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Essay on Federalist Nos. 10 and 51
The Federalist contained 85 articles, with Federalist Nos. 10 and 51 the most popular of them. Federalist No. 10 is a series that served as an argument on the ratification of the United States Constitution. This paper attempts to analyze of the James Madison's Federalist Nos. 10 and 51. The paper begins by dissection the meaning of faction, its origins and why it should be feared and what it is dangerous for the republic. The paper also discusses why Madison decried the evils of faction and how could it be avoided. The separation of the branches of government, checks and balances, and Constitutional power, which were succinctly discussed in Federalist No. 10 was also explored.
Federalist No. 10 initially discusses about faction. A faction is a group of people with the same interests, preferences, and philosophy. Factions can form on the basis of social class, industry, religion, national origin, and other social and economic traits. In Federalist No. 10, Madison challenged conventional wisdom, exemplified by Montesquieu, that republicanism could only flourish in a small state where citizens would most likely share a common interest. Accordingly, Anti federalists argued that sovereignty ought to remain with the states. Madison's reply began by identifying what he described as the greatest threat facing popular governments, the presence of "factions." Madison wrote: "The most common and durable source of factions, has been the various, unequal distribution of property" (64).
But what is a faction? A faction is a group of people with the same interests, preferences, and philosophy. Factions can form on the basis of social class, industry, religion, national origin, and other social and economic traits. In Federalist No. 10, Madison challenged conventional wisdom, exemplified by Montesquieu, that republicanism could only flourish in a small state where citizens would most likely share a common interest. Accordingly, Anti federalists argued that sovereignty ought to remain with the states. Madison's reply began by identifying what he described as the greatest threat facing popular governments, the presence of "factions." Madison wrote: "The most common and durable source of factions, has been the various, unequal distribution of property" (64).
Why are factions to be feared? Primarily because of self-love, which is common to human nature. Man is definitely selfish, bias, is most of the time overcome by his emotions, which could trigger him to do unreasonable things. In a group, these tendencies could be amplified, particularly if these traits have been sowed in the hearts and minds of group members.
Since economic interest is, for Madison, the most common and durable source of faction, Madison asserts that the diversity of the faculties of men is an obstacle to a uniformity of interest. Basic idea is- everyone is born in unequal, and has unequal distribution of powers due to faculty. However, it could be argued that in order to show that it is an obstacle, he must have seen and used additional premises. One is that the object of government is to protect the diversity in the faculties of men so that they can and will exercise their different unequal faculties.
The properties of mean ,w hich it is government's first object to protect are not precisely the faculties of acquiring property. They are the "faculties of men, from which the rights of property originate." Furthermore, diverse faculties lead to diverse property; diverse property leads to diverse "interests and parties" because of the "influence" which property has on its proprietors' sentiments and views.
It could be inferred, however, that having greater faculty could actually lead to inequality as individuals possessing greater faculty tend to work less and less. This leads to the unequal distribution of money. Thus, inequality arises from the human itself, as those with less faculty are bound to be subdued by those with greater faculty. Those with greater faculty, therefore, earn more at the expense of those with not-so-great talent. With the unequal distribution of faculties, opportunities, and money leads to the unequal distribution of property. This violates the belief of American dream and belies the claim that fair and equal opportunity is given to all. Furthermore, this implies that man, by nature, is not inherently born equal.
Thus, Madison believed that factions can be dangerous to the republic. When a faction gains political power, it is likely to pursue its own interests, deprive the rights of others, and government without concern for the good of the many.
Furthermore, the "overbearing majority" (62) could use their superior force to violate the rules of justice as well as the rights of the minor parties. Therefore, justice becomes bias, while legislation only proves benefits for those belonging to the majority of the faction. Madison has also explored the causes of factions and has concluded that they cannot be removed without removing liberty first, which is one of the causes, or altering human nature. According to Madison, one way of controlling the effects of factions is to make sure that the majority is not able to act in "concert," or to "carry into effect schemes of oppressions" (66).
In No. 10, Madison decried the evils of faction, which can be avoided in either of two ways. The first is to eliminate their causes. The second is to control their effects. The first would require the equal division of property. However, according to Madison, this would be "folly," for the "remedy worse than the disease" (63). The only reliable cure is to control the effects of faction. This is a remedy that only an extended republic can offer. A republic, as Madison redefines it, is characterized by two key factors. The first is its system of delegation or representations; the second is its enlarged extent.
A large republic would take in a wide variety of interests, thus, encouraging the proliferation of factions and reducing the likelihood that any single faction will predominate. It would also enlarge the pool of "fit characters"(68) from which representatives are to be chosen. When representatives are prohibited by the constituents from exerting direct influence in the government, a large republic would empower representatives to developed an expanded sensibility and to refine their view of what the public interest is, and requires. It could also be that factions could be accepted, however, steps will have to be taken to keep them from gaining too much political power.
