Federalist No. 10

Federalist No. 10

Federalist No. 10 (Federalist Number 10) is an essay by James Madison and the tenth of the "Federalist Papers", a series arguing for the ratification of the United States Constitution. It was published on November 22, 1787, under the pseudonym Publius, the name under which all the "Federalist Papers" were published. The essay is the most famous of the "Federalist Papers," along with Federalist No. 51, also by James Madison, and is among the most highly regarded of all American political writings.ref|Ep59

No. 10 addresses the question of how to guard against "factions," groups of citizens with interests contrary to the rights of others or the interests of the whole community. In today's discourse the term special interest often carries the same connotation. Madison argued that a strong, large republic would be a better guard against those dangers than smaller republics—for instance, the individual states. It is believed that James Madison took ideas from Thomas Hobbes in regard to ideas of a strong controlling government. Opponents of the Constitution offered counterarguments to his position, which were substantially derived from the commentary of Montesquieu on this subject.

Federalist No. 10 continues a theme begun in Federalist No. 9; it is titled, " The Same Subject Continued: The Utility of the Union as a Safeguard Against Domestic Faction and Insurrection." The whole series is cited by scholars and jurists as an authoritative interpretation and explication of the meaning of the Constitution. Jurists have frequently read No. 10 to mean that the Founding Fathers did not intend the United States government to be partisan.


Before September 17, 1787, the Philadelphia Convention had submitted the Constitution to the states for ratification. Anti-Federalist writers began to publish essays and letters arguing against ratification, and Alexander Hamilton recruited James Madison and John Jay to write a series of pro-ratification letters in response. Like most of the Anti-Federalist essays and the vast majority of the "Federalist Papers", No. 10 first appeared in popular newspapers. It was first printed in the "Daily Advertiser"; in this it was remarkable among the essays of Publius, as almost all of them first appeared in one of two other papers, the "Independent Journal" and the "New-York Packet". Federalist No. 37, also by Madison, was the only other essay to appear first in the "Advertiser".ref|const

Considering the importance later ascribed to the essay, it was reprinted only on a limited scale. On November 23, it appeared in the "Packet" and the next day in the "Independent Journal". Outside New York City, it made four appearances in early 1788: January 2 in the "Pennsylvania Gazette", January 10 in the "Hudson Valley Weekly", January 15 in the Lansingburgh "Northern Centinel", and January 17 in the "Albany Gazette". Though this number of reprintings was typical for the "Federalist", many other essays, both Federalist and Anti-Federalist, saw much wider distribution.ref|DHRC

On January 1, 1788, the publishing company J. & A. McLean announced that they would publish the first 36 of the essays in a single volume. This volume, titled "The Federalist", was released on March 2, 1788. Two later editions are of note. The first was by George Hopkins in 1802; in this edition Hopkins revealed that Madison, Hamilton, and Jay were in fact the authors of the series. In 1818, James Gideon published a third edition containing corrections by Madison, who by that time had completed his two terms as President of the United States.ref|spark

The question of faction

Federalist No. 10 continues the discussion of the question broached in Hamilton's Federalist No. 9. Hamilton there addressed the destructive role of faction in breaking apart the republic. The question Madison answers, then, is how to eliminate the negative effects of faction. He defines a faction as "a number of citizens, whether amounting to a minority or majority 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." He identifies the most serious source of faction to be the diversity of opinion in political life which leads to dispute over fundamental issues such as what regime or religion should be preferred. However, he thinks "the most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property. Those who hold and those who are without property have ever formed distinct interests in society." He saw direct democracy as a danger to individual rights and advocated a representative democracy (also called a republic) in order to protect what he viewed as individual liberty from majority rule, or from the effects of such inequality within society. He says, "A pure democracy can admit no cure for the mischiefs of faction. A common passion or interest will be felt by a majority, and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party. Hence it is, that democracies 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."

Like the anti-Federalists who opposed him, Madison was substantially influenced by the work of Montesquieu, though Madison and Montesquieu disagreed on the question addressed in this essay. He also relied heavily on the philosophers of the Scottish Enlightenment, especially David Hume, whose influence is most clear in Madison's discussion of the types of faction and in his argument for an extended republic.

Madison's arguments

Madison first asserts that there are two ways to limit the damage caused by faction: either remove the causes of faction or control its effects. He contends that there are two ways to remove the causes that provoke the development of factions. One, the elimination of liberty, he rejects as unacceptable. The other, creating a society homogeneous in opinions and interests, he sees as impracticable. Madison particularly emphasizes that economic stratification, which naturally exists in a world where different people have different skills, prevents everyone from sharing the same opinion. Madison concludes that the damage caused by faction can be limited only by controlling its effects.

He then argues that the only problem comes from majority factions because the principle of popular sovereignty should prevent minority factions from gaining power. Madison offers two ways to check majority factions: either prevent the "existence of the same passion or interest in a majority at the same time," or render a majority faction unable to act. Madison concludes that a small democracy cannot avoid the dangers of majority faction because small size means that undesirable passions can very easily spread to a majority of the people, which can then enact its will through the democratic government without difficulty.

