Federalist 10: Democratic Republic vs. Pure Democracy

 by Natalie Bolton and Gordon Lloyd


To assist teachers in teaching the ratification of the U.S. Constitution, Professor Gordon Lloyd has created a website in collaboration with the Ashbrook Center at Ashland University on the Federalist and Antifederalist Debates. Professor Lloyd organizes the content of the debates in various ways on the website. Two lesson plans have been created to align with two of the most noted essays high school students are encouraged to read, Federalist 10 and Federalist 51. Within each lesson students will use a Federalist Paper as their primary source for acquiring content.

Guiding Question:

Why can a republic protect liberties better than a democracy?

Learning Objectives:

After completing this lesson, students should be able to:

  1. Define faction in Federalist 10.
  2. Analyze present day issues and determine if they qualify as a faction as defined in Federalist 10.
  3. Explain why Madison advocated for a democratic republic form of government over a pure democracy in Federalist 10.

Background Information for the Teacher:

The years were 1787 and 1788. Along with the debate over the Constitution that was taking place in the state legislatures, an “out-of-doors” debate raged in newspapers and pamphlets throughout America’s thirteen states following the Constitutional Convention over the Constitution that had been proposed.

Origin of The Federalist

The eighty-five essays appeared in one or more of the following four New York newspapers: 1) The New York Journal, edited by Thomas Greenleaf, 2) Independent Journal, edited by John McLean, 3) New York Advertiser, edited by Samuel and John Loudon, and 4) Daily Advertiser, edited by Francis Childs. Initially, they were intended to be a twenty essay response to the Antifederalist attacks on the Constitution that were flooding the New York newspapers right after the Constitution had been signed in Philadelphia on September 17, 1787. The Cato letters started to appear on September 27, George Mason’s objections were in circulation and the Brutus essays were launched on October 18. The number of essays in The Federalist was extended in response to the relentless, and effective, Antifederalist criticism of the proposed Constitution.

McLean bundled the first 36 essays together—they appeared in the newspapers between October 27, 1787 and January 8, 1788—and published them as Volume 1 on March 22, 1788. Essays 37 through 77 of The Federalist appeared between January 11, and April 2, 1788. On May 28, McLean took Federalist 37-77 as well as the yet to be published Federalist 78-85 and issued them all as Volume 2 of The Federalist. Between June 14 and August 16, these eight remaining essays—Federalist 78-85—appeared in the Independent Journal and New York Packet.

The Status of The Federalist

One of the persistent questions concerning the status of The Federalist is this: is it a propaganda tract written to secure ratification of the Constitution and thus of no enduring relevance or is it the authoritative expositor of the meaning of the Constitution having a privileged position in constitutional interpretation? It is tempting to adopt the former position because 1) the essays originated in the rough and tumble of the ratification struggle. It is also tempting to 2) see The Federalist as incoherent; didn’t Hamilton and Madison disagree with each other within five years of co-authoring the essays? Surely the seeds of their disagreement are sown in the very essays! 3) The essays sometimes appeared at a rate of about three per week and, according to Madison, there were occasions when the last part of an essay was being written as the first part was being typed.

1) One should not confuse self-serving propaganda with advocating a political position in a persuasive manner. After all, rhetorical skills are a vital part of the democratic electoral process and something a free people have to handle. These are op-ed pieces of the highest quality addressing the most pressing issues of the day. 2) Moreover, because Hamilton and Madison parted ways doesn’t mean that they weren’t in fundamental agreement in 1787-1788 about the need for a more energetic form of government. And just because they were written with certain haste doesn’t mean that they were unreflective and not well written. Federalist 10, the most famous of all the essays, is actually the final draft of an essay that originated in Madison’s Vices in 1787, matured at the Constitutional Convention in June 1787, and was refined in a letter to Jefferson in October 1787. All of Jay’s essays focus on foreign policy, the heart of the Madisonian essays are Federalist 37-51 on the great difficulty of founding, and Hamilton tends to focus on the institutional features of federalism and the separation of powers.

