Federalist Papers

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The Federalist Papers are a series of papers authored by James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay from October 1787 to May 1788, immediately prior to the French Revolution. They are often examined to determine the original intent of the founding fathers in drafting the U.S. Constitution, and in particular the intended model of the U.S. government when it comes to direct democracy and republics. The claim is commonly made that the founders opposed direct democracy as a "tyranny of the majority" or "mob rule" but as discussed at Democracy, such an interpretation is flawed and inaccurate.

Tyranny of the Majority / Mob Rule[edit]

See also Democracy

Several of the founders refer to a "tyranny of the majority" or "mob rule" in the Federalist Papers or other early writings. However, this is in the context of their concern over the chaos occurring in Europe; specifically the uprisings which would lead to the French Revolution (1787-1788), where an angry mob of people was rampaging across France, killing all members of the aristocracy. For years, the aggrieved commoners would hunt down and publicly execute thousands of the French nobility via guillotine.

This was not a critique of voting booth democracy but literal 'mob rule' where people, losing all capacity for reason through 'crowd psychology' give way to their baser instincts in a state of "tyranny and anarchy."[2]

Alternative: Tyranny of the Minority[edit]

The alternative, tyranny of the minority, has always proven a greater, more consistent threat to freedom than a tyranny of the majority. There are numerous cases which could be given of a few elite authoritarian leaders ordering horrific atrocities whereas one would be hard pressed to identify cases where such evils have been perpetrated by large groups of people making democratic decisions. As pointed out recently by Neil Gorsuch, the alternative of a 'tyranny of a few' is far less preferable and not what the founders envisioned:

Sources[edit]

  1. Congress.gov (n.d.). "About the Federalist Papers." USA.gov.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Hamilton, A. (1787, November 20). "The Federalist Papers No. 9: The Union as a Safeguard Against Domestic Faction and Insurrection." Congress.gov.
  3. Madison, J. (1787, November 23). "The Federalist Papers No. 10: The Same Subject Continued: The Union as a Safeguard Against Domestic Faction and Insurrection." Congress.gov.
  4. Hamilton, A. (1787, November 20). "The Consequences of Hostilities Between the States." Congress.gov.
  5. Hamilton, A. or Madison, J. (1788, February 26). "The Federalist Papers No. 63: The Senate Continued." Congress.gov.
  6. Hamilton, A. or Madison, J. (1788 February 15). "The Total Number of the House of Representatives." Congress.gov.
  7. De Vogue, A. (2019, September 10). "'Do You Really Want Me to Rule the Country?': Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court's Right Turn and Racing Mascots in the Halls." CNN Politics.