The Federalist Papers

The Paradox of the Republic: A Close Reading of Federalist 10 College

In Federalist 10, James Madison posits that the greatest threat to government and to the public good lies in the oppression committed by majority factions. Madison 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 aggregate interests of the community.” [1] Factions will necessarily emerge due to the liberty afforded to citizens under the American Constitution and because the zeal for different opinions is “sown into the nature of man” (No. 10, 58). Thus, ‘Publius,’ the collective pen name of John Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay, claims that the proposed constitution must guard against the effects of faction, rather than its causes. Madison argues that the republic will successfully guard against the tyrannical effects of faction due to two principles of the proposed system: representative government and the size and population of the union. Because representative government by itself is insufficiently equipped to prevent majority oppression, Madison includes the latter principle of large union size to increase its likelihood of...

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