A Review of the Stepping-stone Law for the Union of America's States: the Federalist Papers

Published: 2021-09-23 17:25:11
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According to Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, authors of the Federalist Papers, the union of the States would be better as a large republic, firmly connected by a more powerful, centralized government than that which existed under the Articles of Confederation. The necessity of such a government lies in the need for the fledgling country to control both internal and external disputes, arising from internal factions, or from foreign threats. In their opinion, an extended Union would accomplish this. Their arguments for an extended republic are expounded in Federalist Papers nine and ten.
In Federalist 9, Hamilton raises the subject of the utility of the Union in controlling domestic faction and insurrection. Hamilton first cites the history of Greece, a democracy, as one of turmoil and factious division. Their errors have been used by many to cite the dangers of republican government. Hamilton argues that the mistakes made by the Greeks, for instance, can be used to strengthen the American case, and that the ‘science of politics,’ has improved as changes have been made to the utility of republican government and help to control the turmoil and the corruption which befell the Greeks, such as checks and balances, courts, and the election of representatives. (Hamilton 40). To these improvements, he contends the extension of the Union should also be added.Hamilton also acknowledges the arguments of the contenders of the Constitution. Their line of reasoning based on Montesquieu, they maintain that republics should be smaller in land area. Hamilton asserts that if Montesquieu’s recommendations were adhered to, then the result would be either a return to monarchy, or dissolution into a magnitude of “little, jealous, clashing, tumultuous commonwealths…objects of universal pity and contempt” (Hamilton 42). Neither would benefit America as a whole. Hamilton then goes on to assert that the contenders had misunderstood Montesquieu’s argument, and introduces, instead, his arguments in support of the Union. Hamilton contends that Montesquieu was not referring to the size of a republican construction as a whole, but rather that the size of the singular members should not be so great as to be able to subsume the others.
The arguments that Hamilton draws out of Montesquieu’s writings represent the basic principles by which the Union would be able to control domestic faction and insurrection. The Union would be able to withstand the threat of external forces, be independent without corruption, usurp tyranny of the minority, repress even popular insurrections, and all the sovereign states would be able to maintain their own identity, while still enjoying the security a Union provides.
In the Anti-Federalist Papers, Cato refutes the claims that a larger Union would be a better choice for a republic. He takes the opposite view of Hamilton and Madison, declaring that a larger republic could not, “form a perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to you and your posterity, for to these objects it must be directed” (Anti-Federalist 14). The wide range of morals, climates, and interests are too diverse and could never be simultaneously represented in a republic the size of America. The varying factions of men, according to Cato, make impossible what the Federalists deem not only possible, but beneficial, that is, their control. His argument is most evidently disputed in Madison’s essay, Federalist 10.
Madison extends Hamilton’s essay by elaborating on exactly how a larger Union is more beneficial under a republican government, especially in regards to a larger Union’s ability to control domestic factions. Factions, according to Madison, are understood to be either a majority or minority of citizens, who are united under some common interest, or passion which stands in opposition to the common good and the rights of the whole (Madison 46). Since they seek to undermine the common good in favor of an interest beneficial to a specific group and not the whole, whereby they infringe on the rights of the whole, factions are detrimental to any government by virtue of their definition.
Republican governments paradoxically exist not to destroy detrimental factions, but rather to protect them, and in so doing, the liberty of the citizens to have passions and interests apart from the whole. “The protection of these [diverse] faculties is the first object of government,” Madison contends (Madison 46). Therefore, it would not behoove a government to destroy faction, as that would destroy liberty and be “worse than the disease” (Madison 46). Also, it would be impracticable to try to develop a homogenous society in which all citizens shared the same interests. Therefore, the only way in which a government can control faction without either impracticability or the destruction of liberty is not to destroy the causes of faction, but rather to control its effects.
The nature of man contains the tendency for faction. Factions will never cease to exist, but a larger Union will facilitate the control of faction due simply to the large number of distinct passions and interests represented therein. If a faction consists of a minority, then a government of majority rule, namely a republican form of government, will succeed in squashing it. The majority will always prevail over the minority in a democracy. However, what happens when it is not the minority which constitutes that faction, but the majority? It has already been argued, that a government cannot simply remove the causes of faction. To that, Madison adds that religion and morality can not be counted upon to solve it either. Therefore, a means of controlling the effects of majority faction must be found instead.
The problem of majority faction, as opposed to that of minority, can not be solved through the normal institutions of a republican government. Madison accepts this principle as fact, and examines a different solution to the problem. His solution involves the presence of a large Union of states. In a normal democracy, there is no way to control the will of the majority, even if in conflict with the common good. Every man has an equal vote, and therefore, whichever cause garners the highest number of votes, will prevail. Therefore, in a simple democracy, the threat of majority tyranny is at its greatest. A republican government, however, paints a different perspective on the same threat. In order to illustrate this difference, Madison refers to the two main differences between a democracy and a republic: 1.) The delegation of government in a republic to a small number of people, and 2.) The more citizens, the farther the sphere of a republic may be extended (Madison 50).
Firstly, in a republic, delegates are chosen by the people in order to represent the good of the whole in government. Madison deems this more beneficial to that end than a democracy in which all people convene for that purpose. Although there can be no guarantee that the representatives will work solely for the common good, it is better than a congress of all citizens, each representing their own personal interests. He also believes that a larger republic will generate better representatives who will be less likely to be totally dependent upon one specific faction of their constituents. However, Madison does warn that regions composed of too large a number of constituents can also harm a representative’s ability to amalgamate their wills, and thus represent them to the fullest and best extent possible.
Secondly, Madison argues that the greater the area of a republic, the less factions are to be dreaded. In a smaller society, there exists only a few different factions, and where a small number of factions exist, the easier it will be to develop a distinct majority composed of a smaller number of individuals, and more able to push forward their own interests. By extending the sphere, you take away the ability of parties to form a majority all of the time. It would also be hard for those who wish to commit injustice to act collectively. Madison says, “…where there is consciousness of unjust or dishonorable purposes, communication is always checked by distrust in proportion to the number whose concurrence is necessary” (Madison 51). By this he means that when a group mobilizes with unjust purposes, their own distrust of one another will destroy their collectivity and the more people needed to constitute a majority, the more distrust there will be. And of the political factions that arise and constitute a whole region, they will be extinguished due to the shear number of interests contained within a large Union.
Therefore, both according the Hamilton and Madison, the utility of a larger Union in suppressing domestic faction and insurrection heavily outweigh that of a smaller Union. The effects of faction are much easier to contain in that it is harder to garner the support of a majority within a Union representative of many varied interests contained within a larger body, and just as hard to keep it going due to the proportional distrust found arising within groups seeking to perform a dishonorable act. A larger Union is also more able to control external forces, and to usurp internal insurrection through collective security. It would be harder in a smaller republic, according to them, to protect the principles upon which this country was established, and the liberty of her citizens.

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