James Madison: Federalist 14

(1787)

Explanation and Analysis of the Document

In Federalist 14 Madison argues for a large republic on practical grounds. He accuses the Antifederalists of exploiting the prejudice against large republics by pointing to the small democracies of antiquity. He refutes this by referring to the actual territory of the proposed United States of America.

Madison formulates a geometrical axiom in paragraph 5: “The natural limit of a republic is that distance from the centre which will barely allow the representatives to meet as often as may be necessary for the administration of public affairs.” Considering the longest side of the Union, the delegates from the most distant point on the Atlantic coast had no more difficulty assembling in Congress for the past thirteen years than those from states “in the neighborhood of Congress.” In the next paragraph, computing the area ceded to the states by Britain, Madison concludes that the total area is “not a great deal larger than Germany,” where...

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James Madison (Library of Congress)

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