Madisonian Democracy Section I



Madisondefined factions as groups of likeminded people whose intentions weregenerally against the public interest. The three groups or factionsrepresented in the constitutional framework include the Judiciary,the legislature and the Executive. The Judiciary was formulated asthe arbitrator and interpreter of laws, the executive was formulatedas the enforcer of laws made by the legislature, and the legislaturewas formulated as the faction that formulated the laws governingconduct of people and organizations. The three factions shaped theconstitution in a manner such that there was separation of powers,and therefore no single organ could dominate the government, or workautonomously, to impose its agenda of self interest on the greaterpublic. For instance, while the president, being the chair of theexecutive, could veto a decision made by the congress, which is thelegislative arm of the government, the congress could impeach thepresident, rending his office vacant.

Thisbalance of power constitutionally implies that neither the congressnor the presidency can act tyrannically to sabotage the interests ofthe majority. On the other hand, the legislature can pass laws, butthe judiciary, through the Supreme Court, can interpret theconstitution to either accept or repeal laws made y the legislature.This again makes these two organs complimentary, in that neither canact with political autonomy to sabotage the greater good of themajority (Brooks, S., 2013). For example, in the civil rightsera during which the states of Alabama and Montgomery had put inplace laws allowing segregation of whites and blacks in the publictransportation, the supreme court ruled, in 1956, that these lawswere unconstitutional as they infringed the fundamental rights andfreedoms stipulated in the Bill of rights. Thus, the judiciary wasintervening through constitutional implementation to repeal theauthority under which the executive was enforcing segregating laws.Secondly, the constitution allows for impeachment of sittingpresidents. Bill Clinton is the most recent president to have facedimpeachment trials in 1999 on charges of misconduct in office. In1968, President Andrew Johnson faced impeachment charges. In thisway, the powers of the executive can be controlled in a manner as toallow for representation of the greater public interests. In additionto presidents, other offices of the US executive are also subjectedto constitutional audit and the officers to removal on such broadreasons as misconduct, mismanagement of public funds, and abuse ofpowers among others. This ensures that all factions of theconstitutional provisions are working in accordance to the madisonianconstitutional provisions (Brooks, S., 2013).

Thisarrangement ensures that all state organs have their powers, but thatthose powers are regulated by other politically independent factionswhose constitution is such that it would be very unlikely for allfactions to have similarly placed self interests outside theconstitutional provisions. Each faction acts as a check to each otherfaction’s powers, so that all factions must be aligned for a policyto pass and become enforced.

Inaddition to the separation and balance of powers, the constitutionalprovisions delegate powers to devolved units such as states and statedepartments. This devolution of powers makes it even harder for anyfaction to exercise a national campaign fueled by self interest. Thisthird strategy, called federalism, makes it impossible for power tobe controlled by any one faction, which in effect enables a betterrepresentation of the will of majority in accordance with madisoniandemocracy (Brooks, S., 2013).


Madisoniandemocracy is a state of democracy as conceived by James Madison. Inhis conceptualization, democracy is really a representation of theself interests of a faction of the human population, where that selfinterest or sets of selfish interests are imposed onto a politicalsystem and made to become law. In the ideal case, humans would haveno self interests above the corrective interest of everyone. In sucha case, the wishes of the majority would be represented in a truedemocracy, and there would be very rare cases of rebellion orextremism by any person or group, since everyone would feel thattheir interests have been represented in the political ideals formingthe government, and would therefore find no reason by opposition. Insuch a case, therefore, there would be no need for a governmentsince, in essence, a government’s primary objective is themaintenance of law and order within a society. If humans werenaturally orderly and mindful of the collective interests of themajority, there would be no need for a governing body except,perhaps, for the common defense of the sovereignty and integrity of apeople’s nationhood. Thus, Madison asserts that governments areessentially there to protect the interests of certain groups ofpeople or factions, where such factions can be minorities ormajorities, and where the interests can be progressive or regressivefor the wider society in time (Brooks, S., 2013).

Conflictsarise where other factions feel that their interests have not beenrepresented in a democratic system. Such a happening was the AmericanCivil Rights movement that followed after the abolishment of slavetrade and constitutional amendment granting all people certainfundamental rights. A major underlying demonstration of madisonianconcept of democracy and governance is manifest in the way that theAmerican constitutional system and governance in the 19thand 20thcenturies was constructed so as to represent only the interests ofthe white majority while repressing the interest of the non-whiteminority groups, while still claiming to be representative of thepeople. Such fundamental rights and freedoms as the right to vote andget representation in national debates, as well as the freedom ofmovement, and access to any public places was limited for coloredpersons and the government enforced this arrangement. This partexplores the Madison concept of democracy and governance with specialfocus on the American Civil Rights movement (Brooks, S., 2013).

Madison’sFaction based Democracy Systems

Madisonconceptualized the rise of groups of people with like self-interestswhich he called factions. Where such factions were strong enougheither in form of sheer numbers or in way of other types of influenceon the government, such factions would have a likelihood of imposingtheir interests on the wider nation. Such interests include religiousstanding or prejudice on other people based on age, education, faith,gender or race. Where such interests dominated a country’sgovernment system, it would be likely that the public good would bemasked by a tyranny of self interest by a small group. As an example,Madison noted that the majority of emigrations out of Europe in theperiod of formation of the Americas were instigated by tyrannicalup-rise of religiously intolerant factions in Europe. In order tocontrol the possibility of such an uprising, the US government hasundergone the separation of powers in order to give certain politicalindependence and operational autonomity to the three groups that formthe government.