The influence of factions in government created a "distrust of public engagements, and alarm for private rights" (62). Madison dismissed that curse as worse than the disease. Lawmakers could attempt to resist and control special interests, but the people's representatives could not always be trusted.
The problem became especially acute if a faction represented a majority of citizens, which is possible for a country of a rather small and direct democracy. Indeed, what would prevent the arbitrary majority? By making the electoral districts large. As what Madison wrote: "Extend the sphere and you take in a greater variety of parties and interests; you make it less probably the a majority of the whole will have a common motive to invade the rights of citizens; or if such a common motive exists, it will be more difficult for all who feel it to discover their own strength and to act in unison with each other" (69).
As mentioned in Federalist No. 10, the large districts help to check the mischief of a faction, nevertheless, elected officials will be passionate, biased, and ambitious. Moreover, a strong state confederacy could lead to anarchy. The fear of anarchy leads even those in the majority to support rights for all.
Federalist No. 51, just like No. 10, is however viewed as a concern for minority rights. In this paper, James Madison explained and defended the need for the provision of check-and-balance in the Constitution. Each branch of government was designed to check the power of another branch of the government. Further, these branches of government are dependent on the people, who are the source of legitimate authority. Furthermore, in a free government, civil rights and religious rights should be equal.
One of the striking qualities of the theory of checks and balances as posited by Madison is that it assumes that persons are not angels but driven by personal interests and motives. "If men were angles, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary" (354).
When the Founders designed the Congress, they envisioned a government of limited powers. The Antifederalists feared that the federal power, the power bing most explicitly spelled out in the powers of Congress, would destroy the nation. They saw the legislature as being given the power to suppress libertry and destroy the states, through both powers that were too broad, such as the power to legislate for the general welfare, and specific powers as well. The two houses helped enshrine the important principles of separation of power and checks and balances in the Constitution. As James Madison noted in Federalist No. 51, the legislative power was not only an important part of the checks and balances in the system, but the splitting of the power between the houses created an intralegislative check to quell the fears of the people. Thus, the Constitution required that before any bill became a law, it had to be debated in both houses, which allowed for real debate and real difference--and therefore checks--since the members of each house were obliged to different constituencies.
He stresses that the division of the government into three branches helps to check personal ambitions. Personal ambitions will naturally arise, but they will be linked to the constitutional powers of each branch. In effect, they will help to keep the three branches separate and thus serve the public interest. Thus, government should be designed to take advantage of self love and ambition and use human weakness as an asset.
Thus, the separation of powers frustrates designs for power and at the same time creates an incentive to collaborate and cooperate, lessening conflict and concretizing a practical community of interests among political leaders. The institutional design was to divide sovereignty between two different levels of political entities, the nation and the states. This would prevent an unhealthy concentration of power in a single government. It would provide, as Madison said in No. 51, a "double security" for the rights of the citizens.
Here is how the checks and balances and the separation of the three branches of governments are: The Executive Branch, headed by the president, is in charge of executing and implementing laws passed by the legislative. At the time, the president is elected by the electorate (state legislators) and not by the people. Meanwhile, the members of the House of Representatives are the ones directly elected by the people in each district. The senators, meanwhile, are elected by state legislatures. The supreme court justices and the chief justice, on the other hand are appointed by the president with the confirmation of the Senate. Thus, of the two houses of Congress, only the members of the house of representatives are elected through direct democracy. The senate is elected through indirect democracy. The selection of supreme court justices, meanwhile, is through very indirect democracy to be elected. However, the supreme court is given the power to argue with both the executive and legislative branches and this is the only branch of government who could veto any law, declare any law unconstitutional and conduct judicial.
The Constitution lists the powers of the national government and the power denied to the states. Limts on the exercise of power by the national government and the states have eveolved as a result of political and military conflicts; moreover, the limits have proved changeable. Separation of powers nd checks and balances are two distinct principles, but both are necessary to ensure that one brand does not dominate the government. Separation of powers is the assignment of the lawmaking, law-enforcing, and law-interpreting functions of government to independent legislative, executive and judicial brances, respectively. Separation of powers safeguards liberty by ensuring that all government powers does not fall into the hands of a single person or group of people. However, the Constitution constrained by majority rule by limiting the people's direct influence on the electoral process. In theory, separation of powers means that one brand cannot exercise powers of the other branches. In practice, however, the separation is far from complete. It is often posited that they are separate institutions sharing powers.
