Appendix B – Factionalism and  Federalist Papers No. 10

This appendix is a supporting page for Reaction to John Broderick’s “Make no mistake. America is broken.

I have parsed sections of James Madison’s discussion of factionalism from The Federalist Papers No. 10.  Why study a document that’s 235 years old? Because the US circa 2022  is deeply impacted by factions. Madison and others had the foresight to see this problem. This is why the United States today is a republic; not a pure democracy.

Madison’s writing is worthy of close study. It is difficult to read. I calculated the Flesch Reading Ease Scores[22]  for each passage I examined. These passages range from “fairly difficult to read” up to “extremely difficult to read” So, I made my own outline of key passages and will summarize them. Of course, I likely have errors in my thinking; this is just my best attempt to distill a complex paper into plain English.

Here’s a skeleton outline of Federalist 10: 

  • What is a faction?
  • What methods can reduce the problems of faction?
  • Method 1: Removing the cause of faction doesn’t work
  • Method 2: Controlling the effect of a  faction
  • Method 2a: Controlling the effect of a minority faction
  • The impact of a majority  faction on a minority
  • How to control the effects of a majority faction?
  • Pure democracy won’t solve the problem of majority factions
  • Method 2b: Controlling the effect of a majority  faction
  • What are the differences between a democracy and a republic?
  • How does delegation of the government reduce factionalism?
  • How does a large republic reduce majority factionalism?
  • The ability of a Republic to defeat the excesses of factions 

I want to expand each of these bullets into my interpretation of what Madison wrote. His logic is wonderful. His writing is a bit challenging for me but well worth the effort. 10 January 2022

What is a faction?

 “By a faction, I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or a minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adversed to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.”[23]
Flesch Reading Ease Score 5.6   (Extremely  Difficult to Read)

What methods can reduce the problems of faction?

 “There are two methods of curing the mischiefs of faction: the one, by removing its causes; the other, by controlling its effects.”[23]
Flesch Reading Ease Score 57.6   (Fairly Difficult to Read)

Method 1: Removing the cause of faction doesn’t work

“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.

It could never be more truly said than of the first remedy, that it was worse than the disease. Liberty is to faction what air is to fire, an aliment without which it instantly expires. But it could not be less folly to abolish liberty, which is essential to political life, because it nourishes faction, than it would be to wish the annihilation of air, which is essential to animal life, because it imparts to fire its destructive agency.

The second expedient is as impracticable as the first would be unwise.

….

Method 2: Controlling the effect of a  faction

The inference to which we are brought is, that the CAUSES of faction cannot be removed, and that relief is only to be sought in the means of controlling its EFFECTS.”[23]
Flesch Reading Ease Score 53.3   (Fairly Difficult to Read)

Method 2a: Controlling the effect of a minority faction

“If a faction consists of less than a majority, relief is supplied by the republican principle, which enables the majority to defeat its sinister views by regular vote. It may clog the administration, it may convulse the society; but it will be unable to execute and mask its violence under the forms of the Constitution.”[23]
Flesch Reading Ease Score 32.8   (Difficult to Read)

The impact of a majority  faction on a minority

“When a majority is included in a faction, the form of popular government, on the other hand, enables it to sacrifice to its ruling passion or interest both the public good and the rights of other citizens. To secure the public good and private rights against the danger of such a faction, and at the same time to preserve the spirit and the form of popular government, is then the great object to which our inquiries are directed.”[23]
Flesch Reading Ease Score 39.2  (Difficult to Read)

How to control the effects of a majority faction?

“By what means is this object attainable? Evidently by one of two only. Either the existence of the same passion or interest in a majority at the same time must be prevented, or the majority, having such coexistent passion or interest, must be rendered, by their number and local situation, unable to concert and carry into effect schemes of oppression. If the impulse and the opportunity be suffered to coincide, we well know that neither moral nor religious motives can be relied on as an adequate control. They are not found to be such on the injustice and violence of individuals, and lose their efficacy in proportion to the number combined together, that is, in proportion as their efficacy becomes needful.”[23]
Flesch Reading Ease Score 38.9  (Difficult to Read)

Pure democracy won’t solve the problem of majority factions

“From this view of the subject it may be concluded that a pure democracy, by which I mean a society consisting of a small number of citizens, who assemble and administer the government in person, can admit of no cure for the mischiefs of faction. A common passion or interest will, in almost every case, be felt by a majority of the whole; a communication and concert result from the form of government itself; and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party or an obnoxious individual. Hence it is that such democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; 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. Theoretic politicians, who have patronized this species of government, have erroneously supposed that by reducing mankind to a perfect equality in their political rights, they would, at the same time, be perfectly equalized and assimilated in their possessions, their opinions, and their passions.”[23] 
Flesch Reading Ease Score 20.6  (Very  Difficult to Read)

Method 2b: Controlling the effect of a majority  faction

“A republic, by which I mean a government in which the scheme of representation takes place, opens a different prospect, and promises the cure for which we are seeking. Let us examine the points in which it varies from pure democracy, and we shall comprehend both the nature of the cure and the efficacy which it must derive from the Union.”[23]
Flesch Reading Ease Score 51.1  (Fairly  Difficult to Read)

What are the differences between a democracy and a republic?