I suggest, furthermore, that the moment these essays were available in book form, they acquired a status that went beyond the more narrowly conceived objective of trying to influence the ratification of the Constitution. The Federalist now acquired a “timeless” and higher purpose, a sort of icon status equal to the very Constitution that it was defending and interpreting. And we can see this switch in tone in Federalist 37 when Madison invites his readers to contemplate the great difficulty of founding. Federalist 38, echoing Federalist 1, points to the uniqueness of the America Founding: never before had a nation been founded by the reflection and choice of multiple founders who sat down and deliberated over creating the best form of government consistent with the genius of the American people. Thomas Jefferson referred to the Constitution as the work of “demigods,” and The Federalist “the best commentary on the principles of government, which ever was written.” There is a coherent teaching on the constitutional aspects of a new republicanism and a new federalism in The Federalist that makes the essays attractive to readers of every generation.

Authorship of The Federalist

A second question about The Federalist is how many essays did each person write? James Madison—at the time a resident of New York since he was a Virginia delegate to the Confederation Congress that met in New York—John Jay, and Alexander Hamilton—both of New York—wrote these essays under the pseudonym, “Publius.” So one answer to the question is that how many essays each person wrote doesn’t matter since everyone signed off under the same pseudonym, “Publius.” But given the iconic status of The Federalist, there has been an enduring curiosity about the authorship of the essays. Although it is virtually agreed that Jay wrote only five essays, there have been several disputes over the decades concerning the distribution of the essays between Hamilton and Madison. Suffice it to note, that Madison’s last contribution was Federalist 63, leaving Hamilton as the exclusive author of the nineteen Executive and Judiciary essays. Madison left New York in order to comply with the residence law in Virginia concerning eligibility for the Virginia ratifying convention. There is also widespread agreement that Madison wrote the first thirteen essays on the great difficulty of founding. There is still dispute over the authorship of Federalist 50-58, but these have persuasively been resolved in favor of Madison.

Outline of The Federalist

A third question concerns how to “outline” the essays into its component parts. We get some natural help from the authors themselves. Federalist 1 outlines the six topics to be discussed in the essays without providing an exact table of contents. The authors didn’t know in October 1787 how many essays would be devoted to each topic. Nevertheless, if one sticks with the “formal division of the subject” outlined in the first essay, it is possible to work out the actual division of essays into the six topic areas or “points” after the fact so to speak.

Martin Diamond was one of the earliest scholars to break The Federalist into its component parts. He identified Union as the subject matter of the first thirty-six Federalist essays and Republicanism as the subject matter of last forty-nine essays. There is certain neatness to this breakdown, and accuracy to the Union essays. The first three topics outlined in Federalist 1 are 1) the utility of the union, 2) the insufficiency of the present confederation under the Articles of Confederation, and 3) the need for a government at least as energetic as the one proposed. The opening paragraph of Federalist 15 summarizes the previous fourteen essays and says: “in pursuance of the plan which I have laid down for the pursuance of the subject, the point next in order to be examined is the ‘insufficiency of the present confederation.'” So we can say with confidence that Federalist 1-14 is devoted to the utility of the union. Similarly, Federalist 23 opens with the following observation: “the necessity of a Constitution, at least equally energetic as the one proposed… is the point at the examination of which we are now arrived.” Thus Federalist 15-22 covered the second point dealing with union or federalism. Finally, Federalist 37 makes it clear that coverage of the third point has come to an end and new beginning has arrived. And since McLean bundled the first thirty-six essays into Volume 1, we have confidence in declaring a conclusion to the coverage of the first three points all having to do with union and federalism.

The difficulty with the Diamond project is that it becomes messy with respect to topics 4, 5, and 6 listed in Federalist 1: 4) the Constitution conforms to the true principles of republicanism, 5) the analogy of the Constitution to state governments, and 6) the added benefits from adopting the Constitution. Let’s work our way backward. In Federalist 85, we learn that “according to the formal division of the subject of these papers announced in my first number, there would appear still to remain for discussion two points,” namely, the fifth and sixth points. That leaves, “republicanism,” the fourth point, as the topic for Federalist 37-84, or virtually the entire Part II of The Federalist.