A republic, Madison writes, is different from a democracy because its government is placed in the hands of delegates, and as a result of this, it can be extended over a larger area. Madison contends that a large republic will elect better delegates than a small one for two reasons. First, in simplest terms, the idea is that in a large republic there will be more "fit candidates" to choose from for each delegate. Also, the fact that each representative is chosen from a larger constituency should make the "vicious arts", a reference to rhetoric, of electioneering less effective. For instance, in a large republic a corrupt delegate would need to bribe many more people in order to win an election than in a small republic. Second, in a republic the delegates both filter and refine the many demands of the people so as to prevent the type of frivolous claims that impede purely democratic governments.

Madison believes that larger societies will have a greater variety of diverse parties and interest groups, and that competition between them will make it less likely for a majority faction to form. Madison gives the example that even if an undesirable passion takes control of a single state, it would probably not be able to harm the entire country because it would first need to spread to many more states. He also argues that in a republic as large as the United States, corrupt factions would not be able to effectively collude and exercise power. In conclusion, Madison emphasizes that the greater size of the Union will allow for more effective government than independent states could ever provide individually.

Though Madison argued for a large and diverse republic, the writers of the "Federalist Papers" recognized the need for a balance. They wanted a republic diverse enough to prevent faction but with enough commonality to maintain cohesion between the states. In Federalist No. 2, John Jay counted as a blessing that America possessed "one united people—a people descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same language, professing the same religion." Madison himself addresses a limitation of his conclusion that large constituencies will provide better representatives. He notes that if constituencies are too large, the representatives will be "too little acquainted with all their local circumstances and lesser interests." He says that this problem is partly solved by federalism. No matter how large the constituencies of federal representatives, local matters will be looked after by state and local officials with naturally smaller constituencies.

Contemporaneous counterarguments

The Anti-Federalists vigorously contested the notion that a republic of diverse interests could survive. The author Cato (another pseudonym, most likely that of George Clinton) summarized the Anti-Federalist position in the article Cato no. 3:

:"Whoever seriously considers the immense extent of territory comprehended within the limits of the United States, together with the variety of its climates, productions, and commerce, the difference of extent, and number of inhabitants in all; the dissimilitude of interest, morals, and policies, in almost every one, will receive it as an intuitive truth, that a consolidated republican form of government therein, can never" form a perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to you and your posterity, "for to these objects it must be directed: this unkindred legislature therefore, composed of interests opposite and dissimilar in their nature, will in its exercise, emphatically be, like a house divided against itself."ref|cato

Generally, it was their position that republics about the size of the individual states could survive, but that a republic on the size of the Union would fail. A particular point in support of this was that most of the states were focused on one industry—to generalize, commerce and shipping in the northern states and plantation farming in the southern. The Anti-Federalist belief that the wide disparity in the economic interests of the various states would lead to controversy was perhaps realized in the American Civil War, which some scholars attribute to this disparity.ref|ransom Madison himself, in a letter to Thomas Jefferson, noted that differing economic interests had created dispute, even when the Constitution was being written.ref|mad-jef At the convention, he particularly identified the distinction between the northern and southern states as a "line of discrimination" that formed "the real difference of interests."ref|cohler

The discussion of the ideal size for the republic was not limited to the options of individual states or encompassing union. In a letter to Richard Price, Benjamin Rush noted that "Some of our enlightened men who begin to despair of a more complete union of the States in Congress have secretly proposed an Eastern, Middle, and Southern Confederacy, to be united by an alliance offensive and defensive."ref|rush However, compromise ideas like this gained little traction.

In making their arguments, the Anti-Federalists appealed to both historical and theoretic evidence. On the theoretical side, they leaned heavily on the work of Charles de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu. The Anti-Federalists Brutus and Cato both quoted Montesquieu on the issue of the ideal size of a republic, citing his statement in "The Spirit of the Laws" that:

:"It is natural to a republic to have only a small territory, otherwise it cannot long subsist. In a large republic there are men of large fortunes, and consequently of less moderation; there are trusts too great to be placed in any single subject; he has interest of his own; he soon begins to think that he may be happy, great and glorious, by oppressing his fellow citizens; and that he may raise himself to grandeur on the ruins of his country. In a large republic, the public good is sacrificed to a thousand views; it is subordinate to exceptions, and depends on accidents. In a small one, the interest of the public is easier perceived, better understood, and more within the reach of every citizen; abuses are of less extent, and of course are less protected."

