Throughout the building of the nation that today is called the United States of American many choices had to be made on how the government was going to be ruled. The main question of focus was whether or not majority rule should be the way that the government functions. To understand why the founding fathers decided to rule in favor of majority rule, majority rule has to be defined, “A doctrine by which a numerical majority of an organized group holds the power to make decisions binding on all in the group” (American Heritage Dictionary).
The Federalist Papers, Democracy in America, and American Citizenship each present their views on majority rule and its presence in the American government. All three of these books suggest their reasons for having majority rule being part of the American government, or if it is even part of the government at all.
Majority rule plays a significant role in how the authors of the Federalist Papers structure their idea of government ruling. The first place that is show is in number Ten written by James Madison. Here Madison is afraid of the idea of the possibility of the tyranny of a minority. This means that a small group of people would have the ability to take over and rule the United States.
In order to do this, Madison suggests that there needs to be control over the factions. By factions he means, “a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or a minority of a whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest” (Fed. Papers, 46).
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Factions are dangerous to a government because they have the ability to come into power. With a system of government that has majority rule, the small factions will have no possibility of coming to power. “If a faction consists of less than a majority, relief is supplied be the republican principle, which enables the majority to defeat its sinister views by regular vote” (Fed Papers, 48).
By this, Madison is saying that factions will not be able to survive in the United States without a majority of the population being part of that faction. To ensure the control over factions a republic needs to be formed. A republic is where a large number of people elect a small number of people to represent them in the government. “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” (Fed. Papers, 51).
A republic will not allow many factions to exist because one or two factions will be in control.
With many factions, there is very little chance that there will be a majority within a single faction. Federalist Paper number Fifty-One does not take a stance on whether or not majority rule is good or bad but that majority rule needs to be controlled. No government is perfect, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary” (Fed Papers, 290).
What Madison is saying here is that man is not perfect in anyway. Man is what makes up our government, so if man is not perfect then neither is the government.
In order to control this Madison suggests that, “The different governments will control each other, at the same time each government will control itself” (Fed Papers, 291).
This idea of the system of checks and balances ensures that each part of the government will have another part of the government looking over it. To limit that majority from ruling the entire government, the legislative branch is split into two parts: the House of Representatives and the Senate. Each part of the branch has its own rules and regulations regarding how much representation each state has and how often people are elected into office.
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In itself, the House of Representatives has its own system of checks and balances. First, majority rule is given to the states that have the largest amount of population. This means that the states with more population are allowed to elect more delegates to office. But, to limit that majority for ruling for to long there are frequent elections. This allows for new ideas and more representation of the people. The Senate is a connection between the state government and the federal government.
Here there is no majority rule. Every state no matter how large or small has equal representation. But, in order for a ruling to be passes, “No law or resolution can now be passed without the concurrence, first, of a majority of the people, and then, of a majority of the States” (Fed Papers, 346).
Alexis de Tocqueville in is book The Democracy in America takes a completely different approach with is idea of majority rule. Tocqueville is against the practice of majority rule because he feels that democracy has the tendency to fall into the tyranny of majority. Throughout the United States there is really no one majority because there are two political parties that are in control.
But these two parties control the entire government and do not allow small parties to have any type of control in the government, “A huge majority declared against it[the Federalists], and suddenly finding itself into a small minority, it at once found itself into despair” (Democracy, 176).
Tocqueville states that small parties stand no chance with in the government because the majority has too much power and will never be over come. “The two main weapons used by the parties to assure success are the newspapers and associations” (Democracy, 179).
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One of the easiest ways to the parties to ensure its views to be expressed to the entire nation is through the press. The press is dangerous because it can promote the tyranny of the majority. The way that this happens is that newspapers can influence large numbers of people at one time.
On the contrary to the press promoting the tyranny of the majority, association protect against the tyranny of the majority. “Thus the right of association can almost be identified with freedom to write, but already associations are more powerful than the press” (Democracy, 190).
With associations minorities have a say in what happens in the government. They have to right to get together to discuss their ideas freely, “The most distinguished of men of the opposite party, unable to cross the barrier keeping them from power, must be able to establish themselves outside it[the party in authority]” (Democracy 192).
Another main theme in Tocqueville’s argument against the tyranny of the majority is that no one has any say except for the majority. Tocqueville states, “There is nothing outside the majority capable of resisting it” (Democracy, 246).
What he is saying by this is that the majority has so much power that no one else has the ability to change what the majority wants. “The moral authority of the majority is partly based on the notion that there is more enlightenment and wisdom in a numerous assemble than in a single man” (Democracy 247).
Here he is stating the view of government is that with more people in an assembly that assembly is smarter than an assembly with fewer people because there are more minds thinking in the larger assembly. This means that the wisdom of an assembly relies completely on the number of people rather than the ideas of the people. A third view that is portrayed on the idea of majority rule is that of Judith Shklar is her book American Citizenship. Here Shklar takes a different approach to her writing then the writers of The Federalist Papers and Alexis de Tocqueville.
She believes that the people are actually separated from the majority rule because there were so many people that were denied citizenship by the founding fathers. In the beginning and then for much of American history a large portion of the population had to rights. These rights included the rights to vote and to earn wages. “The excluded were not merely deprived of casual political privileges, they were being betrayed and humiliated by their fellow citizens” (American Citizenship, 38).
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African Americans and women were on the losing end of this. Both of these groups of people did not have to right to vote.
Because African Americans were slaves they earned no wages they were like property owned by the white males. Women also had no earning because they worked in the house and were not paid by their husbands. Neither group of people was allowed to contribute anything to society. In actuality the number of African Americans and women combined were greater than the number of white males. This idea proved two things. First is meant that there was no majority in the society because both African Americans and women were not allowed to contribute anything to society.
Second, this meant that there was no majority rule because the majority of the population was no even allowed to vote. Majority rule is a very tough topic. There are many views that both support and reject the use of it in the American political systems. The problem with majority rule is that it often eliminates the views of the minority. This means that minorities have very little say in what happens in the government of the United States. On the other side majority rule does not allow minority parties to come into power.
This ensures democracy to take place throughout America.