What Is “Federalist No. 10” About?

Federalist Paper No. 10, written pseudonymously by James Madison in support of the new United States Constitution, is about how to guard the new government of the union against factions, or groups of citizens with special interests. It is one of 85 letters written by some of the Founding Fathers to encourage the states to ratify the Constitution.

In Federalist No. 10, Madison argues that partisanship in a democracy is dangerous and offers various options on how to control it. One would be to obliterate liberty itself, which Madison states is obviously unacceptable. Another is to cause everyone to have the same opinions, which is equally impossible. Madison claims that the strongest roots of factions lie in the unequal distribution of property. However, this is an essential part of democracy. He says, therefore, that if factionalism cannot be eliminated, its effects must be controlled, and this can best be done with a representative form of government as delineated in the new constitution.

The series of essays called the Federalist Papers, written by James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay, were first published in newspapers under the pseudonym of “Publius” at the same time that the Constitution had been sent to the states for ratification. Later, they were published as the book “The Federalist.” They are still used by politicians, scholars and even Supreme Court justices as seminal documents in the interpretation of the United States Constitution.