then the more likely they will be to fall into the traps which have been laid for them.  This remark is just as applicable to the relationship which will exist between the House of Representatives and the Senate.

The advantages of our frequent elections (annual), even in single states which are large and hold only one legislative session during the year, does not take into account the difficulty of both investigating and annulling illegitimate elections in a quick enough manner for the decision to make any difference in the first place, a significant disadvantage indeed.  If votes can be obtained, even unlawfully, and then the illegally elected Representative ends up taking his seat in Congress as a result of such illegal voting practices, he can be sure that he will be able to hold that seat for an adequate amount of time in order to fulfill his purposes.  Thus, a very deadly encouragement is given to using unlawful means to obtain votes.  Therefore, if Congressional elections were to be held annually, then they might end up being very seriously abused, especially in the more distant states.  Each House of Congress is, as it necessarily must be, the judge of the elections, qualifications, and votes of its own members.[7] Either way, whatever improvements experience may suggest to us for simplifying and accelerating the process of dealing with disputed elections, it is likely that such a large portion of the year would unavoidably elapse before an illegitimate member could be removed from his seat, and that the low probability that he actually would[8] be removed from his seat would hardly act as a barrier to unfair and illegal methods of obtaining a seat in Congress being used by those who wished to gain political power.  All of these considerations as a whole justify us in believing that biennial elections will be just as useful to public affairs as they will be safe to the liberties of the People.

Publius


[1]United States Constitution: Article I, Section 2, clause 1

[2]United States Constitution: Preamble

[3]United States Constitution: Article I, Section 8, clause 3

[4]United States Constitution: Article I, Section 8, clause 1

[5]United States Constitution: Article I, Section 8, clause 16

[6]Emphasis added.

[7]United States Constitution: Article I, Section 5, clauses 1-4

[8]Emphasis added.

There is an economic collapse of third-world proportions on America's horizon. Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden hinted at it in statements last week: "Capitalism … has not been serving our economy as well as it should" and "We're about to … literally change the trajectory of our nation for years and possibly decades to come."

The changes the Democratic Party already has in the works are clearly destructive. You have felt it over the last year and a half, in a small supply chain inconvenience here, an incremental price rise there. You've sensed that something is very wrong. It's rumblings of the Great Reset.

Tonight on "Glenn TV," Glenn Beck heads to the chalkboard to break down how America's traditional economic strengths are being severely undermined and, in many ways, systematically torn down by the Biden administration and Democrats in Congress.

This is not "building back better"; this is a managed decline to bring America down to the rest of the world's standard of living. Glenn challenges: Don't let them convince you these are just first world problems. That's the point. America IS a wealthy nation, but we are heading quickly into a second- and third-world collapse. Glenn provides solutions for the managed decline and how you can prepare for the reset that is already in motion.

Watch the full episode below:

Want more from Glenn Beck?

To enjoy more of Glenn's masterful storytelling, thought-provoking analysis and uncanny ability to make sense of the chaos, subscribe to BlazeTV — the largest multi-platform network of voices who love America, defend the Constitution and live the American dream.

On the radio program Tuesday, Glenn Beck broke down today's inflation, explaining what it is and giving proof that those at the top — politicians and world elite — continue to take advantage of our declining economy to advance their own agenda. He also revealed how a recent decision by Citibank and powerful investment management company, BlackRock, not only puts the U.S. further behind but also allows for China to gain worldwide control.

Watch the video clip below to hear Glenn break it all down:


Want more from Glenn Beck?

To enjoy more of Glenn's masterful storytelling, thought-provoking analysis and uncanny ability to make sense of the chaos, subscribe to BlazeTV — the largest multi-platform network of voices who love America, defend the Constitution, and live the American dream.

For the first time in the history of "The Glenn Beck Program," former President Donald Trump joined Glenn to give his take on America's direction under President Joe Biden compared to his own administration. He explained why Biden's horrific Afghanistan withdrawal was "not even a little bit" like his plan, and why he thinks it was "the most embarrassing event in the history of our country."

Plus, the former president gave his opinion on China's potential takeover of Bagram Air Base, the Pakistani Prime Minister, and Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Glenn asked President Trump how similar the Biden administration's withdrawal from Afghanistan was to his administration's plan.

"Not even a little bit," Trump answered. "We had a great plan, but it was a very tenuous plan. It was based on many conditions. For instance, you can't kill American soldiers. ... You have to understand, I did want to get out. But I wanted to get out with dignity, and I wanted to take our equipment out. And I didn't want soldiers killed. ... What [Biden] did was just indefensible. He took the military out first and he left all the people. And then we became beggars to get the people out. I had a plan to get them out very quickly. But first, the Americans would go out."

