Influenced by Republicanism, but not a True Republ Essay

This essay has a total of 2200 words and 10 pages.

Influenced by Republicanism, but not a True Republican

Dan Blazo
MC 271, Section 1
23 March 2005

Influenced by Republicanism, but not a True Republican

The philosophy of a republican form of government was certainly not a creation of James
Madison and the Federalists. The idea of such a government has been around since the
beginning of political philosophy. While the definition has changed over the centuries,
certain constants continue to define a strictly republican regime. The goals and
priorities of a republic are distinct yet dissimilar from those of James Madison's
philosophy. Generally, a republican government is defined as one which idealizes the
public interests as the highest good and imposes a duty on each citizen to work toward the
public interests before individual ones. Due to the influence of natural rights
philosophers, Madison's ideas are not strictly republican despite the fact that he
considers them to be so.

Not long before Madison, a French philosopher named Montesquieu wrote several works about
classical republicanism. One major claim he stood by was the age-old idea that "political
virtue means self-renunciation". In other words, the goal of politics is for individuals
to devalue selfish interests and instead work to achieve the interests of the entire
community. Montesquieu believed that a just government should ensure the interests of the
public and pay little attention to the concerns of the individual. This type of virtue is
similar to that of ancient philosophers Plato and Aristotle. While Madison strays from the
goals of Montesquieu's government, he adopts many of his ideas involving the creation of a
just government that protects the public.

Montesquieu's emphasis on the separation of government into three divisions is an idea
that Madison adapted in the Constitution. In the "republican" government, checks and
balances are necessary to keep the government working for the people instead of the
reverse. The wisest of men are to represent the people's interests and understand these
interests to be those of the community as a whole. Madison may have adopted the separation
of powers idea from philosophers such as Montesquieu and Locke, but there are several more
prerequisites required to compose a truly republican government.

While the Anti-Federalists were not classical republicans either, they did make some valid
arguments as to why the beliefs of the Federalists were not consistently republican. A
core belief of the Anti-Federalists was the ideal of a small community whose
representatives were directly involved with the people. This strong sense of community was
believed to unite the people in common interests and therefore renunciate individuality.
In this setting, the government would continue to serve the people and uphold the
republican virtues. Politicians would face great responsibility and obligation to serve
because they were to represent their respective communities. Madison's union would deny
the sovereignty of states and further remove the government from peoples' lives.
Therefore, politicians would have fewer obligations to serve the people and the people
would have less of a relationship with their government.

In Federalist 10, Madison explains the apparent advantages of integrating many small
factions and their influences on government. As the argument goes, having many factions
will reduce the probability of the formation of a majority faction that could oppress
minorities. Madison explains this when he writes, "Extend the sphere, and you take in a
greater variety of parties and interests; you make it less probable that a majority of the
whole will have a common motive to invade the rights of other citizens" (Madison 10).
Anti-Federalists believed that a smaller homogenous community could accomplish more and
better serve the public good. Brutus explains this when he writes:

"In a republic, the manners, sentiments, and interests of the people should be similar. If
this be not the case, there will be a constant clashing of opinions and the
representatives of one part will be constantly striving against those of the other. This
will retard the operation of government and prevent such conclusions as will promote the
public good" (13)

The diversity of factions which Madison praises and encourages is anti-republican because
it discourages an involved, familiar government which is the basis for civic virtue. A
citizen will not feel the obligation to achieve the common goals of his republic if the
republic itself contains all types of people with various interests. Anti-Federalists
believed that increasing the size of the republic to the entire union would take away
individual liberties and the right to govern oneself because the factions of other states
have equal power in governing one's own state (in national government, which was to be far
more powerful than state governments). Also, the Anti-Federalist Brutus claims that
"people will not be likely to have confidence in their rulers" in such a large state where
politicians are strangers to most of their electorate (Brutus 7).

A reoccurring theme in Madison's writings is the distrust of mankind. In Federalist 10,
Madison claims that self love is "sown into the nature of man" and in 51 he concludes that
the necessity for government comes from the simple fact that not all men are "angels". In
other words, the duty of government is to protect its citizens from each other. This
distrust in human nature is an idea that can be traced back to Machiavelli. In fact,
Madison seems to be paying close attention to Machiavelli's passage in his work on
republics which states, "Whoever desires to found a state and give it laws, must start
with assuming that all men are bad and ever ready to display their vicious nature,
whenever they may find occasion for it" (Machiavelli 291). Machiavelli broke away from
classical political philosophy with his bold claims about the faults of human nature.
While he preferred republican governments, his alterations to classical republicanism end
up creating a new type of government altogether.

Madison, like Montesquieu, despised despotism and sought to avoid it at high costs. In
order to avoid such tyranny, Madison believed that a union of the states would make it
very difficult for a person or faction to gain the power required for tyranny. By pulling
government further away from the people and losing the sense of community, the interests
of individuals become the first priority in the society. While it is foreseeable that the
interests will balance each other out, the virtues of a republic are no longer sought.
This is because the individual liberties are not allowed to be temporarily restricted even
when the public good demands it. Even the Anti-Federalists are undemocratic in this sense
because their proposed Bill of Rights allows even more individual liberties to stand
unrestricted. Madison might argue that the public good is dependant on the civil liberties
of citizens because the natural rights of men are more important than the advancement of

A government that promotes such a free society will surely result in inequalities among
the people. John Locke and James Madison see the attainment of property as a natural right
and economic inequality as natural and acceptable. A classical republican, however,
understands great disparity in property to be disadvantageous to civic virtue because it
greatly divides the state into groups with varying interests. As Montesquieu wrote, "In
the state of nature...all men are born equal, but they cannot continue in this equality.
Society makes them lose it, and they recover it only by the protection of the law"
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