Summary and Analysis
Section X: United States Senate:
Federalists No. 62–66 (Madison or Hamilton)
This section follows the pattern of the previous section, and is concerned with the qualifications and powers of the Senate.
In Chapter 62, qualifications for senators were these: they had to be at least 30 years old, and to have been citizens of the nation for nine years. They were to be designated by the elected legislatures of the individual states. Senators would hold office for six years, but under a rotation system whereby one-third of the body would be up for election every two years.
At any one time, therefore, two-thirds of the Senate would consist of experienced members, which would give stability and continuity to the Senate's deliberations and decisions.
In the Senate, unlike the House, the states would have equal representation; each state, no matter how large or how small, would have two senators. Brought about by a compromise, this was a "constitutional recognition of the portion of sovereignty remaining in the individual states." This arrangement would impede passage of bad legislation. No law or resolution could be passed "without the concurrence first of a majority of the people [speaking through the House of Representatives), and then of a majority of the states [speaking through the Senate]."
In Chapter 63, the stability and wisdom of such a select Senate would do much to gain the United States more respect from foreign nations. Examples from the history of the republics of antiquity supported this view.
In Chapter 64, the proposed constitution would give the president the power to make treaties, "by and with the advice and consent of the senate," provided that two-thirds of the senators present concurred.
This proviso was a wise one. The method of electing senators, and the president, would ensure that direction of foreign affairs would be exercised by men "most distinguished by their abilities and virtue, and in whom the people perceive just grounds for confidence. . . . With such men the power of making treaties may be safely lodged." That power could not be safely entrusted to popular assemblies such as the House of Representatives, subject to drastic changes every two years.
To suppose that "corruption" might influence the president and two-thirds of the Senate in making treaties was an idea "too gross and too invidious to be entertained."
In Chapter 65, the proposed constitution gave the Senate the power to participate with the executive in the appointment of major national officers, and to act as a court in impeachment trials. By its character and composition the Senate was well fitted to initiate, prosecute, and judge impeachment proceedings, acting as a "bridle" on those exercising executive powers.
In Chapter 66, the Senate would sit as a jury after the House had passed a motion for impeachment. A two-thirds majority in favor of conviction would be required in the Senate; that would provide ample "security to innocence," and there would be no danger of persecutions.
As proposed in the Constitution, the president would nominate men for government office and appoint them "with the advice and consent of the senate." But the Senate would have no voice in choosing nominees. If it disapproved of a particular nominee, the Senate could reject him and force the president to name another, thus having the power to exercise a veto on major appointments.
As this section is largely expository, detailing the nature and necessity of the powers to be exercised by the United States Senate, there is no need to comment except perhaps to note this: Publius made much of the "distinctive" character of the Senate arising from the fact that its members would be chosen by the state legislatures, and not directly by the people, as was the case with members of the House of Representatives. In 1913, with the adoption of the Seventeenth Amendment to the Constitution, it was stipulated that United States Senators in each state were to be "elected by the people thereof."