The Federalist Papers Reader and Historical Documents of Our American Heritage

By Frederick Quinn | Go to book overview

No. 51
The Same Subject Continued with the Same View and Concluded

Like Federalist No. 10, Federalist No. 51 contains some of Madison's most carefully wrought observations about human society and its governance. For Madison, the key to securing stable government and protecting civic rights comes in balancing "the multiplicity of interests" contained in a diverse society.

The concentration of power in any single place can be avoided through the Constitution, and "ambition must be made to counteract ambition. The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place. It may be a reflection on human nature that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government." He then writes, "But what is government itself but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary." He continues, "You must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself." That is the problem of democratic governance stated in its most reduced form.

Madison calls the American experiment a "compound republic," in which the people surrender power to two distinct governments, after which power is further "subdivided among distinct and separate departments. Hence a double security arises to the rights of the people. The different governments will control each other, at the same time that each will be controlled by itself." Not only must the society be protected against the oppression of its rulers, but one part of the society must be safeguarded "against the injustice of the other part." He states, "Justice is the end of

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