Majority Rule And Individual Rights Essay Definition

Details
 by Abraham G. Ghiorgis
 on 05 December 2012
 in Article
 

MAJORITY RULE / MINORITY RIGHTS

Abraham G. Ghiorgis


Pasted below is an article from the “Democracy Web” that succinctly elucidates the principles of majority rule and the respect of minority rights in a liberal democratic society. Considering what is transpiring at the ENCDC meeting, this article may be relevant to the issues of the freedom of expression and the respect of minority rights.

Some in the opposition understand that burning issues in a democracy are decided only through majority vote. This however disregards among other things the respect of the rights of minorities. If that were to be  the case then we will have all kinds of the “tyranny of the majority.”

For example, it is plausible that a demagogue can easily abolish all religions in Eritrea except the Tewahdo and Islam through the simple exercise of a “democratic majority vote.” And he can defend it easily by raising the banner of a “majority vote.” The demagogue does not understand that the right to freedom of religion is not subject to a majority vote. Majority rule is dangerous and dictatorial if it is not coupled by the respect of minority rights and the respect of the rule of law. Remember Hitler came to power through the mechanism of a “democratic majority vote.”

“Majority rule can not be the only expression of ‘supreme power’ in a democracy... If so, … the majority would too easily tyrannize the minority. Thus, while it is clear that democracy must guarantee the expression of the popular will through majority rule, it is equally clear that it must guarantee that the majority will not abuse its power to violate the basic and inalienable rights of the minority.”

“Democracy therefore requires minority rights equally as it does majority rule. Indeed, as democracy is conceived today, the minority's rights must be protected no matter how singular or alienated that minority is from the majority society; otherwise, the majority's rights lose their meaning.”

In real liberal democracies, there are certain rights that are off limits from democratic majority vote. These are generally referred to as negative rights like: the freedom of expression, the freedom of association, the freedom of religion, the respect of property rights, the due process of law and etc.

The majority cannot use its numbers to abolish the right of freedom of expression, that include expressions that may be detestable and abhorrent to the majority. The majority in a society cannot decide whether one is free to express his opinion as he sees fit through a “democratic” majority vote. Otherwise civilization will not advance. The principle of the freedom of expression in its fullest sense does not give a hoot to whether the opinion one holds conforms or not to that hold by the majority in a society. That is the whole essence of the principle of the freedom of expression, and that is also the reason that an opinion of a citizen how “foolish” it maybe is not subject to a vote. Rather it becomes a subject to a debate. Only autocrats hate debates. The ENCDC do you hear me.

Abraham G. Ghiorgis
New York


---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


MAJORITY RULE / MINORITY RIGHTS

by Democracy Web

"If it be admitted that a man possessing absolute power may misuse that power by wronging his adversaries, why should not a majority be liable to the same reproach? Men do not change their characters by uniting with one another; nor does their patience in the presence of obstacles increase with their strength. For my own part, I cannot believe it; the power to do everything, which I should refuse to one of my equals, I will never grant to any number of them."

Alexis de Tocqueville, "Tyranny of the Majority," Chapter XV, Book 1, Democracy in America

Majority Rule

Democracy is defined in Webster's Encyclopedic Dictionary as:

Government by the people; a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them either directly or through their elected agents;... a state of society characterized by nominal equality of rights and privileges.

What is left out of the dictionary definition of democracy is what constitutes "the people." In practice, democracy is governed by its most popularly understood principle: majority rule. Namely, the side with the most votes wins, whether it is an election, a legislative bill, a contract proposal to a union, or a shareholder motion in a corporation. The majority (or in some cases plurality) vote decides. Thus, when it is said that "the people have spoken" or the "people's will should be respected," the people are generally expressed through its majority.

Democracy Requires Minority Rights

Yet majority rule can not be the only expression of "supreme power" in a democracy. If so, as Tocqueville notes above, the majority would too easily tyrannize the minority. Thus, while it is clear that democracy must guarantee the expression of the popular will through majority rule, it is equally clear that it must guarantee that the majority will not abuse its power to violate the basic and inalienable rights of the minority. For one, a defining characteristic of democracy must be the people's right to change the majority through elections. This right is the people's "supreme authority." The minority, therefore, must have the right to seek to become the majority and possess all the rights necessary to compete fairly in elections—speech, assembly, association, petition—since otherwise the majority would make itself permanent and become a dictatorship. For the majority, ensuring the minority's rights becomes a matter of self-interest, since it must utilize the same rights when it is in minority to seek to become a majority again. This holds equally true in a multiparty parliamentary democracy, where no party has a majority, since a government must still be formed in coalition by a majority of parliament members.

