In No. 39, Madison discussed the characters of American government from five aspects of its foundation, sources of powers, operation of powers, extent of its powers and authoritative mode of introducing amendments.
I. A republic is a government which derives all its powers directly or indirectly from the great body of the people, and is administered by persons holding their offices during pleasure for a limited period, or during good behavior. The government has to be derived from the great body of the society. The persons administering the government must be appointed by the people.
II. Characters of American government:
- The constitution is a composition of both federal and national. The consent of Constitution is derived from the body of people rather than legislature. In ratifying the Constitution, each State is considered as a sovereign body independent of all others. Therefore, establishing the Constitution is a federal act.
- As far as the sources from which the ordinary powers of government are to be derived, the government is national in the view of the House of Representatives, who are elected by the great body of people; while it is federal in the view of Senate, which derives its powers from the States as political and coequal societies. The government is a mixed character of federal and national.
- As far as operation of powers, difference between a federal and national government is raised: in federal government, the powers operate on the political bodies composing the Confederacy in their political capacities; in national government, the powers operate on the individual citizens composing the nation in their individual capacities. It is national with regard to the operation of its powers.
- In terms of the extent of powers, it is federal. A national government has supremacy over all persons and things, while in federal government, the local authorities form distinct and independent portions of the supremacy. Jurisdiction of American government leaves the several States a residuary and inviolable sovereignty over all other objects, where there is no definite supremacy.
- For the authoritative mode of introducing amendments, it is neither wholly federal nor wholly national. A wholly national government bestows supreme authority to the majority of the people of the Union, while the U.S. government could compute the proportion by States. A wholly federal government requires the concurrence of each State in the Union to be essential to every alteration, while concurrence of the majority of States could be sufficient in the U.S. government.
Madison defined that republic is the government which derives all its powers from people and is administrated by persons elected by people. Constitution is a composition of national and federal. Establishing Constitution is a federal act. In terms of sources of power, it is both federal and national. For the operation of power, it is national. For the extent of powers, it is federal. For the authoritative mode of introducing amendments, it is neither wholly federal nor wholly national.