Checks and balances meanwhile is a means of giving each branch of government some scrutiny of an control over the other branches. The aim is to prevent the exclusive exercise and certain powers by any one of the three branches. For example, only Congress can enact laws. But the president (through veto power) can cancel them, and the courts (by finding that a law violates the constitution) can strike them down. The process goes on as Congress and the president sometimes begin the legislative process anew, attempt to reformulate laws to address the flaws identified by the Supreme Court in its decisions. In a "check on a check," Congress can override the president's veto by an extraordinary majority (2/3) in each chamber. Congress is also empowered to propose amendments to the Constitution, counteracting the courts' power to invalidate
Furthermore, the need for checks and balances in the government, as well as for the separation of the powers of the different branches of government may have also stem from the fact that man, by nature, is ambitious and that he would always never have enough. Power is like an aphrodisiac. It could be addictive and once man gets a grip of it, he would never let go of it. It is succinct to say that the government itself is the reflection of human nature. Since, however, men were neither beasts nor angels, rival interests had to be relied on to supply the defect of better motives. Thus, each department had to have the means and motives to resist encroachments by the others. Thereforew, ambition must be made to counteract ambition and that the interests of man must always be linked to the constitutional rights of the place.
Furthermore, it could be inferred that preventing faction is possible by providing checks and balances among the various departments of the. Madison first pointed out that "the legislative authority necessarily predominates"(354) in a republican form of government. The remedy for this lack of balance with the other branches of government is to divide the legislative branch into two chambers with "different modes of election and different principles of action" (353). Furthermore, he discussed the importance of the divisions of government powers between the states and the national government. This division of powers, by providing additional checks and balances, offers a "double security"(356) against tyranny.
With emphasis on representation and the need to remove citizens from direct role in policymaking, Madison posited that this over tuned conventional wisdom. "A republic, by which I mean a government in which the scheme of representation takes place, opens a different prospect and promises the cute for which we are seeking" (67).
In a large republic, according to Madison, no single faction will most likely seize power. "Extend the sphere, and you take in a greater variety of parties and interests; you make it less probable that a majority of the whole will have a common motive to invade the rights of other citizens" (69). Indeed, one religious sect could be evaluated by another; not a single faction could command majority support.
Thus, the extended republic provides another benefit. As the electorate expanded unworthy candidates will find it harder "to practice with success the vicious arts by which elections are too often carried" (68).
Furthermore, Madison believed that the hallmark of a true democracy is the checks and balances among the different departments of a government. The Federalist No. 51 mainly discusses the convention to maintain this balance so as to safeguard the rights of the people and their country. Madison's key point is that the members of each department should be as little dependent as possible from the members of the other departments, and to stay independent, their own department must not encroach on the others. To secure these ends, Madison suggests that "the great security against a gradual concentration of the several powers in the same department" (354) is to enable each department (or the leader of the department) to fend off attempts to encroach upon the government of each other's departments.
In a republican form of government, Madison asserts, the legislative branch is the strongest, and therefore must be divided into different branches, be as little connected with each other as possible, and render them by different modes of election. He respects the legislative branch to be the strongest since it is essentially the true voice of the people. Congress by design is untidy, unwieldy, and unrestrained. But an independent, decentralized, and deliberative legislature is exactly what the framers of Article I of the Constitution had in mind. Within the Congress itself, the legislative power is checked in many ways. To a degree, the House of Representatives and the Senate are competitors, even when both are controled by the same party. Each chamber seeks to protect its own powers and prerogatives. The Constitution helps to create the competition--that is, the checks--by giving some powers to the Senate alone and others to the House. Powers vested in the Senate include approval of treaties, confirmation of presidential nominations, and the power to try impeachments. Granted to the lower House alone is the authority to originate impeachments and all revenue-raising bills. Cooperation between the House and Senate is essential because legislation must be passed in identical form by both chambers before it can be sent to the president for approval or veto.
James Madison is no doubt well-remembered to this day as a political thinker for his contributions to The Federalist. His contributions were highly weighty and have well survived the test of time. While scholars asses The Federalist as the greatest monument to Madison as a political thinker, it by no means presents a comprehensive version of his political thought. He was but one contributor to a work written for a particular political occasion, the struggle for ratification. Yet nothing else gives us better ingress to his political thought. It should be understood that The Federalist neither as a complete statement of Madison's political science, nor as most modern readers do, through the lessons of Federalist 10 and 51. It is easy to overlook the fact that Madison saw the extended republic argument in Federalist 10 as part of his scheme for a congressional veto power over state legislation, but was eventually rejected. In summary, Federalist No. 10 conveys the theory of pluralism that guided the Constitution's chief architect; Federalist No. 51 explores how and why the governmental system that emerged from the political process in Philadelphia might actually work. Since these essays were written, Madison's insight into the operation of the Constitution has been largely borne out. Both the pluralism of competing interests and separated institutions have been judged less favorable by many modern students of American politics. With authority so fragmented, they argue, government cannot function effectively. And by adding a layer of institutional fragmentation on top of pluralism, the Framers simply overdid it. The result is an inherently conservative political process in which legitimate majorities are frequently frustrated by some minority faction that happens to control critical level of government.
Hamilton, Alexander, Madison, James, Jay John. The Federalist: With Letters of Brutus. Edited by Terence Ball. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003.
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