The Constant Threat

The American founders—Anti-Federalists and Federalists alike—considered rule by majority a troubling conundrum. In theory, majority rule was necessary for expressing the popular will and the basis for establishing the republic. The alternative—consensus or rule by everyone's agreement—cannot be imposed upon a free people. And minority rule is antithetical to democracy. But the founders worried that the majority could abuse its powers to oppress a minority just as easily as a king. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison both warn in their letters about the dangers of the tyranny of the legislature and of the executive. Madison, alluding to slavery, went further, writing, "It is of great importance in a republic, not only to guard the society against the oppression of its rulers, but to guard one part of the society against the injustice of the other part."

A half century after the United States was established, Alexis de Tocqueville saw the majority's tyranny over political and social minorities as "a constant threat" to American democracy in his pre–Civil War travels. While visiting the state of Pennsylvania, when he asked why no free blacks had come to vote in a local election he was observing, he was told that "while free blacks had the legal right to vote, they feared the consequences of exercising it." Thus, he wrote, "the majority not only makes the laws, but can break them as well."

Minority Rights I: Individual Rights vs. Majority Tyranny

Democracy therefore requires minority rights equally as it does majority rule. Indeed, as democracy is conceived today, the minority's rights must be protected no matter how singular or alienated that minority is from the majority society; otherwise, the majority's rights lose their meaning. In the United States, basic individual liberties are protected through the Bill of Rights, which were drafted by James Madison and adopted in the form of the first 10 amendments to the Constitution. These enumerate the rights that may not be violated by the government, safeguarding—in theory, at least—the rights of any minority against majority tyranny. Today, these rights are considered the essential element of any liberal democracy.

The British political philosopher John Stuart Mill took this principle further. In his essay On Liberty he wrote, "The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community against his will is to prevent harm to others." Mill's "no harm principle" aims to prevent government from becoming a vehicle for the "tyranny of the majority," which he viewed as not just a political but also a social tyranny that stifled minority voices and imposed a regimentation of thought and values. Mill's views became the basis for much of liberal political philosophy since, whether it is free market or economic liberalism or social liberalism.

How do majority rule and the protection of minority rights function in practice? Clearly, the two can easily collide when the assertion of Madisonian rights and Millian liberalism confront an unmovable democratic majority. In politics, the regularity of elections and the principles of separation of powers and checks and balances (see "Constitutional Limits") are the means for ensuring debate over the people's interests and views.

Minority Rights II: Protecting Minority Groups in Society

Madisonian and Millian principles safeguard individual and political minorities. But the danger of majority tyranny lies not just in the infringements of individual rights or the marginalization of a political minority, but in the oppression of minority groups in society based simply on criteria such as skin color, ethnicity or nationality, religion, or sexual orientation. Judicial checks on majority tyranny were supposed to expand political and civil rights over time; however, the American courts were themselves often a part of majority tyranny, as numerous Supreme Court cases attest. The 19th-century Dred Scott and Plessy v. Ferguson decisions ruled that African Americans were socially inferior and thus not guaranteed equal protection of the laws (see descriptions of these two cases on the African American History web page).

The African American Experience

In the United States, it is the African American experience that most warns of the danger of such majority tyranny. The Constitution, officially implemented in 1789, flatly contradicted the principles of the Declaration of Independence. Its infamous "three-fifths compromise" (which determined that a slave constituted only three-fifths of a person) sanctioned slavery and the terrible mistreatment of millions of Africans brought to America in chains. Even after the Civil War's end, amendments to the Constitution abolishing slavery and guaranteeing equal rights did not prevent the adoption of Jim Crow laws in the Southern states, which collectively maintained a system of institutionalized segregation, or pervasive discrimination against African Americans in the North. In the South, whites disenfranchised black voters through so-called literacy tests, poll taxes, and property qualifications that were never applied to poor and illiterate whites.

