Federalist No. 41

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James Madison, author of Federalist No. 41

Federalist No. 41 is an essay by James Madison, the forty-first of The Federalist Papers. It was published on January 19, 1788 under the pseudonym Publius, the name under which all The Federalist Papers were published. This essay begins a long consideration, lasting for the rest of the series, of the specific structure of the proposed Constitution. It is titled, "General View of the Powers Conferred by the Constitution." The essay discusses the two various major issues found in the Constitution. The most important issue examines how much power did the people want to submit unto the government, and secondly, the structure of the new government.

Outlines the powers conferred on the government of the Union and are reduced into different classes as they relate to the following different objects:

  1. Security against foreign danger;
  2. Regulation of the intercourse with foreign nations;
  3. Maintenance of harmony and proper intercourse among the States;
  4. Certain miscellaneous objects of general utility;
  5. Restraint of the States from certain injurious acts;
  6. Provisions for giving due efficacy to all these powers.

Security against foreign danger includes declaring war and granting letters of marque; of providing armies and fleets; of regulating and calling forth the militia; of levying and borrowing money. Madison expresses concern that a standing force is dangerous to liberty, but at the same time is necessary to defend a nation. A prudent nation would balance the inconvenience of having an army with the danger of having an army capable of overthrowing the government. The additional balance is to keep liberty from being crushed between a standing army and perpetual taxes to support it.

Madison highlights that the best possible precaution against danger from standing armies is a limitation of the term for which revenue may be appropriated to their support. This precaution is written in the U.S. Constitution under Congress powers, Article I, section 8, that limits funding of the Army to not longer than 2 years. Madison explains the justification for 2 years; twice as long as the British appropriation period at that time of one year.

Federalist No. 41 spends an inordinate amount of discussion on armies, navies, and the need to maintain them. The remaining objects of 2-6 listed earlier are discussed further in Federalist No. 42.

This particular essay fits into the series of essays on the constitution and have provided a critical starting point about the meaning of the United States Constitution.[1]


  1. "Fifteen Curious Facts about The Federalist Papers" by Dan T. Coenen from University of Georgia School of Law (Publication date: 4-1-2007)

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