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James Madison: Republican or Democrat?

Robert A. Dahl
Perspectives on Politics
Vol. 3, No. 3 (Sep., 2005), pp. 439-448
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3689017
Page Count: 10
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James Madison: Republican or Democrat?
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Abstract

Although James Madison is best known for the views he expressed in the Federalist, as he gained greater experience in the new American political system he rejected some of these early views and increasingly emphasized four propositions: (1) the greatest threat in the American republic comes from a minority, not the majority; (2) to protect their rights from minority factions, members of the majority faction must organize their own political party; (3) the danger that majorities might threaten property rights could be overcome by enabling a majority of citizens to own property, a feasible solution in America; and (4) in a republic, majorities must be allowed to prevail. Even Madison's post-1787 constitutional views, however, were flawed in at least three serious ways: (1) as an empirical proposition, his conjecture that increased size reduces the danger of factionalism is contradicted by subsequent experience; (2) in his conception of basic rights, Madison excluded more than half the adult population: women, African Americans, and American Indians; and (3) he actively supported the provision in the Constitution that gave to slave states an increase in representatives amounting to three-fifths of the slave population.

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