Federalist #10: Publius's argument



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Federalist #10:Publius's argument


Madison takes the position that there are two ways to limit the damage caused by faction: removing the causes of faction or controlling its effects. He contends that there are two ways to remove the causes that provoke the development of factions. One, the elimination of liberty, he rejects as unacceptable. The other, creating a society homogenous in opinion and interest, he sees as impractical because the causes of faction, among them variant economic interests, are inherent in a free society. Madison concludes that the damage caused by faction can be limited only by controlling its effects.

Madison notes that the principle of popular sovereignty should prevent minority factions from gaining power. Majority factions are then the problem, and he offers two ways to check them: prevent the "existence of the same passion or interest in a majority at the same time," or alternately render a majority faction unable to act. From this point Madison concludes that a small democracy cannot avoid majority faction, because small size means that common passions are likely to form among a majority of the people, and democracy means that the majority can enforce its will.

A republic, Madison writes, differs from a democracy in that its government is delegated to representatives, and as a result of this, it can be extended over a larger area. Regarding the first difference, Madison contends that a large republic will elect better delegates than a small one. In a large republic, the number of citizens per representative will be greater, and each chosen representative will be the best from a larger sample of people, resulting in better government. Also, the fact that each representative is chosen from a larger constituency means that "vicious arts" of electioneering will be less effective.

The fact that a republic can encompass larger areas and populations is a strength of that form of government. Madison believes that larger societies will have a greater variety of diverse parties and interest groups, which in competition will be less likely to yield a majority faction. This is a general application of the checks and balances principle, which is central to the American constitutional system. In conclusion, Madison emphasizes that the greater size of the Union will allow for more effective governments than were the states to remain more independent.



Though Madison argued for a large and diverse republic, the writers of the Federalist Papers recognized the need for a balance. They wanted a republic diverse enough to prevent faction but with enough commonality to maintain cohesion. In Federalist No. 2, John Jay counted as a blessing that America possessed "one united peopleā€”a people descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same language, professing the same religion." Madison himself addresses a limitation of his conclusion that large constituencies will provide better representatives. He notes that if constituencies are too large, the representatives will be "too little acquainted with all their local circumstances and lesser interests." He says that this problem is partly solved by federalism. No matter how large the constituencies of federal representatives, local matters will be looked after by state and local officials with naturally smaller constituencies.


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