Federalist Essays #10 & #51

Federalist #10: “The Utility of the Union as a Safeguard Against Domestic Faction and Insurrection”, Daily Advertiser, Thursday, November 22, 1787 {Excerpts}

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… 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, adverse to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community… 

The latent causes of faction are thus sown in the nature of man; and we see them everywhere brought into different degrees of activity, according to the different circumstances of civil society. A zeal for different opinions concerning religion, concerning government, and many other points, as well of speculation as of practice; an attachment to different leaders ambitiously contending for pre-eminence and power; or to persons of other descriptions whose fortunes have been interesting to the human passions, have, in turn, divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to co-operate for their common good... But the most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property…

…the causes of faction cannot be removed, and that relief is only to be sought in the means of controlling its effects... 

{Note from your teacher: I’m sure you’re about to notice this anyway, but just in case… Madison uses the term ‘democracy’ to refer to a relatively small nation-state in which most or all citizens can participate directly in making decisions—what we would call ‘direct democracy’.  He uses the term ‘republic’ to refer to a larger nation-state like the U.S.in which people elect representatives to meet together and make major decisions on their behalf. You already know both of these terms, so I’m not worried. Please continue…} 

….a pure democracy, by which I mean a society consisting of a small number of citizens, who assemble and administer the government in person, can admit of no cure for the mischiefs of faction. A common passion or interest will, in almost every case, be felt by a majority of the whole; a communication and concert result from the form of government itself; and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party or an obnoxious individual. Hence it is that such democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention… 

A republic, by which I mean a government in which the scheme of representation takes place, opens a different prospect, and promises the cure for which we are seeking… {One of the benefits of electing representatives to legislate is that they will} 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… 

{Another benefit is that a republic can grow so much larger than a direct democracy.} The influence of factious leaders may kindle a flame within their particular States, but will be unable to spread a general conflagration through the other States. A religious sect may degenerate into a political faction in a part of the Confederacy; but the variety of sects dispersed over the entire face of it must secure the national councils against any danger from that source. A rage for paper money, for an abolition of debts, for an equal division of property, or for any other improper or wicked project, will be less apt to pervade the whole body of the Union than a particular member of it; in the same proportion as such a malady is more likely to taint a particular county or district, than an entire State. In the extent and proper structure of the Union, therefore, we behold a republican remedy for the diseases most incident to republican government. And according to the degree of pleasure and pride we feel in being republicans, ought to be our zeal in cherishing the spirit and supporting the character of Federalists. 

~Publius 

Federalist #51: “The Structure of the Government Must Furnish the Proper Checks and Balances Between the Different Departments”, Independent Journal (Wednesday, February 6, 1788) {Excerpts}

{Note: When Madison says ‘departments’, he’s referring to what we would call ‘branches’, as in the three branches of government.  When he says ‘consolidation’, he’s referring to the proposal being made by the new Constitution (which he was hoping would be ratified) that a new, stronger central government be created to reduce some of the chaos and dysfunction encountered under the Articles of Confederation.}

…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… 

{T}he 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. The provision for defense must in this, as in all other cases, be made commensurate to the danger of attack. Ambition must be made to counteract ambition. The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place. 

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… 

In republican government, the legislative authority necessarily predominates. The remedy for this inconvenience is to divide the legislature into … As the weight of the legislative authority requires that it should be thus divided, the weakness of the executive may require, on the other hand, that it should be fortified. {A veto or} negative on the legislature {is how} the executive magistrate should be armed… 

It is of great importance in a republic not only to guard the society against the oppression of its rulers, but to guard one part of the society against the injustice of the other part. Different interests necessarily exist in different classes of citizens. If a majority be united by a common interest, the rights of the minority will be insecure. There are but two methods of providing against this evil… The first method prevails in all governments possessing an hereditary or self-appointed authority. This, at best, is but a precarious security; because a power independent of the society may as well espouse the unjust views of the major, as the rightful interests of the minor party, and may possibly be turned against both parties. The second method will be exemplified in the federal republic of the United States. Whilst 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… 

~Publius 

Because these are pretty meaty, even edited, I usually add the following two videos to my 'Required Viewing' page on my class website to reference in conjunction with whatever other support they utilize. Thank god for Keith Hughes and his energy levels. 

Explaining Federalist Paper #10

Federalist Paper #51 Explained: American Government Review

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