I propose that we substitute the word Constitutionalism for Republicanism as the subject matter for essays 37-51, reserving the appellation Republicanism for essays 52-84. This substitution is similar to the “Merits of the Constitution” designation offered by Charles Kesler in his new introduction to the Rossiter edition; the advantage of this Constitutional approach is that it helps explain why issues other than Republicanism strictly speaking are covered in Federalist 37-46. Kesler carries the Constitutional designation through to the end; I suggest we return to Republicanism with Federalist 52.

Taken from the Introduction to The Federalist.

Preparing to Teach this Lesson:

Prior to teaching this lesson the teacher should cover content related to the Articles of Confederation and its weaknesses. The teacher should familiarize her/himself with Madison’s Notes on the Constitutional Convention of 1787 on the following days outlined below. Gordon Lloyd has presented the content of the Constitutional Convention of 1787 as a Four Act Drama. Additionally, the teacher should cover content related to Federalist and Antifederalist debates that occurred prior to Federalist 10 being published.

Three activities are outlined below and should be implemented in order.

Activity 1: Define faction in Federalist 10.

Activity 2: Analyze present day issues and determine if they qualify as a faction as defined in Federalist 10.

Activity 3: Analyzing Federalist 10 using APPARTS.

For all activities, students will use Federalist 10. To assist students in reading Federalist 10, a paragraph-by-paragraph summary has been provided by Gordon Lloyd.

Analyzing Primary Sources:

If your students lack experience in dealing with primary sources, you might use one or more preliminary exercises to help them develop these skills. The Learning Page at the American Memory Project of the Library of Congress includes a set of such activities. Another useful resource is the Digital Classroom of the National Archives, which features a set of Document Analysis Worksheets. Finally, History Matters offers pages on “Making Sense of Maps” and “Making Sense of Oral History” which give helpful advice to teachers in getting their students to use such sources effectively.

Suggested Activities:

Activity 1: Define faction in Federalist 10

Time required for activity: In class activity 20 minutes.

The teacher will open day one of the lesson by sharing that Federalist 10 is one of 85 essays advocating for the ratification of the United States Constitution. Federalist 10 was written by James Madison and published on November 22, 1787 under the pseudonym Publius. In this essay, Madison addresses the question of how to guard against “factions,” or groups of citizens, with interests that are contrary to the rights of others or the interests of the community as a whole. Madison defined factions as groups of citizens with opinions, passions, or interests contrary to the interests of others or the well-being of others. These groups of citizens saw factions as irreconcilable differences that could not be negotiated or compromised (i.e. war, divorce).

This activity serves as an introduction to the lesson focusing on student understanding of the word faction. The teacher will ask students to move to a designated corner of the room based on their interest in completing one of the following products: illustration/drawing, mime/monument, Public Service Announcement (PSA), and written flyer. Each corner of the classroom will represent a product.

The teacher will tell students they have 10 minutes to create their designated product. All students will respond to the same question, “What is a faction?” Students will answer the question as an individual, in a small group, or whole group based on their interests and readiness. Students should use any resources they have available to assist in completing the activity. Students will then be asked to share their products with the class.

The teacher will then debrief the activity with students as they complete a verbal and visual word association on faction as a reflection activity (see handout). The teacher can use this completed task as a formative assessment for student understanding of the meaning of faction.

Activity 2: Factions and Current Issues

Time required for activity: 20 minutes

To assist students in understanding factions that are present today, students will evaluate and discuss eight present day issues and determine if they qualify as a faction, as defined by Madison in Federalist 10. Students will be asked to rate each issue on a three point scale with the anchors agree and disagree. The midpoint of the scale will read, don’t know. Teachers should give students the Current Issues Spectrum handout and ask them to read and rate the eight issues followed by an explanation.

