The Federalist Papers | Federalist No. 72
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The Federalist Papers | Federalist No. 72


FEDERALIST No. 72. The Same Subject Continued, and Re-Eligibility
of the Executive Considered. From The Independent Journal. Wednesday, March 19, 1788. HAMILTON
To the People of the State of New York: THE administration of government, in its largest
sense, comprehends all the operations of the body politic, whether legislative, executive,
or judiciary; but in its most usual, and perhaps its most precise signification. it is limited to executive details, and falls
peculiarly within the province of the executive department. The actual conduct of foreign negotiations,
the preparatory plans of finance, the application and disbursement of the public moneys in conformity
to the general appropriations of the legislature, the arrangement of the army and navy, the
directions of the operations of war—these, and other matters of a like nature, constitute
what seems to be most properly understood by the administration of government. The persons, therefore, to whose immediate
management these different matters are committed, ought to be considered as the assistants or
deputies of the chief magistrate, and on this account, they ought to derive their offices
from his appointment, at least from his nomination, and ought to be subject to his superintendence. This view of the subject will at once suggest
to us the intimate connection between the duration of the executive magistrate in office
and the stability of the system of administration. To reverse and undo what has been done by
a predecessor, is very often considered by a successor as the best proof he can give
of his own capacity and desert; and in addition to this propensity, where the alteration has
been the result of public choice, the person substituted is warranted in supposing that
the dismission of his predecessor has proceeded from a dislike to his measures; and that the
less he resembles him, the more he will recommend himself to the favor of his constituents. These considerations, and the influence of
personal confidences and attachments, would be likely to induce every new President to
promote a change of men to fill the subordinate stations; and these causes together could
not fail to occasion a disgraceful and ruinous mutability in the administration of the government. With a positive duration of considerable extent,
I connect the circumstance of re-eligibility. The first is necessary to give to the officer
himself the inclination and the resolution to act his part well, and to the community
time and leisure to observe the tendency of his measures, and thence to form an experimental
estimate of their merits. The last is necessary to enable the people,
when they see reason to approve of his conduct, to continue him in his station, in order to
prolong the utility of his talents and virtues, and to secure to the government the advantage
of permanency in a wise system of administration. Nothing appears more plausible at first sight,
nor more ill-founded upon close inspection, than a scheme which in relation to the present
point has had some respectable advocates—I mean that of continuing the chief magistrate
in office for a certain time, and then excluding him from it, either for a limited period or
forever after. This exclusion, whether temporary or perpetual,
would have nearly the same effects, and these effects would be for the most part rather
pernicious than salutary. One ill effect of the exclusion would be a
diminution of the inducements to good behavior. There are few men who would not feel much
less zeal in the discharge of a duty when they were conscious that the advantages of
the station with which it was connected must be relinquished at a determinate period, than
when they were permitted to entertain a hope of obtaining, by meriting, a continuance of
them. This position will not be disputed so long
as it is admitted that the desire of reward is one of the strongest incentives of human
conduct; or that the best security for the fidelity of mankind is to make their interests
coincide with their duty. Even the love of fame, the ruling passion
of the noblest minds, which would prompt a man to plan and undertake extensive and arduous
enterprises for the public benefit, requiring considerable time to mature and perfect them,
if he could flatter himself with the prospect of being allowed to finish what he had begun,
would, on the contrary, deter him from the undertaking, when he foresaw that he must
quit the scene before he could accomplish the work, and must commit that, together with
his own reputation, to hands which might be unequal or unfriendly to the task. The most to be expected from the generality
of men, in such a situation, is the negative merit of not doing harm, instead of the positive
merit of doing good. Another ill effect of the exclusion would
be the temptation to sordid views, to peculation, and, in some instances, to usurpation. An avaricious man, who might happen to fill
the office, looking forward to a time when he must at all events yield up the emoluments
he enjoyed, would feel a propensity, not easy to be resisted by such a man, to make the
best use of the opportunity he enjoyed while it lasted, and might not scruple to have recourse
to the most corrupt expedients to make the harvest as abundant as it was transitory;
though the same man, probably, with a different prospect before him, might content himself
with the regular perquisites of his situation, and might even be unwilling to risk the consequences
of an abuse of his opportunities. His avarice might be a guard upon his avarice. Add to this that the same man might be vain
or ambitious, as well as avaricious. And if he could expect to prolong his honors
by his good conduct, he might hesitate to sacrifice his appetite for them to his appetite
for gain. But with the prospect before him of approaching
an inevitable annihilation, his avarice would be likely to get the victory over his caution,
his vanity, or his ambition. An ambitious man, too, when he found himself
