Posted by: newperspectives85 | January 6, 2012

Short essay on Federalist No 10 Cam Riley

Short Essay on Federalist Paper No.10

The Federalist Papers were published by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay in New York during 1787 and 1788. They were published to sway opinion in New York into ratifying the new American constitution. One of the most influential of the Federalist Papers is No.10 which was written by James Madison. It discusses the role of faction, liberty and the process of government to control the excesses of faction.

Federalist Paper No.10

Ron Chernow, who authored the most recent biography of Alexander Hamilton, believes that Federalist Paper No.10 is the most influential of the eighty-five Federalist Papers published between 1787 and 1788 in New York. Although all were written under the pen-name “Publius”, the predominant author of the Federalist Papers was Alexander Hamilton who wrote fifty-seven of them. James Madison wrote twenty-one and John Jay five. Additionally three were collaborated on by Hamilton and Madison. Federalist Paper No.10 was written by James Madison.

James Madison was one of the most influential of the American founding fathers. The son of a plantation owner from Orange County, Virginia he studied at Princeton and became involved in local Virginian politics before being involved in the Continental Congress. Madison later represented Virginia at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia and had a leading role in the drafting of the Constitution of the United States.

After the constitution was ratified, Madison became a leader in the Congress, drafting legislation that created the Executive Cabinet positions and later drafting the legislation that would lead to the Bill of Rights. Madison became the Secretary of State during the Thomas Jefferson presidency before being voted as President in 1808. Madison’s terms presided over the war of 1812 with Britain.

Madison’s devotion to the principles of a republic and liberty was uncompromising and despite the pressures of the war he refused to enact legislation or measures that would compromise this. Unlike later presidents such as Abraham Lincoln of George W. Bush who both suspended habeous corpus in times of pressure on government. Madison believed that adherence to the principles of a republic gave America an advantage over Britain and compromising that through government oppression would make the US no better than a monarchy. He was proved correct as the US was able to thwart British attentions on the US.


Central to the tenth paper in the Federalist series is faction. The argument Madison makes is that faction and liberty are inseparable. Instead of focusing on trying to eliminate the causes for faction, the choice of government can control the effects of faction. Madison makes the argument that the means to control the causes of faction is to stamp on dissenting opinions, and remove liberty. In other words oppress until all the polity is of the same opinion. This is totalitarianism. Madison dismisses this as being against the nature of man;

As long as the reason of man continues to be fallible, and he is at liberty to exercise it, different opinions will be formed

Faction is a normal part of liberty, and wrapped in the fallibility of humankind. John Stuart Mills makes similar arguments as to why freedom of expression should never be curtailed. An individual can never be sure that they are not suppressing a truthful opinion as humanity’s reasoning abilities are not perfect. Madison uses a similar argument to Mills as to why liberty cannot be abolished in a functioning government;

Liberty is to faction what air is to fire, an aliment without which it instantly expires. But it could not be a less folly to abolish liberty, which is essential to political life, because it nourishes faction than it would be to wish the annihilation of air, which is essential to animal life, because it imparts to fire its destructive agency.

From this Madison concludes that liberty and faction are essential in any healthy government system. What isn’t healthy is the violence of faction. Madison argues that controlling the effects of violent faction can be achieved through the Republican model of government.

Controlling Effects

Any individual needs to be concerned about government using the apparatus of the nation-state for the purposes of coercion. Madison was also concerned with this issue, he saw the violence of faction being when a group of individuals created a faction with a common interest that was adverse to individual rights, the rights of minorities and against the common good. Madison’s view of common good is similar to the Aristotlean notion of virtue being necessary in the ruling elite.

Madison also shares Aristotle’s disdain for the workability of a democracy. Aristotle wrote that a democracy fails as the individual is too distracted with the day to day trivialities like working and eating to have an understanding of the public good. Aristotle believes that only an idle class have the time and hence virtue to devote themselves to the public good and the glory of the nation-state.

Madison writes that humankind naturally falls into animosity and this clouds the ability of individuals in a democracy to be aware of the common good and articulate legislation for that purpose.

So strong is this propensity of mankind to fall into mutual animosities that where no substantial occasion presents itself the most frivolous and fanciful distinctions have been sufficient to kindle their infriendly passions and excite their most violent conflicts.

Another flaw that Madison identifies in a democracy is that it allows individuals to be their own judge in their own interests. This assumes that an individuals self-interest will blind an individual to the public or common good. A notion that individuals are not capable of public good without the coercion of the nation-state. Madison writes;

No man is allowed to be a judge in his own case, because his interest would certainly bias his judgement, and not improbably, corrupt his integrity. With equal, nay with greater reason, a body of men are unfit to be both judges and parties at the same time.

Madison uses this argument toward the notion that a democracy is flawed as it allows individuals to be judges in their own case. This supports the Aristotlean view that an understanding of common good and hence virtue is exclusive to the idle and ruling classes. This is a repugnant meme. If taxpayers had greater control over where their tax contributions were going, it would over-whelmingly be to common good programs such as public transport, medical research and far, far less on farming subsidies or the industrial-military complex.


The founding fathers were the propertied elite of the colonies in the America at the time. Those that weren’t propertied were in professions or private practice in industries such as law. For many of the southern founding fathers, the definition of property extended to humans as well. Washington took seven slaves with him to New York when he became president. Both Jefferson and Madison did not dissolve their slave properties after ratification of the constitution, nor when they were president. Madison in Federalist Paper No.10 writes that property and its unequal distribution is the most constant source of faction. He is undoubtedly correct, that the new federal government kept in place the practice of allowing one human to own another is testament to this.

Madison argues from the opposing points of view of creditors and debtors. Legislators are subject to the advocacy of their constituents, and if this advocacy is biased by a faction, then there is no justice in the legislation, as the larger party or faction will drown out the smaller factions. With the recent changes in the US system of advocacy being dominated by lobbyists and money, the public good has been ignored by legislators in areas such as intellectual property. Legislators have created new forms of property and property crimes in an ever expanding definition of what can be owned by corporate interests.

The Republic

The Federalist Paper No.10 argues that a republic is capable of controlling the effects of faction, more so than a democracy. The reason put forward is that a system of representation is more capable of protecting the rights of individuals and minorities, as well as being better able to balance the needs of the public good. Madison notes that representatives are more divorced from the issues being raised by factions and consequently better able to create just legislation that is compatible with rights and the public good.

Madison does not explore the issue that representatives concentrate the access to the power and coercive nature of legislation. In essence they are a point of failure for a system that ignores the needs of the electorate and public good. Recently in the United States the system has been skewed by the abnormal power of lobbyist groups who have been exceedingly successful in having representatives further their causes. Lobby groups such as the RIAA and MPAA have successfully had representatives expand what can be called property, the ownership of this artificial form of property and the property crimes stemming from it.

In the essay Madison argues that a danger of a representative system is in having too few representatives as the passions or corruptions of an individual representative can skew the system. From this Madison argues that the republican system scales better and works more effectively the larger the republic is.


The environment that Madison wrote this in needed to explain how the new constitution and republican form of federal government would have greater stability than the previous continental congress. The paper also needed to explain how the system would protect against the competing factions drowning out the rights of minorities and the public good. It also needed to explain how it would halt mob rule. All issues that had posed problems in the self-government of the colonies previous, during and after the revolution of 1776.

Madison sees faction as an unavoidable in a polity of maximum liberty, and consequently seeks to minimize the violence of faction through the system; in other words controlling the effects of faction. Representative government is the process by which Madison seeks to temper this.


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