Last week we looked at Federalist 10, in which Madison argued that direct democracy would give rise to the “tyranny of the majority.” He contended instead that a republican form of government in which citizens elect delegates to vote on laws was best suited to the character of our diverse people. In Federalist 39, he described in more detail what he meant by “republican.”
First, he explained what it wasn’t. Some governing bodies that called themselves republics, like ancient Rome, Venice, and Poland, were in reality run by “hereditary nobles.” This was government by, for, and of the elites. But in the case of the United States, wrote Madison, republican government would be derived not by a “favored class” of “tyrannical nobles” but rather “from the great body of the people.”
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