The Federalist Papers, No. 41 by James Madison

This essay was published on January 19, 1788. In it, Madison weighs the pros and cons of the government's power to raise military forces in times of war and to keep standing armies in times of peace. Read the full text here.
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definitions & notes only words
  1. candor
    ability to make judgments free from dishonesty
    It cannot have escaped those who have attended with candor to the arguments employed against the extensive powers of the government, that the authors of them have very little considered how far these powers were necessary means of attaining a necessary end.
  2. subtlety
    a fine difference in meaning, opinion, or attitude
    This method of handling the subject cannot impose on the good sense of the people of America. It may display the subtlety of the writer; it may open a boundless field for rhetoric and declamation; it may inflame the passions of the unthinking, and may confirm the prejudices of the misthinking...
  3. rhetoric
    high-flown style; excessive use of verbal ornamentation
    This method of handling the subject cannot impose on the good sense of the people of America. It may display the subtlety of the writer; it may open a boundless field for rhetoric and declamation; it may inflame the passions of the unthinking, and may confirm the prejudices of the misthinking...
  4. discretion
    the trait of judging wisely and objectively
    ...in every political institution, a power to advance the public happiness involves a discretion which may be misapplied and abused.
  5. confer
    present
    They will see, therefore, that in all cases where power is to be conferred, the point first to be decided is, whether such a power be necessary to the public good; as the next will be, in case of an affirmative decision, to guard as effectually as possible against a perversion of the power to the public detriment.
  6. perversion
    the action of corrupting something
    They will see, therefore, that in all cases where power is to be conferred, the point first to be decided is, whether such a power be necessary to the public good; as the next will be, in case of an affirmative decision, to guard as effectually as possible against a perversion of the power to the public detriment.
  7. levy
    impose and collect
    The powers falling within the first class are those of declaring war and granting letters of marque; of providing armies and fleets; of regulating and calling forth the militia; of levying and borrowing money.
  8. superfluous
    more than is needed, desired, or required
    Is the power of declaring war necessary? No man will answer this question in the negative. It would be superfluous, therefore, to enter into a proof of the affirmative.
  9. forego
    be earlier in time; go back further
    The existing Confederation establishes this power in the most ample form. Is the power of raising armies and equipping fleets necessary? This is involved in the foregoing power. It is involved in the power of self-defense.
  10. propriety
    correct behavior
    With what color of propriety could the force necessary for defense be limited by those who cannot limit the force of offense?
  11. usurpation
    wrongfully seizing and holding by force
    It is worse than in vain; because it plants in the Constitution itself necessary usurpations of power, every precedent of which is a germ of unnecessary and multiplied repetitions.
  12. epoch
    a period marked by distinctive character
    The fifteenth century was the unhappy epoch of military establishments in the time of peace.
  13. render
    cause to become
    The veteran legions of Rome were an overmatch for the undisciplined valor of all other nations and rendered her the mistress of the world.
  14. laudable
    worthy of high praise
    On any scale it is an object of laudable circumspection and precaution.
  15. preclude
    make impossible, especially beforehand
    A wise nation will combine all these considerations; and, whilst it does not rashly preclude itself from any resource which may become essential to its safety, will exert all its prudence in diminishing both the necessity and the danger of resorting to one which may be inauspicious to its liberties.
  16. prudence
    discretion in practical affairs
    A wise nation will combine all these considerations; and, whilst it does not rashly preclude itself from any resource which may become essential to its safety, will exert all its prudence in diminishing both the necessity and the danger of resorting to one which may be inauspicious to its liberties.
  17. inauspicious
    contrary to your interests or welfare
    A wise nation will combine all these considerations; and, whilst it does not rashly preclude itself from any resource which may become essential to its safety, will exert all its prudence in diminishing both the necessity and the danger of resorting to one which may be inauspicious to its liberties.
  18. pretext
    a fictitious reason that conceals the real reason
    The Union itself, which it cements and secures, destroys every pretext for a military establishment which could be dangerous.
  19. insular
    relating to or characteristic of or situated on an island
    Being rendered by her insular situation and her maritime resources impregnable to the armies of her neighbors, the rulers of Great Britain have never been able, by real or artificial dangers, to cheat the public into an extensive peace establishment.
  20. impregnable
    incapable of being attacked or tampered with
    Being rendered by her insular situation and her maritime resources impregnable to the armies of her neighbors, the rulers of Great Britain have never been able, by real or artificial dangers, to cheat the public into an extensive peace establishment.
  21. intrigue
    form plots in an underhand manner
    No superior powers of another quarter of the globe intrigue among her rival nations, inflame their mutual animosities, and render them the instruments of foreign ambition, jealousy, and revenge.
  22. contention
    a dispute where there is strong disagreement
    In America the miseries springing from her internal jealousies, contentions, and wars, would form a part only of her lot.
