James Madison's Views On State Organisation

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James Madison, a founding father and author of The Federalist Papers, once wrote, ‘Liberty may be endangered by the abuses of liberty, as well as by the abuses of power.’ This quote indicates the idea of natural law in which Madison is trying to express that government power needs to be restricted in order to protect rights because he believed that people were born naturally selfish. The purpose of the Federalist Papers were written to inform people as well as persuade them to accept the need for a centralized government to obtain this balance between order and individual freedom. James Madison had the strong belief that the design of governmental institutions mattered significantly which resulted in his concern regarding factions. He argued that factions were dangerous because one group always opposed the others and if one group is content then the other will lose their liberty. James Madison’s cure for this was to remove the causes of factions and/or by controlling the effects of them. Madison’s solution for controlling the effects of factions is to create a republic with large numbers of people and representatives. In regards to factions and extending liberty here in the United States I wanted to closely examine the contrasting factions we see in the American political system and how they have influenced U.S. culture indisputably.

Madison believed that direct democracy was a major threat to the United States. His fear of direct democracy was based on the domination of congress and “factions,” which can be described as a group of people consisting of majority or minority merged together around a particular interest according to, “The State of Madison’s Vision of the State: A Public Choice Perspective.” Madison writes, “Complaints are everywhere heard from our most considerate and virtuous citizens, equally the friends of public and private faith, and of public and personal liberty, that our governments are too unstable; that the public good is disregarded in the conflicts of rival parties; and that measures are too often decided, not according to the rules of justice, and the rights of the minor party, but by the superior force of an interested and overbearing majority.” (Madison 93) Madison believed that as long as people were allowed to exercise liberty that different opinions will be created. When the state becomes dominated by factions which work through either or both of the two main official “parties” then the rules of justice are often violated. According to, “The State of Madison’s Vision of the State: A Public Choice Perspective,” written by Frank H. Easterbook, “the power of the factions don’t depend on cynicism.” Meaning that James Madison believed that cynics were unreliable and too costly whereas a faction provides its support to the individuals that have overlapping ideals in comparison to “group interest meaning that various groups/factions, would compete within the democratic system.” Madison observes that leaders who take tyrannical power often do so by taking advantage of internal divisions in political life. “The instability, injustice, and confusion introduced into the public councils, have, in truth, been the mortal diseases under which popular governments have everywhere perished; as they continue to be the favorite and fruitful topics from which the adversaries to liberty derive their most specious declamations.” (Madison 93) Factions. Madison argues that the importance of breaking and controlling factions and points in particular to the ‘factious spirit’ of the time. It takes two actions to accomplish faction destruction: destroy liberty and have everyone think alike. This theory of Madison’s can be labeled as pluralism.

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In the article, “James Madison and the Constitution” written by Jeff Broadwater for the Virginia Magazine of History & Biography shares that, “Madison’s fundamental beliefs include preserving majority rule, minority rights, and the balance of power between the branches and levels of government.” Madison believed in the will of the people as well as public opinion being the product of public attitudes and/or beliefs about government/politics. Pluralism emphasizes that the policymaking process is very open to the participation of all groups with shared interests, usually leaving no single group being dominated.. Pluralists tend to believe that as a results, public interest generally prevails. Madison argues for a representative democracy, or better yet a large republic where the people elect a leader to represent them. Representatives can help to “refine and enlarge the public views.” Republics can be larger than pure democracies, making it more difficult for a majority faction to emerge. “The smaller the society, the fewer probably will be the distinct parties and interests composing it; the fewer the distinct parties and interests, the more frequently will a majority be found of the same party; and the smaller the number of individuals composing a majority, and the smaller the compass within which they are placed, the more easily will they concert and execute their plans of oppression.” (Madison 98) This quote sums up the comparison Madison is trying to make between a democracy versus a republic. Republics can encompass larger territory with numerous factions in which they will, “secure the national councils against any danger from that source.” (The Federalist papers No.10) This form of government, as opposed to a direct democracy, provides stability because it keeps important government decisions from being made by the changing tide of public opinion. Representatives of the Union are more likely to be enlightened and pure and less likely to be tainted by local injustices. The Union is more secure against cruel treatment from a conflicting party because of the greater variety of parties and interests it encounters. The Union, because of its size, poses greater obstacles to a majority faction taking action.


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