Federalist 39 is one of the most important of the Federalist papers as it reveals much about James Madison’s philosophy of government. In it he discusses two objections to the Constitution: that it not sufficiently republican, and that it betrays the concept of federalism in creating a national rather than federal government.
In order to address the first charge Madison had to define the concept of republicanism. He confesses that “no other form would be reconcilable with the genius of the people of America,” and so he undertakes to establish what the concept means. While some European countries fashi0n themselves to be republics, the designation ill fits most of them, especially where absolute monarchs rule over the people. So if the designation “republic” does not suit Holland or Poland, what does constitute a republic? Madison’s answer provides and invaluable insight into how he views popular rule. (more…)