Thesepowers include the legislature that makes the laws, the Judiciarythat arbitrates disputes between people and legislative bodies, aswell as the executive which includes the presidency and the lawenforcement agencies. This system essentially introduces checks andbalances in the government. In the US, the legislature is essentiallythe Congress, while the Supreme Court is the highest authority of thejudiciary. In the ideal democracy, such a government arrangementwould suppress the rise of minority factions who would want to imposetheir self interests on the wider public good, because the three armsof the government would not necessarily be obliged to agree on theideals of any of its arms (Brooks, S., 2013).

TheCivil Rights Movement and Madisonian Democracy

Theunderlying ideals behind the entire civil rights movements wereconcepts already entrenched in the Bill of Rights, as well as othersthat were later amendments. The fundamental freedoms of movement,association, and worship as well as the basic rights of dignifiedtreatment, equality and property ownership among others wereviolated. Though the term civil rights movements is typicallyassociated with the American civil rights struggle, it was reallyabout a worldwide movement for human equality before the law, as wellas an end to racial and gender segregation as witnessed in variousregions, especially the US. During the movement, black people in theUS the majority of who were descendants of slaves drawn mainly fromwestern Africa, pushed for their rights to vote in nationalelections, a right that was denied in the earlier years since theabolishment of slave trade and grant of citizenship by the USgovernment in the 19thcentury. In the same period between 1960 and 1970, women movementsfor gender equality, equal access to employment, right to equal pay,and freedom from sexual harassment were popular in the US. In the US,the civil rights movement led to formation of several pieces oflegislation including the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the VotingRights Act of 1965. The episodes of civil resistance in the USrepresent the Madisonian concept of democracy as a system in whichthe interests of a majority can reign, while those of the minority orthe under-represented can get suppressed.

Inparticular, the Bill of Rights stipulated the equality of all people,yet blacks were not allowed to vote in national elections wherewhites voted. The Fair Housing Act of 1968 additionally banneddiscriminatory sale of rental property or home for ownership based oncolor, effectively eliminating the existing violation of the right toown property as stipulated in the Bill of Rights. There were severalmajor occurrences of the time that shaped American democracy, andwhich had several implications under the Madison democracy concept(Brooks, S., 2013).

TheMontgomery Bus Boycott

Thiswas a massive boycott created by the Montgomery ImprovementAssociation and led by Dr Martin Luther King Jr. The boycott lastedbetween 1stDecember, 1955 and 20thDecember 1956 and was triggered by the arrest of Rosa Parks forrefusing to give her bus seat to a white person. The boycott was veryeffective in persuading the authorities to revise racial equalitylaws in public transportation. In 1966, a case in the Supreme CourtBrowderVs Gayle ruledthe Montgomery and Alabama cases allowing segregationunconstitutional. In addition, the boycott, as well as the courtruling, helped popularize the Luther led civil rights campaign, ineffect leading to other tremendously successful boycotts includingthe Tallahassee Boycott of 1957. Numerous cases filed in the SupremeCourt between 1956 and 1958 such as BrownVs Board of Education,and PlessyVs Fergussonhelped shape the democracy of the US in a way that led to realizationof better representation of minorities such as blacks, Latinos andother immigrants. Women representation was also greatly improved(Brooks, S., 2013).

TheDr Luther King speeches and Murder

Itis worth noting that, the King’s speeches also greatly aided inshaping the success of the civil rights movements in the US. Luthermoved the crowds using his great oratorical skills that persuaded thegovernment to reconsider its position on civil liberties for theblacks. He pioneered a very successful campaign that combinedenlightenment with strategy. Kings shifted his strategy, and that ofhis followers, from one of violent rebellion to one of peacefuldemonstrations, in effect defeating the government’s mechanism ofimprisoning or detaining offenders, as peaceful demonstrations werenot punishable in criminal law.

Hisassassination also led to an even greater publicity of his ideals,those of racial equality, and equal opportunities for everyone. Thecontributions of Dr Martin Luther King Jr were instrumental inpushing the Supreme Court to rule travel segregation unconstitutionalin the southern states. In particular, the Freedom Rides pioneered byKing and which involved numerous civil rights activists and civiliansdemonstrated to the US Supreme court the glaring inequalities in theconstitutional framework of certain states, and the urgency for theformulation of a federal democratic system which upheld the Bill ofRights universally (Brooks, S., 2013).

TheMarch on Washington, 1963

Unlikethe previous movements, the March on Washington was a collaborativeeffort between various civil right groups, not essentially raciallyconstituted, that pushed for elimination of employmentdiscrimination, as well as for the creation of more employmentopportunities by the government. It had six incentives to create afederal works program, to have descent housing, to have practicalcivil laws, to push for the right to vote, to have a meaningfulemployment, and to create adequate education systems.

Themarch was influential, as it led the president to invite King andother leading activists to white house to discuss the civil rightsbill. The assassination of President Kennedy somehow halted thepassage of the bill, but it was later passed. These events, togetherwith others that were similar in agenda, pushed the federalgovernment to pass numerous civil rights bills that changed the basicdemocratic constitution of the American nation (Brooks, S.,2013).


Americandemocracy is largely Madisonian in nature, in that laws are passed toprotect interests of factions which are in control. For instance, thepresence of segregating laws in the states of Alabama and Montgomerydespite the overall presence of a Bill of Rights which stipulatedthat all persons are equal means that the state laws were serving theinterest of a majority group in those states. Thus, any subsequentamendment on state laws to preserve also the interests of theminorities was based purely on lobbying power of activists, such asthe civil rights activists in the US.


Brooks,S. (2013). UnderstandingAmerican Politics.University of Toronto Press, 2013