A Dire Warning from James Madison
Many of our founding fathers issued dire warnings about what we must watch out for in order to maintain a Free and Healthy Republic. None more-so, was the warning of Factions that would carve up our Republic from the inside out.
Many of our founding fathers wrote and expressed deep concern of the dangers of factions. John Adams for example, stating the following: "There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution."
However, in this case, we are going to take a close look into Federalist Papers #10, where Madison went into great detail, the dangerous of factions, and the best means in which to counter them, while retaining a Republic of Free People.
In his essay, Madison starts by stating that one of the biggest advantages of a Republic, is its ability to break and control factions. Madison also puts some emphasis on the fact that popular Governments will act with strong tendency to push their limit to a dangerous level for their own ambition. And that a friend of a popular government will likely turn a blind eye to these acts.
In Madison's opening statements of the essay, he states that ultimately, these dangerous tendencies will create instability, injustice and confusion and act as a disease which will destroy the government. He aldo makes note of the valuable improvements made by the US Constitution in comparison to past governments and even ancient governments dating back to the Romans and Greek. In many ancient and modern governments of the time, there were many complaints of governments that did nothing to protect the minor parties rights and liberties, but favored that of the larger, richer, and more powerful factions within their nations. It was common that the public and private good were totally disregarded by the larger and more powerful party, resulting in a severe lack of justice and equality.
So what did Madison refer to as a Faction?
"By a faction, I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or a minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adversed to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community."
Looking at this from a Modern perspective, we have many active factions at this time.
Democrats Republicans Conservatives Liberals Socialists Libertarians Patriots BLM Antifa
And this list goes on.
Some of these factions are seen as very dangerous from one side to the other. Some of these factions are also becoming so powerful that they are attempting to silence all of their opposition, and forming coalitions you could say, in order to accomplish those goals with similar minded factions.
So what about our Constitution was structured in such a way to control these dangers?
There are two methods of curing the mischiefs of faction: the one, by removing its causes; the other, by controlling its effects.
How can one remove the causes and control the effects without violating the rights and liberties of those in the faction?
By giving to every citizen the same opinions, the same passions, and the same interests. This however, is impossible. Human nature is to be different, to have passion and desire. What is the one thing that almost everyone wants in America? To be left alone. To live their life freely. We almost all share this passions. We almost all share this interest. Sure, there are some differences in the sense of gun rights, taxation and welfare, but in general we all want the same thing. To be left alone.
This is why the majority of political arguments in modern day are why we should hate, dislike and vote against Candidate A, rather than why we SHOULD vote for Candidate B. Because the other faction, is someone who will not leave us alone.
Madison says that to control the factions by stripping them of their liberties would be worse than the disease of factions themselves, as this gives so much power to the government, that the government would hence be a tyrannical form of government.
"Liberty is to faction what air is to fire, an aliment without which it instantly expires."
To annihilate Liberty as a means to control factions, would be equal to annihilating the air that we breathe, because it fuels fire.
Madison goes on to note that as long as the reason of man continues fallible, and he is at liberty to exercise it, different opinions will be formed. As long as the connection subsists between his reason and his self-love, his opinions and his passions will have a reciprocal influence on each other; and the former will be objects to which the latter will attach themselves. The diversity in the faculties of men, from which the rights of property originate, is not less an insuperable obstacle to a uniformity of interests. The protection of these faculties is the first object of government. From the protection of different and unequal faculties of acquiring property, the possession of different degrees and kinds of property immediately results; and from the influence of these on the sentiments and views of the respective proprietors, ensues a division of the society into different interests and parties.
This is important to note, because it is likely impossible with free will for all mankind to have all of the same passions, interests, desires, etc. It is in the nature of mankind to be different. So we must control the effects of these passions.
This zeal for different religions, government, and other passions, is an attachment to different leaders ambitiously contending for power, or to persons whose fortunes have been interesting to the human passions. These zeals and passions divide mankind in to parties, and have mutual animosity.
