The inadequacy of written prohibitions led Madison to conclude that tyranny could only be prevented when ambition was made to counteract ambition, and that meant that “the interests of the man must be connected to the constitutional rights of the place.” In other words, by giving the members of each of the branches of government specific but also consequential powers, their interest in power would motivate them to resist the encroaching efforts of the other branches, and thus they had to be provided with the tools necessary to resist such efforts. Madison assumed that people in government possessed limited turf, and for that reason would zealously and jealously guard it. Thus the instituted systems would be effectively self-regulating. A dependence on the people remained the primary check on government, but experience, he observed, impressed upon us the need for auxiliary precautions. Taking men as they are and not as we wish them to be—and them not being, after all, angels—the lust for power could be placed isometrically in a system of mutual frustration. The private interest of each actor thus acted as “a sentinel” over the public good. These constitutional inventions, he argued, were dictated by prudence and experience. The demands of practical reason meant weakening the legislature while strengthening the executive. This division of power within the federal government, when combined with the principle of federalism, provided “a double security” against power’s tyrannical tendencies.
Here Madison connects the constitutional provisions to the paradoxical tension that lies at the heart of the republican system: On the one hand, the government had to rest on the consent of the people, but on the other hand the people had a tendency to oppress and vex one another, and would use the instruments of government as tools to accomplish such. In other words, the constitutional separation of powers might ameliorate the problem of government corruption, but it couldn’t mitigate the equally troublesome problem of faction. Surely that is what Hamilton was referring to in the aforementioned quote from Federalist 62, for Madison had already established in Federalist 10 that liberty is to faction what air is to fire, and the establishment of justice would require recognizing not only the threats that accompanied the formations of power, but also the dangers inherent in liberty itself, particularly as they manifested themselves in factions.
“There are,” Madison wrote, “but two methods of providing against this evil: the one by creating a will in the community independent of the majority that is, of the society itself; the other, by comprehending in the society so many separate descriptions of citizens as will render an unjust combination of a majority of the whole very improbable, if not impracticable.” In short, only by the fracturing of society itself could the security against faction be realized, and this fracturing represented moral progress over insistence on unity that either mirrored Plato’s educative state that gave everyone the same opinions, or its anticipation in the Progressive claim that unity could be achieved by transforming human nature. That fracturing, in turn, could be accomplished by different means, and indeed in many mays existed naturally, but in any case would result from liberty. By ensuring that people had a right to think freely, to worship according to the dictates of their conscience, to associate with one another on their own terms, to prefer the well-being of their localities to that of other places, and to allow for the natural proliferation of discrete and particular interests among the different classes that composed society—in other words, the free exercise of our natural tendencies as human beings—the dangerous ascendancy of any one faction or combination of them could be mitigated. Institutions in a federal system, operating out of the extended sphere, thus rendered factions impotent while allowing freedom to flourish. By decreasing the dangers of faction without imposing a unifying principle, the constitutional system could simultaneously decrease the need for more powerful national governing institutions.