To overcome this form of majority tyranny, maintained for nearly 100 years, the African American minority, just over 12 percent of the population in the late 1800s, had to confront the reality that nearly all political avenues were closed to it. In the South the right to vote had effectively been taken away, and in the North it was ineffectual. In the early 20th century, some African American leaders therefore adopted a strategy of nonviolence and civil disobedience that took the fullest advantage of the freedoms contained in the Bill of Rights and challenged American institutions to live up to America's democratic principles. In their strategy, the rational answer to systematic denial of freedom was the exercise of freedom. The answer to systematic denial of inequality was demanding legal equality and justice in the courts. The ultimate success of this strategy—which began in 1905 with the Niagara Movement of W. E. B. Du Bois and demanded equal rights and eventually led to the development of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)—fulfilled the stated ideals of American democracy and as a result made the African American civil rights movement an enduring international symbol for world freedom. Its nonviolent method has become a much-used model for how an oppressed minority can seek freedom through the peaceful use of democratic rights.

The Persistence of Discrimination

America's experience is unique in scope, but all democracies have witnessed "the tyranny of the majority" applied against different social groups. Nearly all democracies, for example, restricted voting to specific economic groups, most frequently to male property owners, and only slowly expanded the franchise to men generally. Women were systematically denied equal political and social rights. The first state to grant equal suffrage was Wyoming, then still a territory, in 1869; the first country to do so was New Zealand, but only in 1893. British women over the age of 30 were given the vote in 1918, and in 1928 the age limit was lowered to 21. Women in the United States gained suffrage in 1920, while France did not adopt universal suffrage until after liberation from the Nazi occupation in 1944. Despite having the right to vote in most countries today, women still suffer formal discrimination in many places in the world.

In Europe, minority Muslim communities from former colonies in northern Africa, the Middle East, and Southwest Asia have struggled against pervasive discrimination and the denial of equal opportunities in education, jobs, and housing. In India, the "untouchables," or harijan, have only recently gained rights to enter the mainstream of society. Majority indigenous groups in Bolivia and several other Latin American countries have long been treated as "the minority" for most of their countries' constitutional histories. Indeed, the issues of minorities seeking greater freedom, equality, autonomy, and protection against discrimination and unequal treatment are current throughout the world. Usually they are being addressed through nonviolent protests, legislation, the courts, protection of native lands, education, and other efforts granting regional autonomy or specific rights and privileges.

The Ultimate Denial of Minority Rights

The most extreme treatment of minorities has been carried out by 20th- and 21st-century dictatorships. The worst examples are those of totalitarian regimes that carried out genocide to eradicate unwanted groups in society. The Holocaust perpetrated by Nazi Germany murdered six million Jews, one-third of the total world Jewish population, as well as a significant portion of the Roma ("Gypsy") community. Homosexuals were also a targeted minority for extermination. The Soviet Union, under Stalin, carried out mass executions and deportations of dozens of Caucasian and Central Asian ethnic groups; some now face extinction.

More recently, the Russian Federation has waged a brutal war against its own republic of Chechnya, killing tens of thousands of civilians and displacing more than half the population. Other examples of mass killings of a minority by a dictatorship include the Nigerian campaign against Biafrans (see "Freedom of Religion"), the Hutu genocide of Tutsi in Rwanda, Saddam Hussein's mass killing of Kurds and Shiites in Iraq, and the Sudanese government's sponsorship of mass killing, raping, and deportation in Darfur (see Sudan Country Study. The project for an "ethnically pure" Greater Serbia undertaken by Slobodan Milosevic resulted in the murder of 200,000 Bosnian Muslims and 10,000 Albanian Muslims in Kosovo by a killing machine that was stopped only by military campaigns carried out by NATO.

International Protection of Minority Rights

This history has made the protection of minorities from abuse by majorities one of the highest obligations of international law. The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, adopted after World War II in 1948, is the most widely recognized international treaty governing the practice of nation-states. The UN's International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, adopted in 1966, defines not just individual rights but also minimum protections for minorities. Article 27 asserts:

[P]ersons belonging to [ethnic, religious, or linguistic] minorities shall not be denied the right in community with the other members of their group to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practice their own religion, or to use their own language.

The Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities, 1992, and the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention of 1989 further define protections for ethnic, religious, and cultural minorities to preserve their culture, languages, and beliefs and to protect themselves from discrimination. While these treaties establish clear international moral standards, their actual observance has often been found wanting, as the dramatic recent cases of Iraq, Rwanda, Sudan, former Yugoslavia, and the Russian Federation show. These treaties have no binding legal effect, although the states that ratify them are legally answerable. Occasionally, however, that does not offer enough deterrent.

Nor do these conventions address a difficult political issue posed by democracy: assimilation versus separation. While assimilation of a minority into the broader society offers a minority greater opportunities and political influence, it does so often at the expense of minority cultures, beliefs, and practices. On the other hand, preserving cultures, beliefs, and practices by insulating the minority reduces its influence within the majority political culture. It is not an easy balance.