Let's take a comparison to a simple Republican vs Democrat in modern day. There is much animosity between the 2. A mutual hatred in many instances. If we were to break it down further into all of the sub-factions, you have pro/anti-police, you have BLM and Antifa, you have Patriots and Oath Keepers. There are many other sub factions as well. One of the most notable 2 factions that are always butting heads, are the Proud Boys vs Antifa in the Pacific Northwest. This mutual hatred that these opposing factions have against each other serves no benefit to themselves or those around them. In fact, this opposition to one another, only divides the people against the common good of Liberty, as each side is out to suppress the other.
Madison, speaking on the issue, says that no man is allowed to be a judge in his own cause, because his interest would certainly bias his judgement, and, not improbably, corrupt his integrity.
This couldn't be more true. How often, do we see an individual, go back on the principles they claim to stand for, because it is more beneficial for them in that given moment, or to make an excuse for their leader that they have attached themselves to as mentioned earlier?
Madison goes on to say that with equal nay, and greater reason, a body of men are also unfit to be both judges and parties at the same time. Again we see the same thing as mentioned above. These factions or parties, will judge the important acts of legislation and judicial determinations not with concerns of the rights of single persons, but concerning rights of large bodies of citizens.
These judgements are abominable to you cause of Liberty for all, as it is destructive of that very liberty.
He uses an example, saying that if a law is proposed concerning private debts, it is a question to which the creditors are parties on one side and the debtors on the other. Justice ought to hold the balance between them. Not the more numerous, or more powerful creditors holding an unjust law over the debtor. In any such instance, the most numerous party, or otherwise the most powerful faction must be expected to prevail.
When speaking about Statesmen, Madison says that it would be in vain to say that statesmen will be able to adjust to these clashing interests and render them all subservient to the public good. Again, this is a testament to the wisdom of not only James Madison but many of our Founding Fathers with their almost uncanny ability to predict the future.
With riots running rampant in many large cities such as Seattle and Portland, the Mayors and even Governors in both these regions turned a blind eye to these events. In Portland specifically, I used the example of the Proud Boys and Antifa earlier, and I will do so again here, Antifa and the BLm were occupying areas of Portland. There was widespread vandalism in the area. The Mayor and Governor did next to nothing to put a stop to this. However, the moment the Proud Boys announced that they will be in Portland, it was declared to be a State of Emergency, as they would sooner cater to the majority within their region.
That being said, Madison makes it clear that the CAUSES of faction cannot be removed. We see many examples throughout history and modern day, that it is impossible to remove the cause of faction, without removing Liberty itself. As Madison noted, to do so, would be like depriving ourselves of oxygen to battle a fire.
So in turn the only relief to factions, is the means of controlling its EFFECTS.
"If a Faction consists of less than a majority, relief is supplied by the Republican principle, which enables the majority to defeat its sinister views by regular vote. It may clog the administration, it may convulse the society; but it will be unable to execute and mask its violence under the forms of the Constitution"
Here, Madison is saying that without a Republican form of government, the majority can with little to no resistance trample the minority through popularity. It is important to know these dangers in order to know how to protect against them.
Madison says that it is evident, that either the existence of the same passion or interest in a majority at the same time must be prevented, or the majority, having such coexistent passion or interest, must be rendered, by their number and local situation, unable to concern and carry into effect schemes of oppression.
What Madison is trying to say here, is that there must never be a simple majority of people holding the same passions. There must be MANY small factions that can never attain enough influence and control to become a majority. OR, that if there be a majority faction, that there is no ability for them to become oppressive.
From this view, Madison states that a pure democracy, is no cure for the mischiefs of faction. A common passion or interest wil, in almost every case, be felt by a majority of the whole resulting from that form of government. Democracies have been spectacles of turbulence and contention throughout history, which we see to this very day with the misguided notion that many share that we are a democratic nation. We have some democratic principles yes, but we are not a pure democracy. Many of the issues that we see to this day, are because of treating our nation as a pure democracy rather than a Republic.
Madison characterizes a Republic, as a government in which the scheme of representation takes place, opening a different prospect, and promises a cure for which they sought a the time. Examining the points in which it varies from a pure democracy, and we shall comprehend both the nature of the cure and the efficacy which it must derive from the Union.
The two great points as Madison notes between a Democracy and Republic, are first, the delegation of the government, in the latter, to a small number of citizens elected by the rest. Secondly, the greater number of citizens, and greater sphere of country, over which the latter may be extended.