seated on the summit of his country’s honors, when he looked forward to the time at which
he must descend from the exalted eminence for ever, and reflected that no exertion of
merit on his part could save him from the unwelcome reverse; such a man, in such a situation,
would be much more violently tempted to embrace a favorable conjuncture for attempting the
prolongation of his power, at every personal hazard, than if he had the probability of
answering the same end by doing his duty. Would it promote the peace of the community,
or the stability of the government to have half a dozen men who had had credit enough
to be raised to the seat of the supreme magistracy, wandering among the people like discontented
ghosts, and sighing for a place which they were destined never more to possess? A third ill effect of the exclusion would
be, the depriving the community of the advantage of the experience gained by the chief magistrate
in the exercise of his office. That experience is the parent of wisdom, is
an adage the truth of which is recognized by the wisest as well as the simplest of mankind. What more desirable or more essential than
this quality in the governors of nations? Where more desirable or more essential than
in the first magistrate of a nation? Can it be wise to put this desirable and essential
quality under the ban of the Constitution, and to declare that the moment it is acquired,
its possessor shall be compelled to abandon the station in which it was acquired, and
to which it is adapted? This, nevertheless, is the precise import
of all those regulations which exclude men from serving their country, by the choice
of their fellowcitizens, after they have by a course of service fitted themselves for
doing it with a greater degree of utility. A fourth ill effect of the exclusion would
be the banishing men from stations in which, in certain emergencies of the state, their
presence might be of the greatest moment to the public interest or safety. There is no nation which has not, at one period
or another, experienced an absolute necessity of the services of particular men in particular
situations; perhaps it would not be too strong to say, to the preservation of its political
existence. How unwise, therefore, must be every such
self-denying ordinance as serves to prohibit a nation from making use of its own citizens
in the manner best suited to its exigencies and circumstances! Without supposing the personal essentiality
of the man, it is evident that a change of the chief magistrate, at the breaking out
of a war, or at any similar crisis, for another, even of equal merit, would at all times be
detrimental to the community, inasmuch as it would substitute inexperience to experience,
and would tend to unhinge and set afloat the already settled train of the administration. A fifth ill effect of the exclusion would
be, that it would operate as a constitutional interdiction of stability in the administration. By necessitating a change of men, in the first
office of the nation, it would necessitate a mutability of measures. It is not generally to be expected, that men
will vary and measures remain uniform. The contrary is the usual course of things. And we need not be apprehensive that there
will be too much stability, while there is even the option of changing; nor need we desire
to prohibit the people from continuing their confidence where they think it may be safely
placed, and where, by constancy on their part, they may obviate the fatal inconveniences
of fluctuating councils and a variable policy. These are some of the disadvantages which
would flow from the principle of exclusion. They apply most forcibly to the scheme of
a perpetual exclusion; but when we consider that even a partial exclusion would always
render the readmission of the person a remote and precarious object, the observations which
have been made will apply nearly as fully to one case as to the other. What are the advantages promised to counterbalance
these disadvantages? They are represented to be: 1st, greater independence
in the magistrate; 2d, greater security to the people. Unless the exclusion be perpetual, there will
be no pretense to infer the first advantage. But even in that case, may he have no object
beyond his present station, to which he may sacrifice his independence? May he have no connections, no friends, for
whom he may sacrifice it? May he not be less willing by a firm conduct,
to make personal enemies, when he acts under the impression that a time is fast approaching,
on the arrival of which he not only MAY, but MUST, be exposed to their resentments, upon
an equal, perhaps upon an inferior, footing? It is not an easy point to determine whether
his independence would be most promoted or impaired by such an arrangement. As to the second supposed advantage, there
is still greater reason to entertain doubts concerning it. If the exclusion were to be perpetual, a man
of irregular ambition, of whom alone there could be reason in any case to entertain apprehension,
would, with infinite reluctance, yield to the necessity of taking his leave forever
of a post in which his passion for power and pre-eminence had acquired the force of habit. And if he had been fortunate or adroit enough
to conciliate the good-will of the people, he might induce them to consider as a very
odious and unjustifiable restraint upon themselves, a provision which was calculated to debar
them of the right of giving a fresh proof of their attachment to a favorite. There may be conceived circumstances in which
this disgust of the people, seconding the thwarted ambition of such a favorite, might
occasion greater danger to liberty, than could ever reasonably be dreaded from the possibility
of a perpetuation in office, by the voluntary suffrages of the community, exercising a constitutional
privilege. There is an excess of refinement in the idea
of disabling the people to continue in office men who had entitled themselves, in their
opinion, to approbation and confidence; the advantages of which are at best speculative
and equivocal, and are overbalanced by disadvantages far more certain and decisive. PUBLIUS

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