The Journal of Politics


Representation, Virtue, and Political Jealousy in the Brutus–Publius Dialogue

Emery G. Lee IIIa1

a1 George Mason University, The George Washington University


This article presents both circumstantial and textual evidence for a reading of the tenth Federalist in dialogue with the first Essay of the Anti-Federalist Brutus. This evidence strongly suggests that Madison was particularly concerned with refuting Brutus's theory of representation while writing his most famous essay. When read in this context, it becomes apparent that “virtue,” especially the “virtue” of representatives, plays a much greater role in the arguments of the Federalist than is usually assumed, and that the “political jealousy” that characterizes some Federalist essays, especially No. 51, is in tension with these arguments that rely on “virtue.” This interpretation of the tenth Federalist in dialogue with Brutus thus refocuses attention on the gulf separating Madison's contributions to the Federalist from our own time and democratic ideals.

The fact that Madison's tenth Federalist was first widely publicized in this way and at this time in a monograph with a very special modern bias had a curious aftereffect. The peculiar anachronisms of the Beardian school have effectively diverted attention from what are, prima facie, the most obvious questions to ask about Madison's exercise in political theory: what did the theory of Federalist 10 mean in 1787 when the Virginian enunciated it? What function did Madison's abstract theoretical speculations serve in the creation of the Constitution? (Adair 1974, 76–7)

(Accepted June 18 1996)

(Received October 10 1996)

Emery G. Lee III teaches political science at both George Mason University, Fairfax, VA, 22030, and The George Washington University, Washington, D.C. 20052.