February 6, 1788 – Madison Laments that Men are not Angels

On this day in history, the most famous of The Federalist Papers, No. 51, was printed in “The Independent Journal,” a semi-weekly New York journal and newspaper published in the late 18th century. The newspaper’s content included contemporary essays and notices.

The paper is primarily remembered today for being one of several newspapers initially publishing The Federalist Papers – a series of eighty-five articles and essays written by John Jay, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton, discussing and advocating the ratification of the United States Constitution. The newspaper released the first Federalist essay on October 27, 1787.

Federalist No. 51 was titled “The Structure of the Government Must Furnish the Proper Checks and Balances Between the Different Departments” was authored by James Madison, and included this famous observation:

But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government 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 in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.”

You can read the text of the entire Federalist #51 here.

James Madison

James Madison

One Response

  1. Definitely not angels.

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