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In Flight
Forced Smiles
Happy Oblivion
Ducking Destiny
Chance of Showers
Chance Encounters
The Thinking Dog
The Race
Flight of the Ostrich
Monster Under My Bed
The Rose Garden
Window Shopping
Dramatic Romances
Musings on Nature
A Day at School
The Holy Light
A Rainy Night


The Roller Coaster
The Purse
Sammy's Lesson
The Legend of the Hungry Dragon
Spirits in the Night


My Philosophy of Life
Five Scholarship Questions
Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois
Prophets for God
My Service Project (1999-2000)
My Service Project (1997-1998)
The Beauty of the Forest
Reaching Beyond

The Pastry Menace
A College Just for You!
The Rights of Plants

Literary Analyses
Saving Harry:  Clearing the Controversy Over Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
Essays on Wuthering Heights
The Creature in Frankenstein and the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy
Edna's Decision in The Awakening
Character Comparison in Kate Chopin's The Awakening
Why The Chosen?

Research Papers
Race, Norms, and the Sidewalk
Analytical Exercise
The Validity of Comparing Governments
The British System: Legal-Rational Or Traditional?
The Importance of Framing
Madison on Factions
Spirituality and the Brain
Sea Water and Conductivity

Clinic Violence: A "Moral" Way to Bring About Change?
Graduation Speech
The Call to Relationship
Mark Twain Speaks Again (original version)
Mark Twain Speaks Again (shortened version)

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
The Year 2000
Hunting for Sport?

Mercury Spill Exercise
Chocolate Feature Exercise
Character Sketch
Reaction Story
Aspiring Actress Profile
"Shark Attack" Exercise
Villa Maria Academy Hosts Diversity Panel

Coastal Vacation


Madison on Factions

In their quest to establish a new government for the United States, the Founders sought to create a free society while avoiding the many problems caused by factions. James Madison, a Founder and an author of The Federalist Papers, 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" ("The Federalist No. 10" 43.) Factions, when allowed to thrive, may form tyrannical majorities and deny rights to holders of minority views, causing instability in the government and disregard for the public good. Still, factions become unavoidable in a free society because liberty breeds the formation of differing opinions (43). To avoid the dangers of faction, Madison says that in government, "Ambition must be made to counteract ambition" ("The Federalist No. 51" 262). By forming a republican government, Madison argues, the country can control the effects of faction without depriving citizens of liberty. Thus, the Constitution lays out the framework of a republican government that checks the power of factions in the legislature.

While ultimate sovereignty belongs to the people in a true republic, as in a democracy, a republic differs from a pure democracy in that the people elect representatives to speak for them in government rather than directly participating in the process. The people's ideas for the country, instead of being directly presented, are passed through a smaller body of statesmen selected for their personal merits, a process which, Madison claims, refines the ideas ("The Federalist No. 10" 46-47).

Each house of Congress consists of a specific number of representatives, as outlined in the Constitution. The House is based on population, with the each member representing a given number of people, and each state is guaranteed at least one representative (Article I, Section 2). In the Senate, every state has two senators to represent it (Article I, Section 3). Madison feels that since a relatively small number of representatives will be chosen from a great number of people, the people selected will likely have great merit ("The Federalist No. 10" 47). That even sixty-five people of poor characters or minds could convince the millions of electors spread out over the extended republic that they deserve to be elected seems highly unlikely to Madison ("The Federalist No. 55" 283). Also, since a few people will represent many, those representatives will only be partially acquainted with and attached to the various interests of their constituents. Therefore, representatives will better see the nation's needs and serve the cause of justice instead of interest ("The Federalist No. 10" 47).

The Constitution also prescribes periodic elections for the two houses of Congress. A written constitution, like the American Constitution, that has a greater authority than the government it establishes, can limit the representatives with rigid terms of office, after which new representatives chosen by the people may take office ("The Federalist No. 53" 271). Madison claims that they will be unlikely to betray the people's trust when limited to relatively short terms ("The Federalist No. 55" 283). In addition, since election of representatives depends directly or indirectly on the people, the people have ultimate control of the government ("The Federalist No. 51" 262). Still, as Madison states, "experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions" (262). The two houses of Congress, Madison says, must have as little in common as possible in order to provide a check on each other.

Bicameralism, claims Madison, is the Constitution's ultimate check on the power of the legislature. The people are safe from the evils of faction with a two-house legislature because for any unjust scheme to be successful, it must have the support of a majority in two very different houses, the more changeable, population-based House and the more stable, equally distributed Senate. By ensuring that the two houses have very different characteristics, Madison contends that their interests will rival each other (263). Madison also argues that the Senate, because of its smaller numbers and its members' longer tenure, will likely be less susceptible to factionalism, unlike most large assemblies, and so will check any House faction's attempt to take control of the government ("The Federalist No. 62" 315).

Madison strongly advocates republican government in The Federalist Papers, and the fact that the same basic government that he helped create and define continues to function over two hundred years later adds newfound weight to his arguments. Although the party system dominates contemporary politics, the parties focus on winning elections and making compromises instead of causing dissention and usurping power. The basic republican principles of Madison's proposal for government remain intact. Madison may overlook one point, however. He derides factions as the great evil threatening all government, yet at the same time, he speaks on behalf a faction in the country seeking the establishment of a strong federal government. Still, perhaps Madison draws a portion of his particular dislike of factions from this very experience and uses his feelings to fuel his argument for a republican government that will check the power of factions.

Copyright © 2002 Colleen Fischer | Last updated October 7, 2002