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are questions which would be differently decided by the landed and the manufacturing classes, and probably by neither with a sole regard to justice and the public good.The apportionment of taxes on the various descriptions of property is an act which seems to require the most exact impartiality; yet there is, perhaps, no legislative act in which greater opportunity and temptation are given to a predominant party to trample on the rules of justice.Liberty is to faction what air is to fire, an aliment without which it instantly expires.
Written by James Madison, this essay defended the form of republican government proposed by the Constitution. He countered that it was exactly the great number of factions and diversity that would avoid tyranny.
Critics of the Constitution argued that the proposed federal government was too large and would be unresponsive to the people. Groups would be forced to negotiate and compromise among themselves, arriving at solutions that would respect the rights of minorities.
By a faction, I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or a minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adversed to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.
There are two methods of curing the mischiefs of faction: the one, by removing its causes; the other, by controlling its effects.
Complaints are everywhere heard from our most considerate and virtuous citizens, equally the friends of public and private faith, and of public and personal liberty, that our governments are too unstable, that the public good is disregarded in the conflicts of rival parties, and that measures are too often decided, not according to the rules of justice and the rights of the minor party, but by the superior force of an interested and overbearing majority.
However anxiously we may wish that these complaints had no foundation, the evidence, of known facts will not permit us to deny that they are in some degree true.
The latent causes of faction are thus sown in the nature of man; and we see them everywhere brought into different degrees of activity, according to the different circumstances of civil society.
A zeal for different opinions concerning religion, concerning government, and many other points, as well of speculation as of practice; an attachment to different leaders ambitiously contending for pre-eminence and power; or to persons of other descriptions whose fortunes have been interesting to the human passions, have, in turn, divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to co-operate for their common good.
And what are the different classes of legislators but advocates and parties to the causes which they determine? It is a question to which the creditors are parties on one side and the debtors on the other. Yet the parties are, and must be, themselves the judges; and the most numerous party, or, in other words, the most powerful faction must be expected to prevail.
Shall domestic manufactures be encouraged, and in what degree, by restrictions on foreign manufactures?