James Madison was the key figure in writing the Constitution His views on

James madison was the key figure in writing the

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James Madison was the key figure in writing the Constitution. His views on checking power remain at the core of the structure of American government. As Madison would later explain in Federalist 51: Ambition must be made to counteract ambition. . . . If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and then in the next place oblige it to control itself. To prevent the possibility of a tyranny of the majority, Madison proposed the following: Place as much of the government as possible beyond the direct control of the majority. Separate the powers of different institutions. Construct a system of checks and balances. Limiting Majority Control
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Madison believed that to thwart tyranny by the majority, it was essential to keep most of the government beyond their power. His plan, as shown in Figure 2.3, placed only one element of government, the House of Representatives—elected every two years—within direct control of the votes of the majority. In contrast, state legislatures were to elect senators and special electors were to choose the president; in other words, a small minority, not the people themselves, would elect most government officials. The president was to nominate federal judges. Even if the majority seized control of the House of Representatives, they still could not enact policies without the agreement of the Senate and the president. To further insulate government officials from public opinion, the Constitution gives judges lifetime tenure and senators terms of six years, with only one-third of the Senate elected every two years. Figure 2.3 The Constitution and The Electoral Process: The Original Plan Under Madison’s plan, which was incorporated in the Constitution, voters’ electoral influence was limited. Voters directly elected only the House of Representatives. Senators and presidents were indirectly elected—senators by state legislatures, and presidents by the Electoral College, whose members, depending on the state, were chosen by state legislatures or by voters; the president nominated judges. Over the years, Madison’s original model has been substantially democratized. The Seventeenth Amendment (1913) established direct election of senators by popular majorities.
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Today, the Electoral College has become largely a rubber stamp, with electors voting the way the popular plurality in each state votes. Separating Powers The Madisonian scheme also provided for a separation of powers . Each of the three branches of government—executive (the president), legislative (Congress), and judicial (the courts)—would be relatively independent of one another so that no single branch could control the others.
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