Constructing the Constitutional Canon: The Metonymic Evolution of Federalist 10
Bartrum, Ian, Constitutional Commentary
What is the connection between what I have called languages, functions from strings of sounds or marks to sets of possible worlds, semantic systems discussed in complete abstraction from human affairs, and what I have called language, a form of rational, convention-governed human social activity?
David Lewis (1)
David Lewis's question about the connection between "semantics" and "language-as-practiced" is, I think, analogous to the question at the center of this discussion, which is: how are we to understand the connection between constitutional text and constitutional meaning? (2) Recent and important work by Keith Whittington and Lawrence Solum approached this question by positing a fundamental distinction between the processes of "interpretation" and "construction" in our legal practices. (3) Put in these terms, the question resounds with echoes of a much older structural debate about the role of the judiciary in constitutional government, and seems to hint that such a distinction, if real, might help us identify the boundaries of legitimate judging. As a dedicated puzzle-solver within Philip Bobbitt's modal paradigm of constitutional theory and discourse, (4) however, I cannot take the hint as offered because I do not believe that the legitimacy of a constitutional practice rests upon externally imposed foundational or normative theories--theories that seem to suggest that there could be one correct kind of connection between Lewis's categories of "languages" and "language." Instead, I believe that legitimacy in constitutional practice arises when we follow certain organic, internally generated argumentative rules closely enough that other practitioners can recognize and comprehend--if not always endorse--our assertions of constitutional meaning. This is not to say that I am insensitive to the attractions--the allure of objectivity and constraint--that normative theories present. Nor do I doubt that the interpretation-construction distinction can be an important part of a precise species of historical arguments about constitutional meaning in a limited class of cases. The point, rather, is that I do not believe that, in general, these kinds of objectivity and precision are definitive or limiting features of our argumentative practices--those social processes by which we currently decide upon constitutional meanings. But, I hasten to add, I do not accept that this final assertion relegates me to the margins of contemporary theory, where I might commiserate with the legal realists about the vagaries of an unconstrained judiciary. To explain why, I must begin by briefly outlining the Wittgensteinian underpinnings of Bobbitt's modal theory.
One of Ludwig Wittgenstein's fundamental purposes in the Philosophical Investigations was to reject the search for a unified account of language's internal logic, which had occupied the bulk of his only published work: the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. (5) Rather, the later Wittgenstein suggested that language is not one activity, but a variety of different kinds of activities, each with different rules and purposes. (6) Across the spectrum of these myriad "language-games," the same word often serves a variety of different--though related--functions, each specific to the particular "game" within which it is employed. From this it follows that a word's meaning often does not derive from some foundational referent in the world, but, rather, is determined by the use to which it is properly put within a particular language-game. (8) The properly part is critical, for it precludes the impossible suggestion that a word can mean whatever we want to use it to mean, and, instead, grounds the generalized claim that "the meaning of a word is its use" in a more specific account of what it is to understand and follow the rules of a language-game. (9) Without getting too deeply into Wittgenstein's complex and controverted theory of how we identify, understand, and follow these rules, it is essential to remember that obeying a rule is also a social practice and "[h]ence it is not possible to obey a rule privately." (10) We can only know that we have successfully followed a rule--that we know how to use a word and thus what it means--when our usage is understood, or "ratified," by another participant in the particular language-game. (11) But, as elements of a practice, the rules themselves will evolve as contexts and purposes change, and as individual participants leave their impact on the game. It is in something like this way that meanings change over time. (12)
