The James Madison Project
"So strong is this propensity of mankind to fall into mutual animosities, that where no substantial occasion presents itself, the most frivolous and fanciful distinctions have been sufficient to kindle their unfriendly passions and excite their most violent conflicts."
James Madison Federalist 10
About James Madison
"Among the numerous advantages promised by a well-constructed Union, none deserves to be more accurately developed than its tendency to break and control the violence of faction. The friend of popular governments never finds himself so much alarmed for their character and fate, as when he contemplates their propensity to this dangerous vice. He will not fail therefore to set a due value on any plan which, without violating the principles to which he is attached, provides a proper cure for it. The instability, injustice and confusion introduced into the public councils, have in truth been the mortal diseases under which popular governments have every where perished; as they continue to be the favorite and fruitful topics from which the adversaries to liberty derive their most specious declamations."
James Madison, Federalist, no. 10, 56--65 22 Nov. 1787
James Madison, was not a physician however he was using medical concepts in one of the most important documents of American democracy, Federalist, no. 10, that was published 22 Nov. 1787. In this paper, which explaining the recently adopted US constitution to the public and contributed to the ratification of the US constitution, Madison was able to provide a diagnosis of the governments that had existed at the time and to provide a treatment plan to address the pathology. Madison noted that the “violence of factions” played a role in the “instability, injustice and confusion introduced into the public councils, have in truth been the mortal diseases under which popular governments have every where perished”. He further explained that “Among the numerous advantages promised by a well-constructed Union, (Conceived of in the constitution) none deserves to be more accurately developed than its tendency to break and control the violence of faction.”
Mr. Madison’s and the other founding fathers’ treatment plan, the US constitution has been remarkable in providing a fairly stable framework to weather the past 225 years and achieve remarkable success in creating a government that has seen peaceful national elections and succession of political power. During this time the United States has become a global superpower and the standard of living of our citizens has been unprecedented. It is quite clear however that the “violence of faction” with special interest and money in politics is contributing to our current “instability, injustice and confusion”. It is our current “mortal disease” and requires an updating of the treatment plan. The James Madison Project seeks to explore the symptoms and causes and to develop a treatment plan for the US. More specifically we will use the following programs and projects to address the challenges:
Madison’s approach to the challenges of his time:
The love of country and his fellow citizens: Madison committed himself to improving the lives of his fellow Americans.
Awareness of psychological insights and informed by historic observation: Madison’s political philosophy is informed by psychological understanding of human nature and served as a guide for the structure of the emerging republic.
The use of the disease metaphor: Madison utilizes the disease metaphor repeatedly to frame the challenges identified in American society of the 18th century. His focus on disease included a description of the symptoms of the government established by the Articles of Confederation and offered the framework of an American republic as a treatment.
Willingness to persuade and compromise: Recognizing the importance of achieving the overall objective for the success of the emerging Republic, he was willing to compromise to achieve ratification of the constitution. He was a great communicator and loyal friend.
Logical thinker: Madison has been described as a rational thinker, utilizing available data to formulate and argue for his positions.
Complexity: Madison established the fundamental American concept of pluralism, his appreciation of complexity and the logic of institutional design as a key to successful democratic reform still influences modern theory and research.*
Scholarship and scientific curiosity: Madison was a scholarly politician—a politician who thought carefully about institutions in the context of action. He was able to bring together thoughtful responses to a broad cross-section of modern political science. A “modern” political scientist who was able to implement many of his theoretical ideas in a practical forum.
Change his mind: Madison was able to change his mind about substantive subjects and ideas as he was exposed to more experience in the various roles he held in the pre and post establishment of the United States of America.