The Modern Federalist Papers (2010)

Origional Federalist Papers
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MODERN FEDERALIST. No. 10

The Preamble
For the Independent Thinker.
Robert Briscoe

To the People of the Unites States of America:

The Preamble: Insure domestic Tranquility

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessing of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

Federalist Paper No. 10 addresses the question of how to guard against "factions," or groups of citizens, with interests contrary to the rights of others or the interests of the whole community. In today's discourse the term advocacy group or special interest group often carries the same connotation. Madison argued that a strong, large republic would be a better guard against those dangers than smaller republics—for instance, the individual states. Hamilton there addressed the destructive role of faction in breaking apart the republic.

Federalist No. 10 continues a theme begun in Federalist No. 9; it is titled, " The Same Subject Continued: The Utility of the Union as a Safeguard Against Domestic Faction and Insurrection." The whole series is cited by scholars and jurists as an authoritative interpretation and explication of the meaning of the Constitution. Jurists have frequently read No. 10 to mean that the Founding Fathers did not intend the United States government to be partisan.

The question Madison answers, then, is how to eliminate the negative effects of faction or "special interest groups". He defines a faction as "a number of citizens, whether amounting to a minority or majority 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 and aggregate interests of the community." He identifies the most serious source of faction to be the diversity of opinion in political life which leads to dispute over fundamental issues such as what regime or religion should be preferred. However, he thinks "the most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property. Those who hold and those who are without property have ever formed distinct interests in society." He saw direct democracy as a danger to individual rights and advocated a representative democracy in order to protect what he viewed as individual liberty from majority rule, or from the effects of such inequality within society. He says, "A pure democracy can admit no cure for the mischiefs of faction. A common passion or interest will be felt by a majority, and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party. Hence it is, that democracies have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have, in general, been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths. It is important to point out that many others do not consider the word republic to be synonymous with representative democracy and believe that the Supreme Court is there to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party, for not every majority decision is an infringement upon unalienable rights.

The diversity of the people's ability which make them succeed more or less and in which inequality of property derive is a right that the government should protect. Madison particularly emphasizes that economic stratification, which naturally exists in a world where different people have different skills, prevents everyone from sharing the same opinion.

For a republic to survive, a minority must not be able to dictate its wishes to a majority (especially by force).

Faction started early. George Washington's election had not even been made official before scores of office seekers began pestering him for government appointments. Shortly thereafter the Jefferson-Hamilton feud began. Jefferson believed in the right and ability of the people to rule themselves. Hamilton felt the common man was incapable of self-rule. At first it seemed that the men would be able to work together amicably. Over time the people began to polarize around these two points of view. One party stood for a true republic of the people; the other sought to strengthen the federal government. This division proved to be the birth of political parties in the United States.

Washington is affected by the wranglings of the Democrat and Republican parties. Parties tend to continually squabble and constantly push and pull their opposite philosophies of government. The alternate domination of one party over another vying for power creates a spirit of revenge and this atmosphere demands uniform vigilance to guard against each other's animosity. George Washington wrote about the Republican and Federalists thus:

The arts of the enemy, and the low dirty tricks which they are daily practicing is an evincing proof that they will stick at nothing, however incompatible with truth and manliness, to carry their points.

Until within the last year or two ago, I had no conception that parties would, or even could, go the length I have been witness to, no did I believe... that every act of my administration would be tortured, and the grossest and most insidious misrepresentations of them be made.

The current opposition, of which ever party is in power, has a nasty habit of giving only one side of a subject, and that, too, in such exaggeration and indecent terms discrediting the other. The news now reeks of conspiracy and collusion... they undermine what cannot be directly done. This practice has become a habitual hatred and animosity with concern for the rights or wants of the people ignored.

In this aspect of the preamble, I believe the founders tried to set the correct principle but the succeeding generations of politicians have undermined "domestic tranquility" under whatever plausible cause to get control and power. The special interest groups have made our public administration the project of faction, rather than wholesome plans of mutual interest. These groups agitate the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindle animosity and occasionally riot and insurrection.

This has opened the door to corruption. They usurp for themselves the reins of government and are looting the treasury.

PUBLIUS.

 

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