The Federalist Summary No 10: Madison
November 22, 1787
This paper is considered an important document in American history for it lays out how the writers of the constitution defined the form of government that would protect minority rights from organized and united factions that intended to pass legislation injurious to the liberty of the minority or detrimental to the good of the country. The paper should be read in its entirety rather than in short summery if that is of interest.
Madison describes how the proposed Republican Government mitigates the problems caused in popular governments both ancient and modern by factions of the population whether amounting to a majority or minority that are united and actuated by some interest adverse to the rights of other citizens or of the community. He spends some time on why factions exist among people and the possibility of eliminating them while yet preserving liberty and concludes they exist because of human nature and they cannot be eliminated thus one must control their effect. If the faction is in the minority then republican government clearly controls this situation by regular vote of the majority. But what if a majority, how are the rights of the minority and the public good protected? The answer to this is the primary object of this paper. Another purpose is to continue the argument begun in the last paper that even though the Union of States would be large with many diverse economic and social issues a Republican Government would be the preferred form of government.
Democracies have a poor track record because the majority eventually tramples on the rights of the minority and often does not protect the public good. “Democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property, and have in general been as short in their lives, as they have been violent in their deaths.” So how does a Republic differ from a pure Democracy and solve the problem?
There are two great points of difference in favor of the Republic, the delegation of the government to representatives elected by the citizens and the greater number of citizens and area over which it may be applied. In a Republic it is favorable to have representatives elected with a greater number of citizens to protect against the election of unworthy candidates and to elect the people with the most attractive merit. A large Republic with many representatives is necessary to guard against the cabals of a few but should not be so large as to create the confusion of the multitude. The argument is extended to favor the larger Republic formed by the union of the states as opposed to Republics for individual states which would not be of adequate size to thwart the action of factions. A pure Democracy cannot be an effective government if the governed occupy a large area with many citizens and diverse interests because the requirement for every citizen to assemble and vote on every issue would be impractical and unworkable. It is mentioned without proof at this time that the Federal Constitution under consideration balances all of these issues with a Republican Government.
This concludes the summary but if the reader will permit this humble summarizer I will briefly address the following issue: If our form of government was designed to protect the liberties of the minority and the good of the country as explained in Madison’s paper, how did we get Obamacare? Is there something wrong with our constitution? Is our electorate operating unconstitutionally?
Before answering these questions let me give an example of the thinking in 1787 as I understand it from Madison’s paper of how a Republic encompassing the Union would protect the liberties of the people and preserve the good of the country. Suppose tobacco farmers in North Carolina through thought or corruption or whatever gained sufficient support in their state to pass a law requiring all individuals over 13 years of age to smoke tobacco. They then brought this desire to the Federal Republican Government. But here their interests would have minimal support from representatives from Maine, Texas, and everywhere else other than NC because the representatives from all other states considering the liberty of their constituents and the good of the rest of the country would never approve such a law at the national level. Therefore a large Republic will defeat the will of a faction if it is detrimental to the whole because of the merit of the representatives, the founders thought.
So what happened? Party Unity at the Congressional level will defeat our form of representative government as it did with Obamacare. If representatives vote with the party interests over the interests of the people then a representative form of government will fail in the protection of the liberty of the people. If our representatives, House and Senate, are of the people, meaning one of us, by the people, meaning elected by us, and for the Party instead of for the people, then our country may indeed perish from this earth. We know why they do it, a bribe to help with future elections, personal gain, a chairmanship or membership on a particular committee, fear of reprisals from the leader and/or to enhance the power of their party.
There is nothing in the constitution preventing this behavior nor should there be. It is this form of Party Politics that is wrong, not the constitution, and it should be disgraced and every politician behaving this way should be shamed and ridiculed until it stops. We are beginning to see some hope with the representatives that have been elected to uphold Tea Party principles turning against their party leaders when necessary to vote for the people.
Summary Written by Donald Mellon
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Read The Federalist Papers No. 10