Background: Authors of The Federalist Papers



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The Federalist Papers No, 51 and 10

BACKGROUND: Authors of The Federalist Papers argued that limited government and the rule of law--principles of government in the Constitution of 1787would protect the rights and liberties of people from abuses of power by would-be tyrants. Hamilton and Madison discussed limited government and the rule of law in several essays of The Federalist. They argued that the best government is both "energetic" (strong enough to act decisively and effectively in the public interest) and "limited by law" to safeguard individual liberties and rights.

The Federalist Paper No. 51
The Structure of the Government Must Furnish the Proper Checks and Balances Between the Different Departments

The Federalist No. 51
To the People of the State of New York:

TO WHAT expedient, then, shall we finally resort, for maintaining in practice the necessary partition of power among the several departments, as laid down in the Constitution? The only answer that can be given is, that as all these exterior provisions are found to be inadequate, the defect must be supplied, by so contriving the interior structure of the government as that its several constituent parts may, by their mutual relations, be the means of keeping each other in their proper places. 



1. In the excerpt above, the author James Madison (writing under the name ‘Publius”) is speaking about what element of the constitution, which limits government power?


It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? 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. 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. This policy of supplying, by opposite and rival interests, the defect of better motives, might be traced through the whole system of human affairs, private as well as public. We see it particularly displayed in all the subordinate distributions of power, where the constant aim is to divide and arrange the several offices in such a manner as that each may be a check on the other that the private interest of every individual may be a sentinel over the public rights

2. What are Madison's views about how to achieve limited government and the rule of law?


3. What are the difficulties in creating a limited government that can also be an "energetic" government? (Your opinion backed by explanation).

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The Federalist Paper No. 10
The Federalist No. X 
To the People of the State of New York:

AMONG the numerous advantages promised by a well constructed Union, none deserves to be more accurately developed than its tendency to break and control the violence of faction. The friend of popular governments never finds himself so much alarmed for their character and fate, as when he contemplates their propensity to this dangerous vice. He will not fail, therefore, to set a due value on any plan which, without violating the principles to which he is attached, provides a proper cure for it. The instability, injustice, and confusion introduced into the public councils, have, in truth, been the mortal diseases under which popular governments have everywhere perished; as they continue to be the favorite and fruitful topics from which the adversaries to liberty derive their most specious declamations.



1. According to the author, what will be a positive outcome of having a “well constructed Union”?

By a faction, I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or a minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adversed to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.

There are two methods of curing the mischiefs of faction: the one, by removing its causes; the other, by controlling its effects.

2. How does Madison define “faction”? What are some examples of factions within government or American society today?

There are again two methods of removing the causes of faction: the one, by destroying the liberty which is essential to its existence; the other, by giving to every citizen the same opinions, the same passions, and the same interests.

It could never be more truly said than of the first remedy, that it was worse than the disease. Liberty is to faction what air is to fire, an aliment without which it instantly expires. But it could not be less folly to abolish liberty, which is essential to political life, because it nourishes faction, than it would be to wish the annihilation of air, which is essential to animal life, because it imparts to fire its destructive agency.



3. What are the two ways of eliminating the causes of factions? Why are both unacceptable?

The effect of the first difference is, on the one hand, to refine and enlarge the public views, by passing them through the medium of a chosen body of citizens, whose wisdom may best discern the true interest of their country, and whose patriotism and love of justice will be least likely to sacrifice it to temporary or partial considerations. Under such a regulation, it may well happen that the public voice, pronounced by the representatives of the people, will be more consonant to the public good than if pronounced by the people themselves, convened for the purpose.

4. If the author is defending the new constitution (new government) what do you think the author is referring to by “a chosen body of citizens”? What part of that new government is he referring?
5. How does the author say that “chosen body of citizens” could defeat the problem of factions in the nation?


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