Madison and Tocqueville’s Opinion on Tyranny of the Majority

Madison and Tocqueville’s Opinion on Tyranny of the Majority

The term tyranny of the majority originated from American democracy in between 1835 to 1840. Alexis de Tocqueville came up with this term and John Stuart Mill later popularized it on Liberty day in 1859. The term was used in discussing the structure of democracy and the popular law. Tyranny of the majority was a situation whereby the majority made decisions to rebel their interests. The decisions were made by such majorities, constitutional power limits and the bill of rights to lessen the alleged problem. In addition, there were implementations of power divisions in order to prevent the occurrence of such invents in the government. There are varied arguments that account for similarities and differences about Madison and Tocqueville opinions on Tyranny of the Majority.

Madison and Tocqueville had learned about the nature and intrinsic structural limitation of the Union, legislatures’ tendency to accrue authority and the menace to liberty that resulted from excessive centralization. In addition, Madison has helped to educate the Frenchman about federalism and the divisions of administrative power that helped to lessen the prospective tyrannical pressure of the public views. However, the public official of the republican had not yet been able to convince Tocqueville that the mass itself was a benefit to free civilizations. The democracy insisted in pleasing undersized states rather than outsized states as the normal sanctuary of freedom (Engels 314).

Democracies were taught about political tyranny and its operation through the official proceedings of the majority act. This is where all the government aspects, public views and judges to the law were a function of the mass but its supremacy was absolute. In the American democracy, Tocqueville argues that the majority have a right for freedom (Engels 305). This political tyranny of Tocqueville was similar to that of James Madison in his Federalist papers. Madison sought to suppress concerns that the majority would impose its orders on a liberal minority thus called attention to the common problem of the variety of judgments in a vast state.

In addition, democracies were taught about the ethical or social tyranny, which the majority exercised through customs and the authority of the public beliefs. Tocqueville detected that as long as the majorities were still silent, discussion was carried on and the mass became silent again when the decision was permanently pronounced. According to Tocqueville, under the democratic despotism, the body was left free but the soul was enslaved (Jackson, 2011). He therefore warned the public against the tyranny of custom and communal mediocrity. Meanwhile, he defended expressions of individuals that were not in agreement with the oppression of customary opinions.

They both feared that the social tyranny would pose a great threat on political power. This is because they thought the entire political minorities were changing especially the regulation against the wealthy. The society that was divided due to racism had already been given the political tyranny of the majority a transformed significance. The fear of Madison was about the crisis of undeviating and static minorities. Nevertheless, fair principle was to be followed in order to ensure that the majority law was in practice to avoid the racial minorities set into powerless. The political tyranny was alleviated through compelling the majorities to bestow with the minorities in order to generate a new government.

Madison emphasized on the elimination of liberty especially on the majorities against the minorities in order to represent the voice of the public. Madison preferred a large state because of many voters than the smaller state whereby it was easier for candidates to trick the voters. According to Madison, a republic was different from an independent because the delegates are under the hands of the government He wanted a republic that can prevent faction in order to maintain unity between the states. He noted that the majority would give better representatives in the government. Therefore, Madison wanted the government to solve this problem especially the representatives in different constituencies.

Tocqueville argued that the enlisted powers were bad and dangerous because individuals would not apply them carefully. He suggested that only God was perfect to exercise such powers but not people (Jackson, 2011). There was an origin of tyranny when total authority was presented to any power. This made Tocqueville to argue strongly on too much power because he saw the dangers ahead. Incase the free American institutions were to be destroyed then the event would be attributed to the omnipotence of the mass. This would have resulted to anxiety of the minorities thus force them to have alternative to corporal force.

Tocqueville argued that there was little endurance of difference opinions in independent societies. Unlike in noble civilizations, public opinions were seen as genuine rather than credited thus had an immense deal of ethical force. Like in the America, the government exposed the whims of the majority. This was predominantly in the parliament that was designated at short period and representatives had to act on community so that they can continue working in their offices. Tocqueville reveals that the concerns of the majority were to be preferred to those of the minority as based on the idea of the moral authority of the majority (Engels 319).


In conclusion, the arguments of Tocqueville are a luminous warning rather than a confirmed case. However, they gave way for a better understanding on the tyranny of the majority. His arguments on the tyranny are not real especially where he argues that only God can exercise the enlisted powers. Nevertheless, his arguments intensely expressed American reality. On the other hand, Madison’ opinion on the tyranny of the majority aimed on a republic that can prevent faction in order to maintain unity between the states. In his case, his opinions concentrated on the need for the government to act on this problem and eliminate liberty.










Works Cited

Engels, Jeremy. “The Politics of Resentment and the Tyranny of the Minority: Rethinking

Victimage for Resentful Times.” Rhetoric Society Quarterly. 40.4 (2010): 303-325. Print.

Jackson, Jefferson. Excerpts from Alexis de Tocqueville’s “Democracy in America”. n.d. Web. 18 April 2011.







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