The effect of the first difference, is on one hand, to refine and enlarge the public views, by passing them through the medium of a chosen body of citizens, whose wisdom may best discern the true interests of their country and whose patriotism and love of justice will be least likely to sacrifice it to temporary or partial considerations.
This part, we could see being a very accurate statement all the way up until the 1900s. Unfortunately, around the 1900s, our political system began to fall into a very corrupt state, as it began catering to special interest groups, and removing the limitations upon itself. During this time, We The People ought to have stood up against such overreaching measures and kept government put in its place. However, having failed to do so, we now have a government built upon factions that cater to said factions. It has become entrenched and difficult to remove. Impossible? No. However, it is very difficult to restore patriotism and liberty loving representatives that will reverse the course.
The purpose of this, was so that through a medium, the representative body of people, would be better equipped to fight for the public good, than if pronounced by the people themselves, convened for that same purpose.
On the other hand, Madison also notes that the effect may be inverted. Men of factious tempers, of local prejudices, or sinister designs, may by intrigue, corruption, or other means, obtain the suffrages, and then betray the interests of the people. As I have already noted above, the corruption and special interests have now taken control of our government.
Madison then notes that the best means of action against this corruption, is to have an extensive Republic that will have an increased amount of Representatives that can protect against the cabals of a few, while also remaining limited in order to guard against the confusion of a multitude.
This is why our House of Representatives was structured in such a way. Originally, it was to be approximately 1 representative for every 30,000 residents. Unfortunately, since the Permanent Appropriation Act of 1929, we have had our representation diluted down to 1 for every 750,000 residents. This has been a catastrophic blow to our Republic, by creating the Cabal that Madison warned about, while simultaneously creating super minorities of people within each district in which their voices go unheard.
As designed, and also noted in Federalist Papers #10, each representative would be choses by a greater number of citizens, which would make it more difficult for unworthy candidates to practice with success the vicious arts by which elections are too often carried. However, due to this cabal, minimized government, and lack of proper representation, the large majority of 450,000+ residents makes it near impossible to actually hold the representative accountable to their vicious acts.
The Federal Constitution formed a happy combination to counter these concerns, where the great and aggregate interests being referred to the national, the local and particular to the State legislatures. This created a balance in which the States could handle their own affairs, keeping separate the National body of government.
By this method, it was near impossible for the Federal Government to oppress any minority, with each State being equally independent to handle its own affairs. Since the 1910s, and since the culture of "Americanism" formed, we have lost sight of many of these principles that protected us from our own demise. What I mean by "Americanism", is that there used to be a time in which we were a New Yorker before an American. We were a Carolinian before we were an American. We were a Texan, before we were an American. We have hurt our own cause of liberty, by nationalizing ourselves into one giant body of people, splitting this same giant body into numerous factions.
"The other key difference as Madison notes, is the greater number of citizens and extent of territory which may be brought within the compass of Republican than a Democratic Government; and it is this circumstance principally which renders factious combinations less to be dreaded in the former than in the latter." James Madison
As I noted above yet again, we have a scenario where our uniqueness, our inability to become a majority was one of the things that protected our Republic from factions destroying itself. Unfortunately, now that we have lost the individualism among the States, we have lost the most important protection against factions.
Madison again notes that the larger the body of people, the less likely they will be able to form a large majority of the whole.
The clear advantage that we have as a Republic is the ability to control the effects of faction and rendering it powerless. He notes that the influence of factious leaders may kindle a flame within their particular States, but would be unable to spread a general conflagration through the other States.
A religious sect may degenerate into a political faction in a part of the Confederacy, but the variety of sects dispersed over the entire face of it must secure the national councils against any danger from that source. Equally, a rage for paper money, for an abolition of debts, for an equal division of property, or for any other improper or wicked project, will be less apt to pervade the whole body of the Union than a particular member of it. It was also likely that these ambitions would likely only taint a particular county or district, rather than an entire State.
In conclusion, we have come to a point in our Republic, where the protections against factions have been torn down, and now we have numerous factions contending for power in order to oppress their opposition one way or another.
If you would like to learn more about our Founding Fathers' warnings against Factions, please also read Federalist Essay #9 by Hamilton, and read Federalist Essay #10 directly by Madison. |Jessie