James Madison and the Future of Limited Government

By John Samples | Go to book overview
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6.
Madison and Multiculturalism:
Group Representation, Group Rights,
and Constitutionalism
Tom G. Palmer
There is no doubt that James Madison envisioned a republic that encompassed many different interests. At least three questions present themselves:
1. Did Madison envision a “multicultural” republic?
2. Are contemporary advocates of various forms of group rights or group representation, often presented under the banner of “multiculturalism,” advancing the Madisonian project, or undermining it?
3. Are group-differentiated rights a necessary and proper element of a constitutional order ordained and established to “form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and to our Posterity”?

Madisonian Pluralism and the Common Good

Madison openly embraced a pluralistic constitutional order. Indeed, he believed such diversity was essential to maintain liberty. Madison's commitment to diversity in an extended republic directly contradicted the then widely held “small republic” theory forwarded by Montesquieu, who had famously declared,

It is in the nature of a republic to have only a small territory; otherwise, it can scarcely continue to exist. In a large republic, there are large fortunes, and consequently little moderation in spirits: the depositories are too large to put in the hands of a citizen; interests become particularized; at first a man feels he can be happy, great, and glorious without his homeland; and soon, that he can be great only on the ruins of his homeland.

-71-

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