James Madison: Federalist 10

(1787)

Explanation and Analysis of the Document

Madison begins Federalist 10 by arguing that the most important advantage of a “well-constructed Union” is its tendency to “break and control the violence of faction.” By “faction” Madison meant any combination of citizens united by a common interest “adverse to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.” The political order was unstable because rival factions brought “superior force” and “overbearing majority” to pass laws favorable to themselves, thus violating the rights of minorities. Departing from the common understanding of factions as minorities, Madison saw the organized majority as the most common and dangerous faction. Madison attributes the root cause of faction to human nature, viewing humans as driven by passion rather than reason. Disputing the doctrine that liberty and equality produce a “natural aristocracy” based on wisdom, talent, and concern for the good of the...

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Federalist 10

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