Brutus points out that the Greek and Roman states envisioned by many Americans as model republics (as evidenced by the choice of many authors on both sides of the debate to take Roman monikers) were small. Brutus also points out that the expansion of these republics resulted in a transition from free government to tyranny.ref|brutus

Modern analysis and reaction

In the first century of the American republic, No. 10 was not regarded as among the more important numbers of "The Federalist". For instance, in "Democracy in America" Alexis de Tocqueville refers specifically to more than fifty of the essays, but No. 10 is not among them.ref|adair110 Today, however, No. 10 is regarded as a seminal work of American democracy. In "The People's Vote," a popular survey conducted by the National Archives and Records Administration, National History Day, and "U.S. News and World Report", No. 10 (along with Federalist No. 51, also by Madison) was chosen as the 20th most influential document in United States history.ref|people

Douglass Adair attributes the increased interest in the tenth number to Charles A. Beard's book "An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution", published in 1913. Adair also contends that Beard's selective focus on the issue of class struggle, and his political progressivism, has colored modern scholarship on the essay. According to Adair, Beard reads No. 10 as evidence for his belief in "the Constitution as an instrument of class exploitation."ref|Adair2 Adair's own view is that Federalist No. 10 should be read as "eighteenth-century political theory directed to an eighteenth-century problem; and ... one of the great creative achievements of that intellectual movement that later ages have christened 'Jeffersonian democracy.'"ref|Adair131

Garry Wills is a noted critic of Madison's argument in Federalist No. 10. In his book "Explaining America", he adopts the position of Robert Dahl in arguing that Madison's framework does not necessarily enhance the protections of minorities or ensure the common good. Instead, Wills claims: "Minorities can make use of dispersed and staggered governmental machinery to clog, delay, slow down, hamper, and obstruct the majority. But these weapons for delay are given to the minority irrespective of its factious or nonfactious character; and they can be used against the majority irrespective of its factious or nonfactious character. What Madison prevents is not faction, but action. What he protects is not the common good but delay as such."ref|Wills195


Federalist No. 10 is the classic citation for the belief that the Founding Fathers and the constitutional framers did not intend American politics to be partisan. For instance, United States Supreme Court justice John Paul Stevens cites the paper for the statement, "Parties ranked high on the list of evils that the Constitution was designed to check."ref|stevens Discussing a California provision that forbids candidates from running as independents within one year of holding a partisan affiliation, Justice Byron White made apparent the Court's belief that Madison spoke for the framers of the Constitution: "California apparently believes with the Founding Fathers that splintered parties and unrestrained factionalism may do significant damage to the fabric of government. See The Federalist, No. 10 (Madison)."ref|white

Madison's argument that restraining liberty to limit faction is an unacceptable solution has been used by opponents of campaign finance limits. Justice Clarence Thomas, for example, invoked Federalist No. 10 in a dissent against a ruling supporting limits on campaign contributions, writing: "The Framers preferred a political system that harnessed such faction for good, preserving liberty while also ensuring good government. Rather than adopting the repressive 'cure' for faction that the majority today endorses, the Framers armed individual citizens with a remedy."ref|Thomas


# Epstein, 59.
# "The Federalist" contents, with dates and publication information, at [http://www.constitution.org/fed/federa00.htm the Constitution Society]
# "The Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution". Ed. John P. Kaminski and Gaspare J. Saladino. Madison: State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1981. Vol XIV, p. 175
# "The Federalist" timeline at [http://www.sparknotes.com/history/american/federalist/timeline.html www.sparknotes.com]
# Cato, no. 3
# Ransom, Roger L. [http://www.eh.net/encyclopedia/article/ransom.civil.war.us "Economics of the Civil War"] . August 25, 2001. Referenced November 20, 2005.
# October 24, 1787 letter of Madison to Jefferson, at "The Founders' Constitution" [http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/documents/v1ch17s22.html web edition]
# Cohler, Anne. "Montesquieu's Comparative Politics and the Spirit of American Constitutionalism". Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1988. 151.
# Letter by Benjamin Rush to Richard Price, at "The Founders' Constitution" [http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/documents/v1ch7s7.html web edition]
# Brutus, no. 1
# Adair, 110
# "The People's Vote" website at [http://www.ourdocuments.gov/content.php?page=vote www.ourdocuments.gov]
# Adair, 120–124 "passim". Quotation at 123.
# Adair, 131.
# Wills, 195.
# "California Democratic Party v. Jones", 530 U.S. 567, 592 (2000) [http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?navby=search&court=US&case=/us/000/99%2D401.html#FN3.2]
# "Storer v. Brown", 415 U.S. 724, 736 (1974) [http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/cgi-bin/getcase.pl?navby=volpage&court=us&vol=415&page=728#728]
# "Nixon v. Shrink Missouri Government PAC", 528 U.S. 377, 424 (2000) [http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?navby=search&court=US&case=/us/000/98%2D963.html#fn5.9]


* Adair, Douglass. "Fame and the Founding Fathers." Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1974. A collection of essays; that used here is "The Tenth Federalist Revisited."
* Epstein, David F. "The Political Theory of The Federalist". Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984.
* Hamilton, Alexander; Madison, James; and Jay, John. "The Federalist". Edited by Jacob E. Cooke. Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press, 1961.
* Storing, Herbert J., ed. "The Complete Anti-Federalist". Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981. A 7-volume edition containing most all relevant Anti-Federalist writings.
* Wills, Garry. "Explaining America". New York: Penguin Books, 1982.

External links

* Online text of [http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/documents/v1ch4s14.html Brutus, no. 1] , at [http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/ http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/] , the online edition of "The Founders' Constitution", hosted by the University of Chicago.
* Online text of [http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/documents/v1ch4s16.html Cato, no. 3] , same source as above.

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