Bobbitt's modal theory thoughtfully applies some of these insights about the nature of language to the contextualized social practice that concerns us here: constitutional law. He has suggested that we should understand the Constitution itself as analogous to a Wittgensteinian language-game--complete with its own internal rules or grammar--and thus the legitimacy of a constitutional assertion depends upon its grounding in the proper forms of argument and usage. (13) For Bobbitt, six such argumentative forms or modalities--textual, historical, structural, doctrinal, prudential, and ethical--make up the constitutional grammar. (14) To be clear, an assertion of constitutional meaning rooted in one or more of these modalities is legitimate, but not necessarily dispositive. It is up to the courts, the decision-makers in our practice, to choose among competing assertions at any given moment in time. And even a judicial decision may be only an impermanent resolution of constitutional meaning. After all, an ill-fitting decision--like an inapt word or metaphor in any language-game--may protrude, exposed, into the unforgiving flow of practice, and, if not formally revisited, simply wear away over time." On the contrary, other assertions of meaning--some judicially recognized, and some not--may settle so comfortably into our practice that they become seemingly imperturbable bulwarks of the growing constitutional edifice. And so, in this way, I suggest that we are all, as participants in the constitutional conversation, constantly constructing constitutional meaning--even when we are simply "interpreting" the text. But our construction is not unconstrained in a coarse realist sense. Instead, we are guided ex ante by the rules of constitutional grammar, and we are answerable ex post to a faceless and proletarian norm-giver: the practice. (16)
From this perspective, I think we must reorient the discussion of interpretation and construction so that we no longer view the distinction linearly, as if it separated an initial analytic or foundational kind of inquiry (interpretation) from a subsequent synthetic or derivational kind of activity (construction). Instead, we should treat both activities--if we assume that they are, in fact, distinct in some interesting way--as interrelated and interdependent aspects of an ongoing effort to overcome the fundamental and inherently problematic relationship between linguistic vagueness and the law. (17) More importantly, I do not believe either activity can actually reveal something a priori or foundational. Professor Solum's sophisticated argument notwithstanding, in most cases I do not think that an assertion's "semantic content" can be understood in terms of "linguistic facts"; (18) rather, meaning arises when both a speaker and a hearer identify and follow the applicable language conventions--which are, in turn, constructed through conversation over time. And so, in constitutional discourse, I think it is more accurate to say that today's "constructions" (and their assimilation over time) will necessarily reshape and reconstitute the conventions--the Wittgensteinian rules--that govern tomorrow's "interpretation." (19) This means that the words alone are often not resource enough to ground a definitive act of interpretation; we must also know a great deal about the constructed conventional context in which they were written if we hope to give an authentic account of speaker's intent. (20) And, once we are beyond the words themselves, it seems to me that we are taking the first few steps across the border between interpretation and construction. (21) In this sense, then, a meaningful act of interpretation is, itself, constructive in ways that tend to undermine the distinction's utility as a constraint on judges (although, again, the distinction may highlight other interesting features of adjudication).
I suppose that interpretation-construction proponents might argue that we do not need a fully determinative theory of original textual meaning to make the distinction a useful part of an originalist theory of constitutional meaning--and they could be right. In other words, as long as we can roughly agree on what competent speakers understood constitutional language to mean at the time it was ratified, then we have something relatively foundational on which to construct the legal rules applicable to modern controversies. (In Bobbitt's terms, we might use historical argument to ground our doctrinalism). The larger point, however, is that our constitutional practices are analogous enough to our language practices that the same contextual variables which complicate theories of textual "interpretation" also complicate (perhaps to an even greater extent) the argumentative practices through which we "construct" legal rules. To be competent, or at least understood, within the practice, we must embed our assertions of constitutional meaning within the argumentative context that we inherit and inhabit--and original intentions are only one part of that larger context. And so, unfortunately, I think something is lost from the project the interpretation-distinction was supposed to help make possible: it can only rarely help define the connection between constitutional text and constitutional meaning; for the most part, it just gives us more precise means of deriving a possible connection. Ultimately, then, the distinction itself-inasmuch as it helps make up an originalist theory--falls fairly squarely into the "construction" category. It is a tool we can use to help build the doctrine that (at least temporarily) bridges the gap between text and meaning. But it is just one of many that we might add to our practice and its norms--one which may or may not help to make up the context within which we understand future constitutional arguments or assertions.
