Classic Leadership Wisdom: The Federalist

A late entry for the 4th of July:  

The Federalist is a collection of articles written by Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison in the nine months following the United States’ Constitutional Convention of 1787. A nationwide war of words had broken out in the wake of the refusal of some of the convention members to endorse the new Constitution, and its adoption was in doubt to the last moment. Hamilton, Jay, and Madison, writing under the name of “Publius,” published eighty-five articles in defense of the document and the ideas underlying it. While the majority of the essays appeared in the press of New York– an especially hot battleground–they attracted attention across all thirteen states. Nearly 230 years later, they are still being studied and quoted.

The most famous of the essays is No. 10, by Madison. It concerns “faction”: the tendency of nations or organizations to splinter into violently competing interest groups. Madison warns of faction’s dangers, admits that it is a “disease” to which popular government is especially prone, and shows how the governmental structures laid out in the Constitution will prevent it.  The essay begins as follows:

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 … The instability, injustice, and confusion introduced into the public councils have, in truth, been the mortal diseases under which popular governments have everywhere perished; as they continue to be the favorite and fruitful topics from which the adversaries to liberty derive their most specious declamations.

The Federalist, No. 10, James Madison

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About Jocelyn R Davis

Jocelyn Davis is Principal of Seven Learning, a leadership development firm that creates a lasting lift in leaders' effectiveness using classic books, films, and stories.
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