The teacher should make a poster for each of the current issues and have students place a mark and determine if the current issue is or is not a faction. Students can mark with a dot, post-it note, or marker. After students make their decisions, the class should discuss why they believe the issue is or is not a faction. The teacher should wrap-up the class discussion by asking students, “If the government has to make decisions on how to address the current issue, is it better to have every individuals voice be heard on every current event issue or is it better to have a representative from each of the anchors on the scale of each issue share their opinion? Are voices more powerful if they come from a large group of people together or from people who share the same ideas but live far apart from one another?

Activity 3: Interpreting and Evaluating Federalist 10

Time required for activity: In class reading assignment and completing an APPARTS graphic organizer, one 45 minute class period. Students may complete individually or in small groups.

The teacher should remind students that Federalist 10 is one of 85 essays advocating for the ratification of the United States Constitution. Federalist 10 was written by James Madison and published on November 22, 1787 under the pseudonym Publius. In this essay, Madison addresses the question of how to guard against “factions,” or groups of citizens, with interests that are contrary to the rights of others or the interests of the community as a whole.

APPARTS Graphic Organizer

To help students understand the main ideas that emerged from Federalist 10, ask students to read Federalist 10 and complete the APPARTS graphic organizer handout. Students will use the APPARTS strategy to explain why James Madison advocated for a democratic republic form of government over a pure democracy in Federalist 10. Students may complete this task individually or in small groups.

Note: APPARTS is a strategy often used in Advanced Placement courses to analyze primary sources.


To understand history or politics it is essential that you learn to critically examine significant primary source documents.

APPARTS is an “easy to remember” acronym for the following:

Who created the source? What do you know about the author? What is the author’s point of view?

Where and when was the source produced? How might this affect the meaning of the source?

Beyond information about the author and the context of its creation, what do you know that would help you further understand the primary source? For example, do you recognize any symbols and recall what they represent?

For whom was the source created and how might this affect the reliability of the source?

Why was this source produced at the time it was produced?

What main point is the source trying to convey? What is the central message of the document?

Why is this source important? What inferences can you draw from this document? Ask yourself, “So what?” What should a student of history or politics take away from the analysis of this document?

Students may read the full-text of Federalist 10 or they can read a paragraph-by-paragraph summary written by Gordon Lloyd.

Depending on student content vocabulary readiness the teacher may need to review vocabulary used in Federalist 10. A teacher resource has been created using the Federalist 10 summary to review vocabulary using a word wall. The teacher will tell students that the class will be adding several words to the word wall today. Word walls are a literacy strategy that may be used before reading (explicit teaching and modeling, during reading (guided practice) and after reading (guided practice).


In 4-5 paragraphs, using your APPARTS analysis, write a reply to James Madison explaining if you agree or disagree with his perspective on the best form of government for the United States to protect individual liberties.

Extending the Lesson:

Extension 1: Compare how Madison discusses factions in Madison’s Vices, his June 6th speech during the Constitutional Convention of 1787, and Federalist 10.

Extension 2: Do you think that our government today effectively guards against factions? Why or why not? Explain.

Extension 3: Do you think that if a government official went about gaining public support using the methods Madison did to ratify the Constitution, would they work into today’s society? Why or why not? Do you think this is good or bad? Why or why not?

Related EDSITEment Lesson Plans:

Selected Websites:

Standards Alignment:

  1. CIVICED (9-12) I
    What are Civic Life, Politics, and Government?
  2. CIVICED (9-12) II
    What are the Foundations of the American Political System?
  3. CIVICED (9-12) III
    How Does the Government Established by the Constitution Embody the Purposes, Values, and Principles of American Democracy?
  4. CIVICED (9-12) V
    What are the Roles of the Citizen in American Democracy?
  5. NCSS-10
    Civic ideals and practices. Citizenship in a democratic republic.
  6. NCSS-4
    Individual development and identity.
  7. NCSS-5
    Individuals, groups, and institutions.
  8. NCSS-6
    Power, authority, and governance.