“It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices [checks and balances] should be necessary to control the abuses of government.
“It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices [checks and balances] should be necessary to control the abuses of government.But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?But perhaps it would be neither altogether safe nor alone sufficient.
Were the executive magistrate, or the judges, not independent of the legislature in this particular, their independence in every other would be merely nominal.
But the great security against a gradual concentration of the several powers in the same department, consists in giving to those who administer each department the necessary constitutional means and personal motives to resist encroachments of the others.
Without presuming to undertake a full development of this important idea, I will hazard a few general observations, which may perhaps place it in a clearer light, and enable us to form a more correct judgment of the principles and structure of the government planned by the convention.
In order to lay a due foundation for that separate and distinct exercise of the different powers of government, which to a certain extent is admitted on all hands to be essential to the preservation of liberty, it is evident that each department should have a will of its own; and consequently should be so constituted that the members of each should have as little agency as possible in the appointment of the members of the others.
In this Federalist Paper, James Madison explains and defends the checks and balances system in the Constitution.
Each branch of government is framed so that its power checks the power of the other two branches; additionally, each branch of government is dependent on the people, who are the source of legitimate authority.If men were angels, no government would be necessary.If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.Some difficulties, however, and some additional expense would attend the execution of it.Some deviations, therefore, from the principle must be admitted.But it is not possible to give to each department an equal power of self-defense.In republican government, the legislative authority necessarily predominates.There are, moreover, two considerations particularly applicable to the federal system of America, which place that system in a very interesting point of view. In a single republic, all the power surrendered by the people is submitted to the administration of a single government; and the usurpations are guarded against by a division of the government into distinct and separate departments.In the compound republic of America, the power surrendered by the people is first divided between two distinct governments, and then the portion allotted to each subdivided among distinct and separate departments.In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.” Madison also discusses the way republican government can serve as a check on the power of factions, and the tyranny of the majority. all authority in it will be derived from and dependent on the society, the society itself will be broken into so many parts, interests, and classes of citizens, that the rights of individuals, or of the minority, will be in little danger from interested combinations of the majority.” All of the Constitution’s checks and balances, Madison concludes, serve to preserve liberty by ensuring justice.