Federalist No. 70

Fed 70 is about the presidency, more specifically, the power an individual central executive as opposed to a council of executives. At the time, there was thinking that the country would be better served (and protected) by a council of 3 executives. In Fed 70, Hamilton makes specific arguments for a single executive, and outlines provisions that give the presidency enough power to govern effectively while also restricting that power to prevent abuse of power.

Hamilton’s Argument for the Executive

the energetic executive

unity of one vs divisions of multiple

responsibility & accountability of the executive

Federalist No. 70 Summary

Federalist No. 70 focuses on the executive branch, arguing for the necessity of a single, strong, and energetic executive, which, in the context of the United States, translates to advocating for the presidency as it was designed in the Constitution.

Hamilton’s argument in Federalist No. 70 is structured around several key themes, each underscoring the benefits of a unitary executive. Let’s delve deeper into these themes:

1. Unity

Hamilton begins by emphasizing the importance of unity in the executive branch. He argues that a single president can make decisions with more clarity and speed than a group of leaders, who might be bogged down by disagreement and conflict. This unity is crucial for effective governance, allowing for swift action in times of crisis and ensuring that policies are consistently implemented. Hamilton feared that a divided executive would lead to indecision, weaken authority, and compromise the execution of laws.

2. Accountability

A central theme in Federalist No. 70 is the notion of accountability. With a single executive, it becomes straightforward for the public and other branches of government to monitor and evaluate the president’s actions and decisions. This clear line of responsibility facilitates both the praise of effective leadership and the critique or punishment of misconduct. Hamilton posited that in a plural executive system, blame could be easily shifted among members, diluting accountability and complicating the process of holding leaders to account.

3. Energy in the Executive

Hamilton articulates the need for an energetic executive, characterizing energy as a blend of decision, activity, secrecy, and dispatch. According to Hamilton, these qualities are essential for defending against foreign aggression, administering laws, and protecting property and liberty. He argues that a single executive, imbued with the authority and responsibility of the office, is more likely to possess the zeal and dedication necessary to navigate the nation through challenges. This energy, Hamilton contends, is vital for the protection and advancement of the country’s interests.

4. Safety

The safety of the republic, Hamilton argues, is best served by a single executive. He reasons that a unitary executive is more capable of resisting encroachments and responding to emergencies. Moreover, Hamilton dismisses concerns about tyranny from a single executive, pointing out that the Constitution provides sufficient checks and balances, including impeachment, to guard against abuse of power. He suggests that the greater danger lies in a weak executive that lacks the authority to govern effectively.

Hamilton’s essay is a defense of the structure of the executive branch as outlined in the U.S. Constitution. He believed that the qualities of unity, accountability, energy, and safety were best achieved through a single president. This vision contrasts with fears of monarchical power, instead presenting the presidency as a balanced and integral part of the federal government’s system of checks and balances. Through Federalist No. 70, Hamilton contributes to the foundational arguments for a strong executive branch, which he saw as crucial for the success and stability of the United States. This essay remains a critical piece of political philosophy and constitutional interpretation, offering insight into the intentions behind the design of the U.S. presidency and the executive branch’s role within the federal government’s structure.