Political Education

The Views of a Founding Father – James Madison’s Federalist #10

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In Federalist #10, James Madison defines a faction as a group of individuals who have a common interest that may be adverse to the rights of others or the greater community. Madison argues that factions are created when people have their interests at heart. This leads to his view of human nature, which he believes is inherently selfish and is why humans tend to form factions. Thus, factions cannot be eliminated from society. He thought this to be the case because he believed that the passion of individuals about their interests causes them to form factions and, ultimately, that factions can become harmful to society. 

One of Madison’s arguments about humans is that we are not fundamentally virtuous. Therefore, we require checks and balances to prevent ourselves from harming the greater society. This is why he believed a pure democracy could be destructive, as the majority could significantly harm the minority and still be in the wrong. To provide an example of where the majority could have overpowered a minority and oppressed them in recent memory, we can look at the minority groups today that would still be disadvantaged if not for the checks and balances of a republic — such as members of the LGBT community. Through our system of government, the legalization of gay marriage happened across the country regardless of how majorities in certain areas felt about it at the time. In such cases, we may have seen a majority in particular areas overwhelm their minority neighbors out of fear of their lifestyle had it not been for our Republic system of government formulated by James Madison. 

Madison believed that by separating power between three different branches of government and implementing these checks and balances, we could have a government that prevents the majority from overwhelming minorities by controlling the factions. It allows individuals to feel protected, even in the minority amongst their peers. Due to his understanding of human nature, Madison showed why a republic form of government is what the country needed to stabilize and then become prosperous as a whole nation. His careful analysis and understanding of the impulsive mindset of our human nature allowed him to showcase just how a government could control factions and protect the rights of each citizen at the same time.  

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