“The two great points of difference between a democracy and a republic are: first, the delegation of the government, in the latter, to a small number of citizens elected by the rest; secondly, the greater number of citizens, and greater sphere of country, over which the latter may be extended.”[23]
Flesch Reading Ease Score 19.0  (Very Difficult to Read)

How does delegation of the government reduce factionalism?

“The effect of the first difference is, on the one hand, to refine and enlarge the public views, by passing them through the medium of a chosen body of citizens, whose wisdom may best discern the true interest of their country, and whose patriotism and love of justice will be least likely to sacrifice it to temporary or partial considerations. Under such a regulation, it may well happen that the public voice, pronounced by the representatives of the people, will be more consonant to the public good than if pronounced by the people themselves, convened for the purpose. On the other hand, the effect may be inverted. Men of factious tempers, of local prejudices, or of sinister designs, may, by intrigue, by corruption, or by other means, first obtain the suffrages, and then betray the interests, of the people.”[23]
Flesch Reading Ease Score 37.7  (Difficult to Read)

“In the first place, it is to be remarked that, however small the republic may be, the representatives must be raised to a certain number, in order to guard against the cabals of a few; and that, however large it may be, they must be limited to a certain number, in order to guard against the confusion of a multitude. Hence, the number of representatives in the two cases not being in proportion to that of the two constituents, and being proportionally greater in the small republic, it follows that, if the proportion of fit characters be not less in the large than in the small republic, the former will present a greater option, and consequently a greater probability of a fit choice.

How does a large republic reduce majority factionalism?

In the next place, as each representative will be chosen by a greater number of citizens in the large than in the small republic, it will be more difficult for unworthy candidates to practice with success the vicious arts by which elections are too often carried; and the suffrages of the people being more free, will be more likely to centre in men who possess the most attractive merit and the most diffusive and established characters.”[23]
Flesch Reading Ease Score 7.7  (Extremely Difficult to Read)

….

“Hence, it clearly appears, that the same advantage which a republic has over a democracy, in controlling the effects of faction, is enjoyed by a large over a small republic,–is enjoyed by the Union over the States composing it. Does the advantage consist in the substitution of representatives whose enlightened views and virtuous sentiments render them superior to local prejudices and schemes of injustice? It will not be denied that the representation of the Union will be most likely to possess these requisite endowments. Does it consist in the greater security afforded by a greater variety of parties, against the event of any one party being able to outnumber and oppress the rest? In an equal degree does the increased variety of parties comprised within the Union, increase this security. Does it, in fine, consist in the greater obstacles opposed to the concert and accomplishment of the secret wishes of an unjust and interested majority? Here, again, the extent of the Union gives it the most palpable advantage.”[23]
Flesch Reading Ease Score 35.4 (Difficult to Read)

The ability of a Republic to defeat the excesses of factions 

“The influence of factious leaders may kindle a flame within their particular States, but will be unable to spread a general conflagration through the other States. A religious sect may degenerate into a political faction in a part of the Confederacy; but the variety of sects dispersed over the entire face of it must secure the national councils against any danger from that source. A rage for paper money, for an abolition of debts, for an equal division of property, or for any other improper or wicked project, will be less apt to pervade the whole body of the Union than a particular member of it; in the same proportion as such a malady is more likely to taint a particular county or district, than an entire State.

In the extent and proper structure of the Union, therefore, we behold a republican remedy for the diseases most incident to republican government. And according to the degree of pleasure and pride we feel in being republicans, ought to be our zeal in cherishing the spirit and supporting the character of Federalists.”[23]
Flesch Reading Ease Score 29,8 (Very Difficult to Read)

Sources and Notes

[23] Madison, James. The Union as a Safeguard Against Domestic Faction and Insurrection, The Federalist Papers : No. 10. New York Packet. Friday, November 23, 1787.
Text from The Avalon Project, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale University.
https://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/fed10.asp accessed 8 January 2022

[22] Flesch Reading Ease Score description: 

“Most times, a readability score helps you know how easy it is to read content or passage. It helps you know the educational level that one has to be in to read a text without a hassle.

The Flesch reading ease score indicates the understandability of a passage with a number that ranges from 0 to 100. It shows how difficult it is to understand the content. The higher scores mean that the content is easy to read and understand.”

The formula for Flesch reading ease score is:

206.835 – 1.015 × (total words ÷ total sentences) – 84.6 × (total syllables ÷ total words)

Interpreted Flesch reading ease scores:

ScoreGradeSummary
90 – 1005th gradeVery easy to read
80 – 906th gradeEasy to read
70 – 807th gradeFairly easy to read
60 – 708th & 9th gradePlain English
50 – 6010th to 12th gradeFairly difficult to read.
30 – 50CollegeDifficult to read.
10 – 30College graduateVery difficult to read
0 – 10ProfessionalExtremely difficult to read

Source: Flesch Reading Ease Score – Reading and Grade Level Calculator, 

https://charactercalculator.com/flesch-reading-ease/ accessed 7 January 2022

3 thoughts on “Appendix B – Factionalism and  Federalist Papers No. 10

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