  23. appropriation
    money set aside for a specific purpose, as by a legislature
    Does the American impose on the Congress appropriations for two years?
  24. augmentation
    the amount by which something increases
    ...nothing short of a Constitution fully adequate to the national defense and the preservation of the Union, can save America from as many standing armies as it may be split into States or Confederacies, and from such a progressive augmentation, of these establishments in each, as will render them as burdensome to the properties and ominous to the liberties of the people, as any establishment that can become necessary...
  25. palpable
    capable of being perceived
    The palpable necessity of the power to provide and maintain a navy has protected that part of the Constitution against a spirit of censure, which has spared few other parts.
  26. perfidious
    tending to betray
    The batteries most capable of repelling foreign enterprises on our safety, are happily such as can never be turned by a perfidious government against our liberties.
  27. hitherto
    up to this point; until the present time
    The inhabitants of the Atlantic frontier are all of them deeply interested in this provision for naval protection, and if they have hitherto been suffered to sleep quietly in their beds; if their property has remained safe against the predatory spirit of licentious adventurers...these instances of good fortune are not to be ascribed to the capacity of the existing government for the protection of those from whom it claims allegiance, but to causes that are fugitive and fallacious.
  28. licentious
    lacking moral discipline
    The inhabitants of the Atlantic frontier are all of them deeply interested in this provision for naval protection, and if they have hitherto been suffered to sleep quietly in their beds; if their property has remained safe against the predatory spirit of licentious adventurers...these instances of good fortune are not to be ascribed to the capacity of the existing government for the protection of those from whom it claims allegiance, but to causes that are fugitive and fallacious.
  29. conflagration
    a very intense and uncontrolled fire
    The inhabitants of the Atlantic frontier are all of them deeply interested in this provision for naval protection...if their maritime towns have not yet been compelled to ransom themselves from the terrors of a conflagration, by yielding to the exactions of daring and sudden invaders, these instances of good fortune are not to be ascribed to the capacity of the existing government for the protection of those from whom it claims allegiance, but to causes that are fugitive and fallacious.
  30. ignominious
    deserving or bringing disgrace or shame
    The great emporium of its commerce, the great reservoir of its wealth, lies every moment at the mercy of events, and may almost be regarded as a hostage for ignominious compliances with the dictates of a foreign enemy, or even with the rapacious demands of pirates and barbarians.
  31. rapacious
    excessively greedy and grasping
    The great emporium of its commerce, the great reservoir of its wealth, lies every moment at the mercy of events, and may almost be regarded as a hostage for ignominious compliances with the dictates of a foreign enemy, or even with the rapacious demands of pirates and barbarians.
  32. precarious
    not secure; beset with difficulties
    Should a war be the result of the precarious situation of European affairs, and all the unruly passions attending it be let loose on the ocean, our escape from insults and depredations, not only on that element, but every part of the other bordering on it, will be truly miraculous.
  33. depredation
    a destructive action
    Should a war be the result of the precarious situation of European affairs, and all the unruly passions attending it be let loose on the ocean, our escape from insults and depredations, not only on that element, but every part of the other bordering on it, will be truly miraculous.
  34. vindicate
    show to be right by providing justification or proof
    The power of regulating and calling forth the militia has been already sufficiently vindicated and explained.
  35. excise
    a tax that is measured by the amount of business done
    It has been urged and echoed, that the power "to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises, to pay the debts, and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States," amounts to an unlimited commission to exercise every power which may be alleged to be necessary for the common defense or general welfare.
  36. expound
    add details, as to an account or idea
    If the different parts of the same instrument ought to be so expounded, as to give meaning to every part which will bear it, shall one part of the same sentence be excluded altogether from a share in the meaning; and shall the more doubtful and indefinite terms be retained in their full extent, and the clear and precise expressions be denied any signification whatsoever?
  37. confound
    be confusing or perplexing to
    But the idea of an enumeration of particulars which neither explain nor qualify the general meaning, and can have no other effect than to confound and mislead, is an absurdity, which, as we are reduced to the dilemma of charging either on the authors of the objection or on the authors of the Constitution, we must take the liberty of supposing, had not its origin with the latter.
  38. incur
    make oneself subject to
    The terms of article eighth are still more identical: "All charges of war and all other expenses that shall be incurred for the common defense or general welfare, and allowed by the United States in Congress, shall be defrayed out of a common treasury," etc.
  39. defray
    bear the expenses of
    The terms of article eighth are still more identical: "All charges of war and all other expenses that shall be incurred for the common defense or general welfare, and allowed by the United States in Congress, shall be defrayed out of a common treasury," etc.
  40. construe
    make sense of; assign a meaning to
    Construe either of these articles by the rules which would justify the construction put on the new Constitution, and they vest in the existing Congress a power to legislate in all cases whatsoever.
Created on January 17, 2020 (updated January 31, 2020)

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