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Fear of Factions
Before the nation split into irreconcilable factions, James Madison used the very fear of factions to explain to the public the need for the new U.S. Constitution. “A ...

Fear of Factions

Before the nation split into irreconcilable factions, James Madison used the very fear of factions to explain to the public the need for the new U.S. Constitution.

“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,” James Madison began in an article published in the New York Packet on November 23, 1787.

The most famous documents emerging from the ratification debate are the Federalist Papers. Alexander Hamilton and John Jay, with the help of James Madison, wrote eighty-five essays showing the weaknesses of the Articles of the Confederation and arguing for a stronger national government through the new constitution. Madison’s Federalist Paper #10 emerged as one of the best tonics to soothe concerns and fears. Madison, perhaps reflecting on Daniel Shays’s rebellion, diagnosed the dangers of factions, the kind that break the back of a nation.

“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,” Madison wrote. He acknowledged that liberty gave rise to factions, but abolishing liberty was not the answer to this ailment. He argued that a republican form of government, a union of states, had the greatest ability to prevent the destructive fires caused by 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,” the doctor of the constitution reasoned. “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,” he went on.

Madison argued that improper or “wicked” projects “will be less apt to pervade the whole body of the Union than a particular member of it.” He assumed that such a malady, like a disease, is more likely to first taint a specific county than infect 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,” Madison wrote with the skill of a political surgeon.

Madison’s prescription for preserving liberty against factions was simple: Americans needed to unite behind the new constitution. His arguments and appeal worked. The federalists organized a solid campaign that resulted in the final ratification of the U.S. Constitution by the states. For his efforts, James Madison became known as the Father of the Constitution.


Lord, guard my heart and hands against anything that will lead to dissension and factions in my life or the lives of others.

“For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder”

(2 Corinthians 12:20).

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