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Were The Federalists Democratic? Essay

1256 words - 5 pages

Were the Federalists Democratic?

The idea of democracy is both vague and is often over-simplified to mean "majority rules". In theory, such a notion sounds both just and efficient. However, in practice, the concept of "majority rules" is much more complex and often difficult to implement. Modern-day versions of democracy, such as the one utilized in the United States, simply guarantees a person's right to voice his or her opinion in all matters involving the public. American democracy merely provides a forum for the expression of such viewpoints; it does not guarantee the ability of any individual to bring about change. The Federalists, who were greatly responsible for the ratification of the beloved Constitution of the United States, recognized the impracticality of Jefferson's town-hall democracy and simple "majority rules" and settled on a type of government which could merely guarantee an individual's right to representation. In some regards, the Federalists were pragmatic democrats-supporters of democracy who recognized the shortcomings of the voting public while at the same time suggested certain instruments to protect John Q. Public. The Federalists were opposite of idealists; they were realists. And it is this realism that is directly responsible for the success of democracy within the United States.
Democracy, the ideal, is held dear by most Americans. "What Americans would not do…for the vindication of a fundamental first principle: the right of the people to determine their own future," comments Albert R. Papa in his article "The Allure of Civics Book Democracy". While nearly all Americans recognize the benefits of a democratic nation, the Federalists maintain that often times, minority and majority "factions" of society act contrary to the good of the whole. Madison, a staunch Federalist, defines a faction in The Federalist Papers No. 10 as "a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or minority 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." While Madison maintains that factions, by definition, are detrimental to the good of the whole, he does recognize their right to exist. What could be more democratic than allowing all groups to assemble, even those which violate public good? Never does Madison suggest restricting the rights of such groups; "Liberty is to faction, what air is to fire, an aliment without which it instantly expires. But it could be a 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" writes Madison. The pragmatic nature of Madison realizes the corrosive function of "factions" and he explains within his writings why such entities will not pose...

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