In this paper, Madison seeks to counter the arguments made by opponents of the Constitution that America is too large a country to be governed as a united republic. He argues that these critics, in arguing that a republic must be confined to a small territory, have confused a republic with a democracy. The difference, according to Madison, is that in a democracy the people meet and exercise the government in person, whereas in a republic the people govern the country through their elected representatives. Because a republic has representatives, it can extend over a large region. Madison calculates in some detail the size of the United States and argues that it is not too large to be governed by a republic, especially when compared to Great Britain and other European countries.
Madison argues further that the general government will only be authorized to deal with issues of concern to the entire republic. State governments will be left to deal with local concerns, thus making the administration of a country as vast as the US more manageable. Furthermore, as America becomes more developed with roads, canals and other infrastructure, it will be easier for the states to communicate and thus easier for the national government to administer the country. Finally, although representatives from those states farthest from the capitol (such as Georgia) will have longer to travel, they will also be in greater need of the benefits of union due to the dangers inherent in being a frontier.
Madison concludes this paper by exhorting Americans not to destroy their unity. He dismisses those who say no country has ever succeeded in what Americans are trying to accomplish, and encourages Americans to boldly accomplish what has not been accomplished before.
In this paper, Madison brings to a close the opening section of the Federalist Papers defending the benefits of union over disunion. The previous papers having established the benefits of union, Madison now seeks to address unanswered objections brought against the creation of a united system of American states under a single national government. He begins the paper by methodically answering each objection in a highly rational, measured and detailed argument.
However, having laid out the facts, Madison appeals to Americans’ sense of exceptionalism and spirit of individualism. He argues that Americans are distinguished by their willingness to trust their own good sense rather than be controlled by “a blind veneration for antiquity.” He describes Americans as courageous innovators willing to take risks and become an example for all mankind to follow. By taking this approach, Madison seeks to rouse American passions. He is not only speaking to their heads, but appealing to their patriotism as well.