The Federalist's Vision of Popular Sovereignty in the New by Kathleen O. Potter

By Kathleen O. Potter

In reconstructing the idea of The Federalist Papers, Potter indicates how its authors current the structure as a social compact that embraces a more robust model of renowned sovereignty than that expressed within the consent theories of Hobbes or Locke. The Federalist: (1) acknowledges complexity within the first level of the compact that calls for extra from the folks than mere consent; (2) introduces a proper structure and method for acquiring renowned consent into the second one level; (3) extends the compact past the founding second via together with a proper modification technique and provisions for "wholly renowned" executive; and (4) addresses the duties of the folks and, for this reason, the requirement for advantage.

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Natural rights theorists then secularized the basis of popular sovereignty in the social compact. The American constitutional system acknowledges both the religious and secular roots of popular sovereignty. During the period leading up to the Constitutional Convention of 1787, there is first an assertion, then a strengthening, of the principle of popular sovereignty evidenced in the Declaration of Independence from Great Britain and in the constitutional experiments taking place in the various states.

This chapter examines the nature of Publius’ popular founding and its implications for compact theory. It turns out that the incorporation of a formal constitution into the compact dramatically alters the relationship between the people and their government. To provide some perspective on Publius’ contribution, it is necessary to step back for a moment to review how his predecessors regarded this aspect of the social compact. Recall that in the Hobbesian version of the compact, once the people grant sovereignty to a king or an assembly they become subjects and have no further role in the organization or oversight of their government.

Even Montesquieu’s much-beloved British constitution provides no better model with respect to its foundation than the ancient ones. Indeed, the British constitution, which is unwritten and alterable by Parliament, falls well short of the mark, as Publius explains: Wherever the supreme power of legislation has resided, has been supposed to reside also, a full power to change the form of government. Even in Great Britain, where the principles of political and civil liberty have been most discussed; and where we hear most of the rights of the constitution, it is maintained that the authority of the parliament is transcendent and uncontrollable, as well with regard to the constitution, as the ordinary objects of legislative provision.

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