Orientation and Getting Started
Early Development of the Legislative Branch and the Problem of Representation
Enumerated Powers of Congress
Implied, Expansive, and Limited Powers
The Two Congresses: Representation and Lawmaking
Separation of Powers and Interaction between the Branches
Institutional Development and Change
Congress and the American People

The Madisonian Model

In addition to serving as an elected representative, a statesman, a Founding Father, a Secretary of State, and President of the United States, Madison was also the nation’s first political scientist. Although the ostensible purpose of the Federalist Papers was to convince the states to ratify the Constitution by explaining the roles and functions of the new government, they also contain theoretical arguments about the nature of government. The Madisonian Model is a theory of how government should work in a large republic. To recap our lesson from Module 1, the “great object” of the Constitution was “To secure the public good, and private rights, against the danger of such a faction [majority faction], and at the same time to preserve the spirit and the form of popular government…” (Federalist, No. 10) It is important to emphasize that Madison was not opposed to majorities in principle, he was opposed to majority factions—majorities that were “tyrannical,” “overbearing,” and “unjust.” The challenge to the framers was to create a government that relied on the “republican principle,” one that allowed the majority to rule without trampling on the rights of the minority or undermining the public interest.

The answer for Madison was a large republic that would produce natural and social checks on majority tyranny. The Madisonian Model begins with the premise that a republic is better than a pure democracy, which resorts to “common passions” and “can admit no cure for the mischiefs of faction.” And, a large republic is better than a small republic. Since factions are “sown in the nature of man” they cannot be removed without undermining liberty; thus the answer is to “control the effects” of factions. The best way to control the effects of majority faction is to let factions flourish by enlarging the republic: “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…” (Federalist, No. 10)  

The “Just Majority”

 The Madisonian Model of majority formation can be portrayed in a series of relationships that begin with an extended republic and end with just policy outcomes.  

  1. Territorial Extensiveness leads to proliferation of diverse factions
  2. Diversity leads to delay in building majorities
  3. Delay leads to deliberation over policy issues
  4. Deliberation leads to filtering of interests
  5. Filtering leads to justice.

The extended republic provides natural and social checks which, together with the governmental checks—bicameralism, separation of powers, checks and balances, and federalism—will prevent tyrannical majorities and lead to just policies. Diverse factions pressing their interests on Congress will delay the legislative process; delay will lead representatives to deliberate over issues; through deliberation representatives will filter through the arguments of competing interests; and this filtering will lead to a just majority. According to Madison: “Justice ought to hold the balance between them [competing interests].”  (Federalist, No. 10) And, “Justice is the end of government. It is the end of civil society.” (Federalist, No. 51)