Conclusion

On a practical level, the application of majority rule and minority rights relies on a set of rules agreed to by everyone in a political community. How are majorities determined? What are the limits of debate and speech? How can members in a community propose a motion or law? Should a minority be allowed to prevent the majority's will by abusing its rights? There is no one answer to these questions, and many democracies have answered them differently. But for those countries that follow an Anglo-Saxon tradition, one of the basic guides for democracy is Robert's Rules of Order. Its beginning offers a concise statement of the democratic ideal:

American Parliamentary Law is built upon the principle that rights must be respected: the rights of the majority, of the minority, of individuals, of absentees, and rights of all of these together.

Source: http://www.democracyweb.org/majority/principles.php

{jcomments off}

Federalist No. 10 (1787)

Written by James Madison, this essay defended the form of republican government proposed by the Constitution. Critics of the Constitution argued that the proposed federal government was too large and would be unresponsive to the people.

In response, Madison explored majority rule v. minority rights in this essay. He countered that it was exactly the great number of factions and diversity that would avoid tyranny. Groups would be forced to negotiate and compromise among themselves, arriving at solutions that would respect the rights of minorities. Further, he argued that the large size of the country would actually make it more difficult for factions to gain control over others. “The influence of factious leaders may kindle a flame within their particular States, but will be unable to spread a general conflagration through the other States.”

Federalist Papers: No. 10 – Full Text
The Union as a Safeguard Against Domestic Faction and Insurrection

To the People of the State of New York:

AMONG the numerous advantages promised by a wellconstructed 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. He will not fail, therefore, to set a due value on any plan which, without violating the principles to which he is attached, provides a proper cure for it. 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 valuable improvements made by the American constitutions on the popular models, both ancient and modern, cannot certainly be too much admired; but it would be an unwarrantable partiality, to contend that they have as effectually obviated the danger on this side, as was wished and expected. Complaints are everywhere heard from our most considerate and virtuous citizens, equally the friends of public and private faith, and of public and personal liberty, that our governments are too unstable, that the public good is disregarded in the conflicts of rival parties, and that measures are too often decided, not according to the rules of justice and the rights of the minor party, but by the superior force of an interested and overbearing majority. However anxiously we may wish that these complaints had no foundation, the evidence, of known facts will not permit us to deny that they are in some degree true. It will be found, indeed, on a candid review of our situation, that some of the distresses under which we labor have been erroneously charged on the operation of our governments; but it will be found, at the same time, that other causes will not alone account for many of our heaviest misfortunes; and, particularly, for that prevailing and increasing distrust of public engagements, and alarm for private rights, which are echoed from one end of the continent to the other. These must be chiefly, if not wholly, effects of the unsteadiness and injustice with which a factious spirit has tainted our public administrations.

By a faction, I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or a minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adversed to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.

There are two methods of curing the mischiefs of faction: the one, by removing its causes; the other, by controlling its effects.

There are again two methods of removing the causes of faction: the one, by destroying the liberty which is essential to its existence; the other, by giving to every citizen the same opinions, the same passions, and the same interests.

It could never be more truly said than of the first remedy, that it was worse than the disease. Liberty is to faction what air is to fire, an aliment without which it instantly expires. But it could not be less folly to abolish liberty, which is essential to political life, because it nourishes faction, than it would be to wish the annihilation of air, which is essential to animal life, because it imparts to fire its destructive agency.

The second expedient is as impracticable as the first would be unwise. As long as the reason of man continues fallible, and he is at liberty to exercise it, different opinions will be formed. As long as the connection subsists between his reason and his self-love, his opinions and his passions will have a reciprocal influence on each other; and the former will be objects to which the latter will attach themselves. The diversity in the faculties of men, from which the rights of property originate, is not less an insuperable obstacle to a uniformity of interests. The protection of these faculties is the first object of government. From the protection of different and unequal faculties of acquiring property, the possession of different degrees and kinds of property immediately results; and from the influence of these on the sentiments and views of the respective proprietors, ensues a division of the society into different interests and parties.

