The Sedition Act of 1798

2359 Words10 Pages
For the first few years of Constitutional government, under the

leadership of George Washington, there was a unity, commonly called

Federalism that even James Madison (the future architect of the Republican

Party) acknowledged in describing the Republican form of 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." Although legislators had serious

differences of opinions, political unity was considered absolutely

essential for the stability of the nation.Political parties or factions

were considered evil as "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_" Public perception of

factions were related to British excesses and thought to be "the mortal

diseases under which popular governments have everywhere perished." James

Madison wrote in Federalist Papers #10, "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." He went on to explain that faction

is part of human nature; "that the CAUSES of faction cannot be removed, and

that relief is only to be sought in the means of controlling its EFFECTS."

The significant point Madison was to make in this essay was that the Union

was a safeguard against factions in that even if "the influence of factious

leaders may kindle a flame within their particular States, [they will be]

unable to spread a general conflagration through the other States."

What caused men like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison to defy tradition

and public perceptions against factions and build an opposition party?

Did they finally agree with Edmund Burkes' famous aphorism: "When bad men

combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one, an

unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle?" Did the answer lie in

their opposition with the agenda of Alexander Hamilton and the increases of

power both to the executive branch as well as the legislative branch of

government?
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