Foundations of American Democracy

Federalist 10

Factions.

What are they?

Why do we care? (ohmygoddoyouliveunderarock)

Well, you should care. Even George Washington cared. I mean, not all factions are political parties, but all political parties are factions. And let’s be honest. Factions are a huge source of discontent in our nation today.

Faction: a small, organized, dissenting group within a larger one, especially in politics.

{Can we swoon over G’s writing for a second?}

“The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.”

Let’s all take a second with that. George knew his stuff (or whomever wrote it for him since he was SUPER insecure about his “smarts”. He was military, most of the people he knew were University) September 19, 1796 was far from November 23, 1787 but he saw the discontent in his cabinet. Famously between Hamilton and Jefferson. (SHEG has a great lesson on this, check it out)

I’m getting ahead of myself here. Let’s go back to the Federalist 10 argument.

This is a highly quoted piece of the 85 essays. Most notably, “Liberty is to faction what air is to fire, an aliment without which it instantly expires,” {God, I love James Madison… so much}.

Usually, when I teach this, there is a short video to go through the basics of the piece. It helps students to know what they are going into. It’s helpful to have them try to digest it outside of class. Giving the students an introduction to the whole of the Federalist Papers sets the scene. I give them my annotated Federalist 10. I did this when I was the Bill of Rights Institute Founders Fellowship on the Federalist and AntiFederalist Debate. I like doing this to show them that I’ve already looked at the document myself. We start with a first look, usually just a quick scan of the document, noticing the annotations or quotations that sound familiar. We write down questions and really become friends with the document. Depending on the class, you can send the document home for further annotation. The next day, a small group setting can help students share what they saw, the questions they had, and the summary of what Madison was trying to get to in this specific paper with their peers.

I don’t think going into long lessons is necessary with this document. What is necessary is an understanding that students can refer to throughout the course. What is necessary is helping students break down Madison’s argument. This can be done via jigsaw, in small groups with excerpts, or as a whole class depending on what YOU think is best for YOUR class. (You can jigsaw with Brutus 1)

The end goal is an understanding of the document so that students can move forward in the curriculum using that as a base, as well as a reference.

This can naturally spiral into debates over current divisive political issues that are current to students. At this point, it’s up to you where you let it go. I generally don’t let it go anywhere because that’s not the point of the lesson. However, this could easily transition to…

Lesson Ideas!

Writing Prompt OR Discussion-  Describe how Madison’s Federalist 10 can be explained using a modern day issue. (past 5 years)

Compare and contrast Federalist 10 with Brutus I (I like this version because it’s annotated and has guiding questions to help focus).

Documents of Freedom- Political Parties Activity: Factions and Virtue (sign in required, free resource)

**It also of note to go back around to Washington’s Farewell Address and One Last Time.. But, that’s another post entirely.

Resources:

Fact/Myth- This is a treasure trove

Documents in Detail- Teaching American History