The latent causes of faction are thus sown in the nature of man; and we see them everywhere brought into different degrees of activity, according to the different circumstances of civil society. A zeal for different opinions concerning religion, concerning government, and many other points, as well of speculation as of practice; an attachment to different leaders ambitiously contending for pre-eminence and power; or to persons of other descriptions whose fortunes have been interesting to the human passions, have, in turn, divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to co-operate for their common good. So strong is this propensity of mankind to fall into mutual animosities, that where no substantial occasion presents itself, the most frivolous and fanciful distinctions have been sufficient to kindle their unfriendly passions and excite their most violent conflicts. But the most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property. Those who hold and those who are without property have ever formed distinct interests in society. Those who are creditors, and those who are debtors, fall under a like discrimination. A landed interest, a manufacturing interest, a mercantile interest, a moneyed interest, with many lesser interests, grow up of necessity in civilized nations, and divide them into different classes, actuated by different sentiments and views. The regulation of these various and interfering interests forms the principal task of modern legislation, and involves the spirit of party and faction in the necessary and ordinary operations of the government.

No man is allowed to be a judge in his own cause, because his interest would certainly bias his judgment, and, not improbably, corrupt his integrity. With equal, nay with greater reason, a body of men are unfit to be both judges and parties at the same time; yet what are many of the most important acts of legislation, but so many judicial determinations, not indeed concerning the rights of single persons, but concerning the rights of large bodies of citizens? And what are the different classes of legislators but advocates and parties to the causes which they determine? Is a law proposed concerning private debts? It is a question to which the creditors are parties on one side and the debtors on the other. Justice ought to hold the balance between them. Yet the parties are, and must be, themselves the judges; and the most numerous party, or, in other words, the most powerful faction must be expected to prevail. Shall domestic manufactures be encouraged, and in what degree, by restrictions on foreign manufactures? are questions which would be differently decided by the landed and the manufacturing classes, and probably by neither with a sole regard to justice and the public good. The apportionment of taxes on the various descriptions of property is an act which seems to require the most exact impartiality; yet there is, perhaps, no legislative act in which greater opportunity and temptation are given to a predominant party to trample on the rules of justice. Every shilling with which they overburden the inferior number, is a shilling saved to their own pockets.

It is in vain to say that enlightened statesmen will be able to adjust these clashing interests, and render them all subservient to the public good. Enlightened statesmen will not always be at the helm. Nor, in many cases, can such an adjustment be made at all without taking into view indirect and remote considerations, which will rarely prevail over the immediate interest which one party may find in disregarding the rights of another or the good of the whole.

The inference to which we are brought is, that the CAUSES of faction cannot be removed, and that relief is only to be sought in the means of controlling its EFFECTS.

If a faction consists of less than a majority, relief is supplied by the republican principle, which enables the majority to defeat its sinister views by regular vote. It may clog the administration, it may convulse the society; but it will be unable to execute and mask its violence under the forms of the Constitution. When a majority is included in a faction, the form of popular government, on the other hand, enables it to sacrifice to its ruling passion or interest both the public good and the rights of other citizens. To secure the public good and private rights against the danger of such a faction, and at the same time to preserve the spirit and the form of popular government, is then the great object to which our inquiries are directed. Let me add that it is the great desideratum by which this form of government can be rescued from the opprobrium under which it has so long labored, and be recommended to the esteem and adoption of mankind.

By what means is this object attainable? Evidently by one of two only. Either the existence of the same passion or interest in a majority at the same time must be prevented, or the majority, having such coexistent passion or interest, must be rendered, by their number and local situation, unable to concert and carry into effect schemes of oppression. If the impulse and the opportunity be suffered to coincide, we well know that neither moral nor religious motives can be relied on as an adequate control. They are not found to be such on the injustice and violence of individuals, and lose their efficacy in proportion to the number combined together, that is, in proportion as their efficacy becomes needful.

From this view of the subject it may be concluded that a pure democracy, by which I mean a society consisting of a small number of citizens, who assemble and administer the government in person, can admit of no cure for the mischiefs of faction. A common passion or interest will, in almost every case, be felt by a majority of the whole; a communication and concert result from the form of government itself; and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party or an obnoxious individual. Hence it is that such democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths. Theoretic politicians, who have patronized this species of government, have erroneously supposed that by reducing mankind to a perfect equality in their political rights, they would, at the same time, be perfectly equalized and assimilated in their possessions, their opinions, and their passions.

A republic, by which I mean a government in which the scheme of representation takes place, opens a different prospect, and promises the cure for which we are seeking. Let us examine the points in which it varies from pure democracy, and we shall comprehend both the nature of the cure and the efficacy which it must derive from the Union.

The two great points of difference between a democracy and a republic are: first, the delegation of the government, in the latter, to a small number of citizens elected by the rest; secondly, the greater number of citizens, and greater sphere of country, over which the latter may be extended.

