Kevin Price
Madison understood the virtues of limited government
By Kevin Price
November 8, 2009

Few people have read the Constitution and fewer still have read the documents designed to make the case for it. James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay worked passionately to make the case for the states to ratify the US Constitution. The Federalist Papers were 85 essays (which were first written as articles and circulated as pamphlets and as articles in newspapers through out the states and they elaborated on the principles of the Constitution) and are considered a primary source for understanding the founding document.

The Founders called on three of the most powerful minds in government at the time to make the case for the new government. Alexander Hamilton, who would go on to become the first Secretary of the Treasury, was an advocate of a strong, but limited government. John Jay, who would go on to become the first Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court was like Hamilton in his convictions. Finally, there was James Madison, who was known as the Father of the Constitution since he scribed virtually every word of the proceedings leading to the founding document. It is Madison's Federalist Number 10 that I consider my favorite of these articles. The article first appeared in November 1787.

The consensus in American politics in these early years was decidedly anti-partisan. In this essay, Madison makes a remarkable case for this country to choose a uniquely American way of governing. I suggest reading the entire document, because of its powerful arguments and a message so alien from modern American politics today.

Madison argues that "The instability, injustice, and confusion introduced into the public councils, have, in truth, been the mortal diseases under which popular governments have everywhere perished; as they continue to be the favorite and fruitful topics from which the adversaries to liberty derive their most specious declamations. The valuable improvements made by the American constitutions on the popular models, both ancient and modern, cannot certainly be too much admired; but it would be an unwarrantable partiality, to contend that they have as effectually obviated the danger on this side, as was wished and expected." "Popular governments" were, in a word, democracies. This document is a great warning to the people of France at that time who were about to break out in a revolution of their own. Where as the US Revolution was based on responsible freedom, limited government, and symbolized by the Liberty Bell. The French Revolution was known for its factions, revenge, and symbolized by the guillotine.

Madison goes on to point out that "There are again two methods of removing the causes of faction: the one, by destroying the liberty which is essential to its existence; the other, by giving to every citizen the same opinions, the same passions, and the same interests." In other words, Madison argues that you cannot accommodate the views of the majority without oppressing everyone who disagrees with that popular decision. Totalitarian regimes have no functional factions, because those who would disagree with the government are simply oppressed. On the other hand, if mobs rule, we are oppressed by majorities. Madison, argued that such is just another form of tyranny. He also argued for a third way, he believed that one of the virtues of the Constitution is that the federal government would be so limited in power, these type of battles should be fought in the states. If people were truly passionate about a certain issue, they could move their battle to a state that reflected their values. With a strict republic based on rule by law and limits on the federal governments, individuals would be able to enjoy a high level of freedom on a state and local level. This would not only make our nation more prosperous and financially sound, but also free. It is one more case for restoring the much neglected Tenth Amendment of the Constitution.

© Kevin Price


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Kevin Price

Kevin Price is Publisher and Editor in Chief of

His background is eclectic and includes years of experience in both business and public policy, as well as two decades of experience in broadcast journalism. He was an aide to U.S. Senator Gordon Humphrey (R-NH) and later went on to work in policy areas with some of the nation's leading think tanks including the National Center for Public Policy Research and was part of the Heritage Foundation's Annual Guide to Public Policy Experts... (more)


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