All of this is perhaps a roundabout way of saying, in a Bobbitt-inspired accent, that constitutional text is not the only-nor often even a particularly helpful or determinative--source of constitutional meaning. On most occasions, indeed, in almost all the controversial cases, the text is barely even a starting point for a much broader argument in which we make assertions of history, structure, doctrine, prudence, and constitutional ethos. And it is this grammar, this evolving body of organically constructed rules and conventions, which establishes the boundaries of reasonable interpretation--not, as the interpretation-construction distinction seems to suggest, some set of foundational "facts" about speaker's meaning. Only in the most basic and uncontroversial cases, then, can we usefully describe the practice of connecting constitutional text with constitutional meaning as a two-step process, in which we establish an objective referent and then build out applicable legal rules. Rather, in the cases of most concern, we must both recognize and creatively employ the existing argumentative conventions to establish the boundaries of acceptable interpretation (this, itself, is constructive) and then make our assertions of constitutional meaning (construct legal rules) within the confines of the interpretive framework we have helped build. At every step along the way, then, making a successful assertion of constitutional meaning is much more an art than the science that the interpretation-construction distinction would suggest.
In the remainder of this Essay I hope to illustrate one particularly powerful way that we can--through our very acts of argument--exert evolutionary pressure on the conventions and grammar that define legitimate constitutional argument. By creatively using, and thus slightly redefining, certain "canonical" constitutional texts, we can give new contours to the conventional context that establishes the boundaries of reasonable interpretive choice. These texts, which seem to resound so powerfully in our constitutional ear that they have hardened into part of the fundamental law, itself, both shape and are shaped by legitimate constitutional argument. In this way, the canon is reminiscent of another of Wittgenstein's enduring aphorisms, in which he analogizes our knowledge of the world to a river and its banks:
It might be imagined that some propositions, of the form of empirical propositions, were hardened and functioned as channels for such empirical propositions as were not hardened but fluid; and that this relation altered with time, in that fluid propositions became hardened, and hard ones became fluid. (22)
Wittgenstein's metaphor is, I think, a very helpful way to visualize the relationship between the constitutional canon and constitutional practice. Canonical texts help to form the riverbanks through which our everyday arguments and practice must flow like water. But, while a competent constitutional practitioner must remain within the canonical riverbed when constructing modal arguments, she may in turn--through perhaps subtle alterations in usage--reshape the constitutional geology over time. (23) Importantly, this is not to suggest, as the realist might, that a canonical text can mean whatever one wants it to mean at any particular place and time. The practitioner still must use the text properly: she must follow the rules, and her usages must be understood and ratified within the relevant community, for her to make any legitimate assertion of constitutional meaning. The contention is rather that, as creative individual actors within a much larger creative practice, we can impact and grow the grammatical conventions governing constitutional argument over time, thus changing the ways that canonical texts are appropriately used and understood.
In the longer work from which this Essay derives, I explored, in depth, three examples of canonical (or anticanonical) evolution in our practice. (24) There I argued that canonical texts normally function as metonyms within the constitutional conversation: that is, we typically invoke them not to refer to their literal terms, but rather as shorthand for a larger set of associated ideas or principles. (25) This metonymic conception, I suggest, makes these texts particularly susceptible to the kinds of creative usage that may lead to evolutions in meaning over time. The three examples I chose to explore-Thomas Jefferson's Reply to the Danbury Baptists, Lochner v. New York, and the Declaration of Independence--were meant to illustrate three distinct kinds of metonymic evolution, each accomplished within a different sphere of constitutional discourse. Further, I tried to identify each text's "modal home," or the argumentative modality within which it most often and comfortably appears. Thus, Jefferson's letter derives from the historical modality, and is meant to illustrate a process of decanonization accomplished within the sphere of judging. Lochner, by contrast, emerges from doctrinal argument and exemplifies canonical refinement realized in the sphere of legal scholarship. The Declaration of Independence is at home in ethical argument and demonstrates canonical reformation within the sphere of constitutional politics.