The effect of the first difference is, on the one hand, to refine and enlarge the public views, by passing them through the medium of a chosen body of citizens, whose wisdom may best discern the true interest of their country, and whose patriotism and love of justice will be least likely to sacrifice it to temporary or partial considerations. Under such a regulation, it may well happen that the public voice, pronounced by the representatives of the people, will be more consonant to the public good than if pronounced by the people themselves, convened for the purpose. On the other hand, the effect may be inverted. Men of factious tempers, of local prejudices, or of sinister designs, may, by intrigue, by corruption, or by other means, first obtain the suffrages, and then betray the interests, of the people. The question resulting is, whether small or extensive republics are more favorable to the election of proper guardians of the public weal; and it is clearly decided in favor of the latter by two obvious considerations:

In the first place, it is to be remarked that, however small the republic may be, the representatives must be raised to a certain number, in order to guard against the cabals of a few; and that, however large it may be, they must be limited to a certain number, in order to guard against the confusion of a multitude. Hence, the number of representatives in the two cases not being in proportion to that of the two constituents, and being proportionally greater in the small republic, it follows that, if the proportion of fit characters be not less in the large than in the small republic, the former will present a greater option, and consequently a greater probability of a fit choice.

In the next place, as each representative will be chosen by a greater number of citizens in the large than in the small republic, it will be more difficult for unworthy candidates to practice with success the vicious arts by which elections are too often carried; and the suffrages of the people being more free, will be more likely to centre in men who possess the most attractive merit and the most diffusive and established characters.

It must be confessed that in this, as in most other cases, there is a mean, on both sides of which inconveniences will be found to lie. By enlarging too much the number of electors, you render the representatives too little acquainted with all their local circumstances and lesser interests; as by reducing it too much, you render him unduly attached to these, and too little fit to comprehend and pursue great and national objects. The federal Constitution forms a happy combination in this respect; the great and aggregate interests being referred to the national, the local and particular to the State legislatures.

The other point of difference is, the greater number of citizens and extent of territory which may be brought within the compass of republican than of democratic government; and it is this circumstance principally which renders factious combinations less to be dreaded in the former than in the latter. The smaller the society, the fewer probably will be the distinct parties and interests composing it; the fewer the distinct parties and interests, the more frequently will a majority be found of the same party; and the smaller the number of individuals composing a majority, and the smaller the compass within which they are placed, the more easily will they concert and execute their plans of oppression. Extend the sphere, and you take in a greater variety of parties and interests; you make it less probable that a majority of the whole will have a common motive to invade the rights of other citizens; or if such a common motive exists, it will be more difficult for all who feel it to discover their own strength, and to act in unison with each other. Besides other impediments, it may be remarked that, where there is a consciousness of unjust or dishonorable purposes, communication is always checked by distrust in proportion to the number whose concurrence is necessary.

Hence, it clearly appears, that the same advantage which a republic has over a democracy, in controlling the effects of faction, is enjoyed by a large over a small republic,–is enjoyed by the Union over the States composing it. Does the advantage consist in the substitution of representatives whose enlightened views and virtuous sentiments render them superior to local prejudices and schemes of injustice? It will not be denied that the representation of the Union will be most likely to possess these requisite endowments. Does it consist in the greater security afforded by a greater variety of parties, against the event of any one party being able to outnumber and oppress the rest? In an equal degree does the increased variety of parties comprised within the Union, increase this security. Does it, in fine, consist in the greater obstacles opposed to the concert and accomplishment of the secret wishes of an unjust and interested majority? Here, again, the extent of the Union gives it the most palpable advantage.

The influence of factious leaders may kindle a flame within their particular States, but will be unable to spread a general conflagration through the other States. A religious sect may degenerate into a political faction in a part of the Confederacy; but the variety of sects dispersed over the entire face of it must secure the national councils against any danger from that source. A rage for paper money, for an abolition of debts, for an equal division of property, or for any other improper or wicked project, will be less apt to pervade the whole body of the Union than a particular member of it; in the same proportion as such a malady is more likely to taint a particular county or district, than an entire State.

In the extent and proper structure of the Union, therefore, we behold a republican remedy for the diseases most incident to republican government. And according to the degree of pleasure and pride we feel in being republicans, ought to be our zeal in cherishing the spirit and supporting the character of Federalists.

PUBLIUS.

0 thoughts on “Majority Rule And Individual Rights Essay Definition”

    -->

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *