Study Guide

The Federalist Papers 10 and 51 Compare and Contrast

By James Madison

Advertisement - Guide continues below

  • Anti-Federalist Paper "No. 1," Centinel

    The spirit of the opposition was still alive and well, and the Anti-Federalist party wasn't about to give up just because the Federalists published a series of essays. Unlike the Federalist Papers, which were a joint initiative between three collaborators, the Anti-Federalist papers were a large, unorganized group of papers published by various authors.

    They got the collective name "The Anti-Federalist Papers" retroactively by historians, probably because it sounds really cool to give the Federalist Papers an arch-nemesis.

    This Anti-Federalist paper, the first written by Samuel Bryan under the pen name Centinel (seriously, everyone's getting cool Latin codenames in these papers), is specifically written as a rebuttal piece to Federalist Papers 10 and 51.

    Centinel's first paper tackles Madison's proposition of a Republican form of government. If everyone had a relatively equal amount of wealth and property, Centinel argues, then a Republic would work because the representatives would be similar to those they represented.

    If not, as the case was, then a representative form of government is nothing better than an oligarchy, where a small group of the wealthy get to make decisions instead of the citizens themselves.

    If that weren't enough, the proposed three-branch government would be impossible for the average citizen to follow. When things inevitably went wrong, everyone would be split on which part of government caused the problem. Not only would the average person not be able to participate in government, but they also wouldn't be able to even understand what was going on in government.

    Centinel goes on to say that this is a lot to ask, considering the Constitution gave no protections for freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom from unwarranted search and seizures, and freedom of religion. This was a fairly common sentiment, and the outrage of the Anti-Federalist would prompt Madison to write ten amendments to the Constitution, editing those securities in.

    We know these first ten amendments as the Bill of Rights today, and they remain the main legacy of the Anti-Federalist movement.

    The general gist of the paper is that state legislatures would be made completely irrelevant by a strong central government. The Supreme Court would override the authority of any state court, and the Senators and Representatives of each state would be taken from the higher rungs of society, creating a permanent aristocratic class in the United States.

    In short, the government would not be of the people, but of new ruling class.

    While it might read as a little over-the-top, the writers of the Federalist Papers had to contend with their incredibly vocal opposition and attempt to win them over with either persuasion or compromise.

  • Federalist Paper 9, Alexander Hamilton

    It's pretty fascinating to read Hamilton's take on the same questions about faction conflict against Madison's Federalist 10…and only in part because Hamilton is just so crazy-fascinating.

    The two men were in contact with each other while writing the Federalist Papers and tried to write with the same unified voice, but pieces of their individual character poke through their writings.

    For starters, Hamilton is a lot more concerned with the larger history of republics, particularly Greece and Rome's republics, and how chaotic and turbulent they could be in regards to faction warfare.

    He stresses that that's not just how Republics are; we've gotten a lot better at political science over the centuries and we can make a Republic that will work. After that, he spends the last half of the paper discussing quotes from Enlightenment-era political thinker Montesquieu about his thoughts about Republics.

    He mainly does so in order to push the United States away from a Confederacy, a loose alignment of political entities, and towards a Union where the states are brought together into a political whole with equal amounts of sovereign power.

    Compared to Madison, who explains more precisely how a US Republic would work to keep faction power down, Hamilton's grappling with a lot of political history, and where exactly the United States should fit inside it.

    It's more high-level political theory as opposed to Madison's more practical guidebook. (So, um, get your reading glasses and a cup of tea before settling down with this one.)

  • June 5th Speech, Patrick Henry

    In an impassioned speech to the Virginia state legislature—"passionate" is pretty much Patrick Henry's default speech setting—Henry defended the Articles of Confederation against the ratification of the Constitution, in a last-ditch effort to keep the Virginia legislature from backing what he thought was the wrong horse.

    It is said eight States have adopted this plan. I declare that if twelve States and a half had adopted it, I would, with manly firmness, and in spite of an erring world, reject it. (Source)

    Madison, in Henry's eyes, is way too quick to throw the Articles out the window like yesterday's news.

    It was the government that saw them through the Revolutionary War, and the government that secured a territory larger than anything a European ruler has. And after it's done all that for the country, it's being accused of uselessness?

    Like Madison, he also brings up past republics. How many times, he asks, have there been revolutions in history where as soon as the war is won, liberty is lost by the schemes of the few. And where in the Constitution, he asks, are there any protections for the civil liberties that Madison speaks so fondly of in Federalist Paper 51?

    Is all they get in exchange for giving up their state sovereignty an assurance that "those in power, being our Representatives, will not abuse the power we put in their hands…?"

    While Madison says in Federalist Papers 10 and 51 that government must protect one group of citizens from another, Henry observes that liberty is lost far more often to tyrannical rulers than to any group of citizens, and that the very proposition that a strong government is needed to protect the people from themselves is absurd.

  • October 6th Speech, James Wilson

    While we're talking about speeches to state legislatures, we can't leave out James Wilson's speech to the Rhode Island legislature, to try to get them to come around to the Federalist way of thinking.

    He dismisses concerns that the Federal government will hold too much power by saying that that's kind of paranoid—the most powerful body there is the Legislative branch, and that's made up of representatives from the states. How could the Federal government oppress the people if the peoples' representatives are doing the lawmaking?

    On the same subject, Wilson says it's a bit of a stretch to say that the Senate is going to become a pseudo-aristocracy. On one hand, it can't do anything without the House of Representatives' approval…and on the other it can't do anything without the President's approval.

    Who, may he add, is only elected by the Electoral College, which is part of the states' legislatures. Wilson supports Madison's claim that the government is carefully made to avoid abusing the power that it's given.

  • Letters from the Federal Farmer to the Republican No. 1, Anonymous

    Another anonymous essay series appeared in the New York press during November 1787 (can you tell this whole anonymous letter thing was popular back in the day?). This time, we got the Anti-Federalist series "Letters from the Federal Farmer."

    As opposed to Henry's brash stand against the documents, our truly anonymous author takes a more soft approach in his dialogue with the Federalist Papers, which were running along the same time as theirs.

    He asks: first, why does the United States need a new government to begin with? They'd made it to peacetime, and as long as they kept a cool head there wasn't any disasters on the horizon. The state legislatures were doing fine, our author says, except for the tiny problem of regulating the economy.

    Just a bump in the road.

    Basically, he subtly accuses Madison and the rest of the Federalists for making up stories of a United States thrown into chaos and instability without the Constitutional government. The Federal Farmer asserts that the Articles of Confederation only needed a retooling, not a complete overhaul, and it's only the passions of impatient, ambitious men that are threatening to rock the boat in America, not any kind of inherent instability.

This is a premium product

Tired of ads?

Join today and never see them again.

Please Wait...