In this Essay, I explore the argumentative use and evolution of a fourth canonical illustration, James Madison's Federalist 10. This text does not seem to fit quite as neatly into my earlier taxonomies, but this, perhaps, makes it all the more interesting as an example. I suggest that Federalist 10 has two modal homes in our practice--both in the historical and structural forms--and that at least part of its metonymic evolution has been to shift slightly from one home to another. As part of this process, the text has undergone two distinct phases of evolution, both occurring within the academic sphere of constitutional discourse. The first phase is one of canonization in the work of Charles Beard and his followers. (26) The second phase--that of canonical refinement--occurred in the second half of last century, beginning with the work of Douglass Adair and concluding with Larry Kramer's more recent revisions. (27) In what follows, I trace the broad contours of these evolutions in metonymic meaning through the academic discourse and conclude with a brief examination of the impacts these changes had on constitutional argument, as practiced in the courts. In so doing, I hope to illustrate one of the ways that, over time, our arguments themselves shape the grammatical context that, in turn, defines the limits of reasonable interpretation and argumentation.
HISTORY AND STRUCTURE: FEDERALIST 10 AND CANONICAL REFINEMENT
James Madison's Federalist 10 is likely among the first primary texts of constitutional theory the modern American high school student encounters, and, if her experience is anything like my own, it is presented as emblematic of the Founders' structural insight into the moderating virtues of a pluralistic democracy. Framed this way, the text has powerful metonymic resonance in two distinct modalities of constitutional argument. First, it is used the make the structural assertion that an extended republic governed by multiple overlapping sovereigns provides the best institutional protection against the destructive tendencies of political faction. Second, it is presented as evidence for the historical argument that the Framers and ratifiers endorsed this theory in the late 1780s, and that, wherever possible, we should endeavor to promote pluralism as an originalist constitutional maxim. But, in truth, Federalist 10 has not always stood resolutely for these principles in our practice--indeed, for over a hundred years, the text had virtually no place at all in the discourse--and its future viability, at least as a historical metonym, is now in some doubt. Thus, as with many other canonical texts, Federalist 10's meaning in constitutional argument continues to evolve, and, as it does, so do the boundaries of reasonable constitutional interpretation. I begin my description by attempting to locate Madison's essay in its original historical context.
The story of Federalist 10 begins in the late months of 1786, as Madison began to make preparations for the momentous convention to be held the following spring in Philadelphia. In the years following the British surrender at Yorktown, America's leading statesmen contemplated the evolving political situation in the states with growing alarm. (28) Their concerns were myriad, to be sure, but they fell into three general categories. First, there was a splintering of state political communities into increasingly strident groups or factions--at least partly the product of an empowering revolutionary ethos--which led to an explosion of conventioneering, and, in extreme cases, the kind of mobbery that would lead to outbreaks like Shays' Rebellion in western Massachusetts. (29) Second, and perhaps more troubling, were emerging abuses of the legislative power itself, as cabals in the state legislature (most notably Rhode Island) began to push through a smothering multitude of so-called "tender" and "paper money" laws intended to dilute the value of outstanding financial obligations. (30) Third, there was the problem of interstate rivalry, as the spirit of state power and independence threatened to bloom into the kind of protectionism that might strangle commerce and doom the new American economy to perpetual debt. (31) It was on the pretext of solving this final problem that delegates from Virginia and Maryland accepted George Washington's invitation to meet at Mt. Vernon in 1785, out of which caucus emerged an invitation to all thirteen states to send representatives to a larger convention in Annapolis in September of 1786. (32) When only five states showed up in Maryland, Alexander Hamilton--a staunch proponent of constitutional reform--seized the opportunity to propose a third convention the following spring in Philadelphia, (33) this time fully empowered "to devise such further provisions as shall appear to them necessary to render the constitution of the Federal Government adequate to the exigencies of the Union." (34)
Like Hamilton, Madison hoped to radically overhaul the Articles of Confederation, and he departed Annapolis determined to put together a comprehensive plan for constitutional reform. Earlier that year, with the aid of a "literary cargo" Thomas Jefferson had sent from Paris, he had begun an extensive study of previous attempts at republican government. (35) Leaving Annapolis, however, Madison abandoned his historical project--apparently satisfied that the destructive tendencies of political faction had crippled all earlier republican efforts--and undertook an introspective examination of the American system. (36) Somewhere in these investigations, most likely amidst the crates from France, it seems that he ran into the political musings of David Hume; in particular the Scotsman's suggestion that it might be possible to establish an extended republic over a large area. (37) This, for Madison, was a welcome--though perhaps startling--thought. The accepted wisdom, best expressed by Montesquieu, was that successful democratic governance was possible only over a small, relatively homogeneous republic; and this adage often formed the centerpiece of provincial objections to a strong centralized government. (38) For Madison, then, Hume's suggestion was a paradigm shift, and he gladly undertook an exploration of the possible political benefits an extended republic might present. (39)
Even during his intense study and preparation, Madison continued to work the political wheel in an effort to ensure the success of the upcoming convention. (40) In particular, he pressed Washington, whom he knew to be sympathetic to the reform effort, to both endorse and attend the meeting. (41) Madison well knew that the General's immense national prestige would lend badly needed credibility to the endeavor, and would likely assure the attendance of those states that had forgone the Annapolis meeting. (42) He also kept in constant communication with Jefferson in Paris, advising him of the developments leading up to Philadelphia. He sent his fellow Virginians at least twelve letters in late 1786 and 1787, and, as the anticipated convention drew near, he began to share glimpses of his emerging theory of faction in the extended republic. (43) On April 16, 1787--with Washington's endorsement safely promised--Madison revealed his recent thoughts to the General in arguing that the national government should have authority to veto all state laws:
[A] negative in all cases whatsoever on the legislative acts of the States ... appears to me to absolutely necessary, and to be the least possible encroachment on the State jurisdictions.... [A] happy effect of this prerogative would be its controul on the internal vicissitudes of State policy, and the aggressions of interested majorities on the rights of minorities and of individuals. (44)
Here is the germ of Madison's theoretical addition to Hume's thoughts: the peculiar advantage of an extended republic was the likelihood that an enlarged, and thus diversified, national legislature would temper the dangers of localized faction with the alloy of political pluralism.
Just a month before journeying to Philadelphia, Madison outlined a more complete version of his new theory in notes he prepared in anticipation of the convention. In the final section, entitled "Injustice of the Laws of the States," he further explained his counterintuitive notion:
If an enlargement of the [republican] sphere is found to lessen the insecurity of private rights, it is not because the impulse of common interest or passion is less predominant in this case with the majority; but because a common interest or passion is apt to be felt and the combinations less easy to be formed by a great than by a small number. The Society becomes broken into a greater variety of interests, of pursuits of passion, which check each other, whilst those who may feel a common sentiment have less opportunity of communication and concert. It may be inferred that the inconveniences of popular States contrary to the prevailing Theory, are in proportion not to the extent, but to the narrowness of their limits.... As a limited monarchy tempers the evils of an absolute one; so an extensive Republic meliorates the administration of a small Republic. (45)
It was in this way, then, that Madison believed he could turn one of the principal objections to a nationalized republic back against itself: rather than a great problem, enlarging the scope of democratic government was, in fact, a great solution. Through his studies, Madison came to believe that it was faction itself that presented the most fundamental threat to ordered liberty, and thus it was the control of faction that must be government's central purpose. (46) To this end, he began to put together a proposal that would radically restructure the central government in ways designed to implement his new theory of the extended republic, a proposal that Edmund Randolph would present in late May to the Philadelphia delegates as the Virginia Plan. (47)
While many of the delegates undoubtedly believed they were assembled solely to address the deficiencies of the existing national government, Madison had come to believe that it was equally important for the convention to devise a plan capable of protecting "republican liberty" from "the abuses of it practiced in some of the states." (48) This was precisely what he believed an extended republic could accomplish--self-interested minorities that might succeed in disrupting state government would be drowned in the relative ocean of national politics--and it was for this reason that he saw a national veto over all state laws as imperative. (49) Indeed, when Randolph and other delegates left the topic of state vicissitudes out of the early discussions, Madison rose to object and took the opportunity to give full voice to his new ideas. According to his own notes, he gave the following account of his recent thoughts:
[Roger Sherman] had admitted that in a very small State, faction & oppression wd. prevail. It was to be inferred then that wherever these prevailed the State was too small.... The only remedy is to enlarge the sphere, & thereby divide the community into so great a number of interests & parties, that in the 1st. place a majority will not be likely at the same moment to have a common interest separate from that of the whole or of the minority; and in the 2d. place, that in the case they shd. have such an interest, they may not be apt to unite in the pursuit of it. (50)
This speech marked the debut of Madison's new theory among his contemporary statesmen, and--as discussed below--it is not at all clear than anyone other than Hamilton fully understood it. (51) What is clear, however, is that the convention would eventually reject his call for an absolute national veto over state laws, which he saw as an essential mechanism of the faction-suppressing extended republic. (52) Even so, just four months later Madison would present a more complete version of his theory to the general public in the tenth essay of a series that would come to be known as The Federalist. (53)
The essay was first published in the New York Daily Advertiser on November 22 of 1787, and, though it was reprinted in two other New York papers--the New York Packet and the Independent Journal--over the next two days, Madison's commentary did not enjoy wide circulation. (54) Indeed, it appeared in just four other papers, only one outside of New York, over the course of the next year. (55) And it is perhaps telling that, on the same day that Federalist 10 was first published, another New York paper prominently featured Cincinattus IV, the fourth in a six part series of editorials directed against James Wilson's influential State House Yard Speech of October 6. (56) As Bernard Bailyn pointed out, it was Wilson's Philadelphia speech more than the Federalist that was "the most famous, to some the most notorious, federalist statement of the time," (57) and Cincinattus (likely Virginian Richard Henry Lee) was only one of several commentators to author widely publicized responses. (58) By comparison, the Federalist essays garnered relatively little attention--less than a third were originally published outside of New York--and, of those that were, Madison's tenth paper was not among the most widely reprinted. (59)
Even after ratification, when The Federalist, as a whole, began to settle into constitutional argument fairly quickly, Madison's essay on the enlarged republic was not among those that judges initially turned to for guidance on constitutional questions. (60) While several early Supreme Court justices (including, notably, John Marshall in McCulloch v. Maryland) lauded the papers as definitive accounts of constitutional meaning, (61) Federalist 10 itself did not make its first appearance in a federal appellate opinion until 1969, (62) and it would not turn up in a Supreme Court opinion until 1974. (63) Nor, perhaps more surprisingly, were early constitutional scholars particularly drawn to Madison's paper. Although many of the 19th century's most influential treatise writers--including William Rawle, (64) James Kent, (65) Joseph Story, (66) George Curtis, (67) and Thomas Cooley (68)--referenced The Federalist repeatedly, only Story gave any space or thought to Federalist 10. (69) In exploring the preamble's appeal to the cause of "domestic tranquility," Story devoted three short sections (roughly a page and a half of his nearly 780 page opus) to an almost verbatim transcription of Madison's thoughts on faction; although, in fact, he made no attribution or citation to Federalist 10 itself. (70) And the law journals, though not nearly as prevalent or important as treatises in the 19th century, tell a similar story: it appears that Federalist 10 did not make its first appearance in a scholarly article until 1926. (71) This, perhaps, helps to explain why Madison's primary antebellum biographers did not find the essay worthy of much note or attention. Neither John Quincy Adams nor William Rives devoted any significant discussion to the specific paper, though Rives did recognize and applaud Madison's innovative theory of the enlarged republic. (72) For the first century of American life, then, Federalist 10 had virtually no place at all in our ongoing arguments about constitutional meaning. That all changed, however, in 1913 with the publication of Charles Beard's An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States. (73)
Writing in the midst of Progressive battles with a recalcitrant Court, Beard hoped to "bring back into the mental picture of the Constitution those realistic features of economic conflict, stress, and strain, which my masters had, for some reason, left out of it." (74) Though certainly cognizant of the ideological implications of his work, Beard denied any underlying political motivations and claimed only a straightforward sense of historical curiosity: "In [my] stud[ies] I had occasion to read voluminous writings by the Fathers, and I was struck by the emphasis which so many of them placed upon economic interests as forces in politics and in the formulation of laws and constitutions." (75) And, in the course of those readings, his mind fastened particularly on Federalist 10 and Madison's thoughts on the Constitution's tendency to control faction. (76) Indeed, in Madison's long-forgotten essay, Beard found a "masterly statement of the theory of economic determinism in politics." (77) In his argument, Federalist 10 spoke primarily to the dangers of class struggle and was fundamental and compelling evidence--the proverbial smoking gun--of the Framers' devotion to propertied interests:
Different degrees and kinds of property inevitably exist in modern society; party doctrines and "principles" originate in the sentiments and views of which the possession of various kinds of property creates in the minds of its possessors; class and group divisions based on property lie at the basis of modern government; and politics and constitutional law are inevitably a reflex of these contending interests. Those who are inclined to repudiate the hypothesis of economic determinism as a European importation must, therefore, revise their views, on learning that one of the earliest, and certainly one of the clearest, statements of it came from a profound student of politics who sat in the Convention that framed our fundamental law. (78)
Beard went on to present Madison's essay as the paradigmatic expression of the economic interests underlying the entire constitutional endeavor. (79)
As a historical study, Beard's work generally suffers from what David Hackett Fischer has labeled the "furtive fallacy": the conviction that secret--or at least undeclared--motives lurk behind the decisions and events that populate the surface of the historical record. (80) Given his belief that the Framers rarely made their economic motivations an explicit part of ratification rhetoric, Beard seized on particular language in Federalist 10 identifying economic class as the "chief cause" of political faction--the primary evil the Constitution aimed to suppress. (81) He quoted Madison selectively--though not entirely unfairly--to this effect:
[T]he most common and most durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property. Those who hold and those who are without property have ever formed distinct interests in society. Those who are creditors, and those who are debtors, fall under a like discrimination. A landed interest, a manufacturing interest, a mercantile interest, a moneyed interest, with many lesser interests grow up of necessity in civilized nations, and divide them into different classes actuated by different sentiments and views. (82)
For Beard, Madison's essay expressly revealed the Framers' hope that an enlarged republic with a strong central government would better allow wealthier, propertied Americans to divide and conquer their economic inferiors. When in doubt, then, we should understand the constitutional text and structure as intended to protect wealth against coalesced class politics: "[The remedy] lies in making it difficult for enough contending interests to fuse into a majority, and in balancing one over against another. The machinery for doing this is created by the new Constitution and by the Union." (83) To Progressives, then, Beard's argument used Federalist 10 as a call to radically restructure the Constitution.
The book was immediately controversial and inspired vigorous criticism in high places. In the preface to his 1935 edition, Beard recalls his swift condemnation by "conservative Republicans, including ex-President Taft" and a summons to explain himself to the New York Bar Association, which he declined. (84) But he also had a devoted and influential following, and among scholars no one carried the torch more eagerly than Vernon Louis Parrington, whose three-volume Main Currents in American Thought (85)--which posited an enduring divide between Hamiltonian elitists and Jeffersonian republicans at the center of American political life--one scholar would later call the "Summa Theologica of Progressive history." (86) Parrington likened Beard's work to "a discovery that struck home like a submarine torpedo--the discovery that the drift toward