It is hoped that this will bring to light the relevance of Madison's politics to an understanding of America today.
James Madison (1751-1836) served as the 4th President of America and is considered as the "Father of the American Constitution." Like his close friend Thomas Jefferson, James Madison came from a prosperous family of Virginia planters, received an excellent education, and quickly found himself drawn into the debates over independence. Madison emerged as a respected leader of the congress, known for his hard work and careful preparation.2
Dahl's analysis of Madison's political views centered on the latter's propositions relative to the Democrat-Republic that he and his colleagues (Alexander Hamilton and other supporters of the Constitution) advocate. These propositions are as follows: (1) the greatest threat in the American republic comes from a minority, not the majority; (2) to protect their rights from minority factions, members of the majority faction must organize their own political party; (3) the danger that majorities might threaten property rights could be overcome by enabling a majority of citizens to own property, a feasible solution in America; and (4) in a republic, majorities must be allowed to prevail. Dahl asserts that Madison's political views have somewhat developed from a non-democratic view to a more democratic one as his experience in politics broaden as demonstrated in his instigation of the Bill of Rights (10 amendments to the Constitution) in 1814. Nonetheless, Dahl contends that these propositions are still inconsistent with the political system that he upholds. He mentioned three inconsistencies, namely: (1) as an empirical proposition, his conjecture that increased size reduces the danger of factionalism is contradicted by subsequent experience; (2) in his conception of basic rights, Madison excluded more than half the adult population: women, African Americans, and American Indians; and (3) he actively supported the provision in the Constitution that gave to slave states an increase in representatives amounting to three-fifths of the slave population.3
According to Dahl, four questions served as Madison's guide in establishing his ideas: 1) What is the new system of government to be called 2) Does a common good exist and, if so, can we know what it is 3) What are the major threats to achieving the common good 4) Can these threats be overcome and, if so, how4
Constitutions or political regimes then were classified based on the number of person/s to whom authority is given. It could be any of these: the rule of [the] one, of the few, or of the many. Each may be considered either 'good or bad' form, depending on whether the rulers sought to achieve the common good or merely their own interests. Political regimes ruled by one are considered a monarchy and its undesirable form, despotism. Rule by the few would be aristocracy or oligarchy. How should one call the rule by the many Should the good form be called a democracy or a republic What about the bad form Dahl points out that these two terms were not yet clearly defined then and claims that "Madison's famous distinction between the
terms 'democracy' and 'republic' was somewhat arbitrary and ahistorical" quoting Madison's