Trump told Glenn that his plan included maintaining Bagram Air Base and explained why he would not have left "a single nail" behind in Afghanistan for the Taliban to seize.

"We were going to keep Bagram open," he explained. "We were never going to close that because, frankly, Bagram is more about China than it is about Afghanistan. It was practically on the other border of China. And now we've lost that. And you know who is taking it over? China is taking it over. We spend $10 billion to build that base. It's got the longest, most powerful runways in the world. And China has now got its representatives there and it looks like they'll take it over. Glenn, it's not believable what's happened. You know, they have Apache helicopters. These are really expensive weapons, and they have 28 of them. And they're brand-new. The latest model."

Glenn mentioned recent reports that Gen. Milley, America's top military officer, made "secret phone calls" to his counterpart in China while President Trump was in office.

"I learned early on that he was a dope," Trump said of Gen. Milley. "He made a statement to me — and I guarantee that's what happened to Biden — because I said, 'We're getting out of Afghanistan. We have to do it.' And I said, 'I want every nail. I want every screw. I want every bolt. I want every plane. I want every tank. I want it all out, down to the nails, screws, bolts ... I want every single thing. And he said, 'Sir, it's cheaper to leave it than it is to bring it.'

"The airplane might have cost $40 million, $50 million ... millions and millions of dollars. So, you think it's cheaper to leave it than to have 200 pilots fly over and fly all the equipment out? ... I said, you've got to be nuts. I mean, give me a tank of gas and a pilot and I just picked up a $40 million-dollar airplane. It was amazing. So, I learned early that this guy is a dope. But what he did, is he hurt our country ... and he shouldn't have been allowed to do it. And bad things should happen to him."

Watch the video clip below to catch more of the conversation or find the full interview on BlazeTV:


Want more from Glenn Beck?

To enjoy more of Glenn's masterful storytelling, thought-provoking analysis and uncanny ability to make sense of the chaos, subscribe to BlazeTV — the largest multi-platform network of voices who love America, defend the Constitution, and live the American dream.

In a shocking but underreported conversation ahead of the G7 Speakers' meeting in London last week, Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi admitted that the administration knows China is committing "genocide" against the Uyghurs in the Xinjiang region, but thinks working with the regime on climate change is more important.

On the radio program, an outraged Glenn Beck dissected Pelosi's speech and broke down how — along with the Biden administration's abandonment of Americans in Afghanistan, and the Democrat decision to follow measures of medical "equity" — the far left is revealing how little they really care about human life.

Glenn played a video clip of Pelosi making the following statement:

We've always felt connected to China, but with their military aggression in the South China Sea, with their continuation of genocide with the Uyghurs in Xinjiang province there, with their violation of the cultural, linguistic, religious priority of Tibet, with their suppression of democracy in Hong Kong and other parts of China, as well – they're just getting worse in terms of suppression, and freedom of speech. So, human rights, security, economically [sic].

Having said all of that ... we have to work together on climate. Climate is an overriding issue and China is the leading emitter in the world, the U.S. too and developed world too, but we must work together.

"We have Nancy Pelosi admitting the United States of America knows that they're not only committing [genocide], they're continuing to commit it. Which means, we've known for a while," Glenn noted. "And what does she say? She goes on to say, yes, they're committing genocide against the Uyghurs, but having said that, I'm quoting, 'the overriding issue,' is working together on climate change.

"Would we have worked with Hitler on climate change? Would we have worked with Hitler on developing the bomb? Would we have worked with Hitler on developing the Autobahn? Would we have worked with Hitler on his socialized medicine? Would we have worked with Hitler on any of his national, socialist ideas?" he asked.

"The answer is no. No. When you're committing genocide, no! She said 'we have to work together on climate,' because climate is the 'overriding issue.' The overriding issue? There is no way to describe this mindset. That, yes, they are killing an entire group of people because of their ethnicity or religion. They are systematically rounding them up, using them for slave labor, and killing them, using their organs and selling them on the open market. They are nothing more than cattle. For us to recognize it and do nothing about it is bad enough. But to say, 'we recognize it, but we have bigger things to talk to them about,' is a horror show."

Glenn went on to urge Americans to "stand up together in love, peace, and harmony," or risk watching our nation become the worst plague on human life yet.

Watch the video clip below to hear more from Glenn:


Want more from Glenn Beck?

To enjoy more of Glenn's masterful storytelling, thought-provoking analysis and uncanny ability to make sense of the chaos, subscribe to BlazeTV — the largest multi-platform network of voices who love America, defend the Constitution, and live the American dream.