Posted by: newperspectives85 | January 6, 2012


Explain what a faction is, why the Founding Fathers feared factionalism, and why they chose to address the effects, rather than the causes of factionalism.

Factionalism was a concern of the Founding Fathers. A faction is something that can be tyrannical as it tended to be against the rights of others. There was no way to stop factions because they were inevitable due to human nature. So the founding fathers did not address the causes but the effects.
Madison defines a faction as “a number of citizens whether amounting to a majority or 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” (p.84). The key phrase to the word faction is “often adverse to the rights of other citizens” or “tyrannical.” A minority faction can exist in the form of a tyrannical monarch or slave master, which can be adverse to the rights of the people. However, they would not last long. Kernell, Jacobson, and Kousser (2008) state that “a minority faction may ‘clog the administration, it may convulse the society; but will be unable to execute and mask its violence under the forms of the Constitution” (p.85). The monarch may hinder the administration through his manipulations and tricks, or agitate a society with his foolish ways, but the Constitution will not allow an unfair monarch to get away with much. According to Federalist No 10, Madison states that “if a faction consists of less than a majority, relief is supplied by the republican principle, which enables the majority to defeat its sinister views by regular vote” (para 11). There was not just a minority faction, but a majority one as well. In the Founding Father’s era, the majority faction consisted of a propertyless people. In regards to Civil Rights, the majority faction was the white majority who ran slavery and later segregation. Kernell, Jacobson, and Kousser (2008) state that “democracy, however, introduces its own special brand of factional tyranny—that emanating from a self interested majority” (p.85). Self interested means all about one’s own interest, not society as a whole. In Madison’s era, the majority consisted of the propertyless. In terms of Civil Rights, the dominant white majority were concerned about their own interest, which was slavery and segregation. They did not want African Americans to be united because they knew that if united, they could overthrow the system.
The Founding Fathers feared factionalism because they wanted the people to trust them. They were also afraid of tyranny that could happen. The Founding Fathers chose to address to effects rather than the causes of factionalism because they knew that the reasons for factionalism were inevitable. Two reason for factionalism was human nature and unequal distribution of wealth. According to Kernell, Jacobson, and Kousser (2008), “those who hold and those who are without property have ever formed distinct interests in society, whether that be a landed interest, manufactured, mercantile, or moneyed interests, with many lesser interests growing up of necessity in civilized nations, and divided them into different classes, actuated by different sentiments and views” (p.85). Everyone is in different classes. Factions were inevitable because of the liberty of people to make choices. The Founding Fathers were more concerned in addressing the effects because to squash the faction through authoritarianism would be to allow something worse. Kernell, Johnson, and Kousser (2008) argue that “authoritarianism, a form of government that actively suppresses factions, is a remedy that would be worse than the disease” (p.84). The Founding Fathers also believed that conformism or simply allowing one’s present circumstances was just not possible because everyone has liberty. According to Federalist No.10 (1787), Madison states that “as long as the reason of man continues fallible, and he is at liberty to exercise it, different opinions will be formed” (para. 6). The Founding Fathers could not remove the causes because they were a part of human nature. They, however, mentioned about controlling the effects via a republican form of government. According to Kernell, Jacobson, and Kousser (2008), “Madison believed that representation dilutes the factious spirit…the larger and more diverse the constituency, the more diluted is the influence of any particular faction on the preferences of the representative” (p.85). What this meant was with the government as it was back then, the larger the group or population, the less likely a faction will have an impact on the desires of the representative government.
The Founding Fathers were afraid of factionalism because of the danger it could pose to the nation. There was nothing to do about the causes of factions because it was ingrained in humans. The effects, however, could be dealt with as a way of governing. With a representative democracy, the chances of faction have an impact on the people would decrease. Factionalism was a concern for the Founding Fathers but their fears were relieved through Madison’s Federalist No. 10.

Kernell, Samuel, Gary C. Jacobson, and Thad Kousser. (2008). The Logic of American Politics. Fourth Edition. Washington, D.C: CQ Press

Madison, James. (1787). The Federalist No.10: The Utility of the Union as a Safeguard Against Domestic Faction and Insurrection from Daily Advertiser. Retrieved August 5, 2011 from



  1. Utterly composed subject material , thankyou for information .

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