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Tyranny and American Democracy Oppression is something dreaded by everyone. This universal fear was a much larger problem in the 1800’s than it is today. Tyranny was a fear that the Federalists, Anti-Federalists, and Alexis de Tocqueville had in common. The Federalists feared tyranny of the majority, or faction while the Anti-Federalists feared tyranny of the aristocracy. Tocqueville feared “soft despotism” but supported tyranny of the patriarchy. While the Federalist and the Anti-Federalists were the visionaries for America who tried to prevent different tyrannies, Tocqueville discusses the hypocrisies in America that the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists were against. The Federalists strongly believed that the newly founded republic needed a large, centralized government in order to discourage tyranny of the majority. Hamilton voices this opinion when he says “a firm Union will be of the utmost moment to the peace and liberty of the States as a barrier against domestic faction and insurrection.” (Hamilton, 66, Federalist No. 9) This is because a large, centralized government uses the system of the checks and balances, which prevent domestic faction and revolt. The Federalists made it clear that they opposed a mob ruling and the minorities being denied their rights. The main danger the new republic faced, they argued, was the superior force of an “interested and overbearing majority.” (Madison, 72, No. 10) The Federalists solution on how to deal with majority faction is to “extend the sphere and you take in a greater variety of parties and interests; you make it less probable that a majority of the whole will have a common motive to invade the rights of other citizens; or if such a common motive exists, it will be more difficult for all who feel it to discover their own strength and to act in unison with each other.” (Madison, 78, No. 10)
While tyranny of majority can be prevented by taking measures like the ones just mentioned about the spheres of influence, different opinions will always exist, along with the perpetual conflict between the rich and poor. The Federalists may appear as hypocritical due to their criticism of tyranny of the majority while not addressing the very evident racial and gender tyrannies. Although only vaguely mentioned, it can be inferred that the Federalists’ understood slavery as a necessary evil. Slavery was briefly discussed because the southern states’ support was fundamental in passing the constitution. In addition, the profit made from harvesting yields without paying many workers was attractive to many. Issues within slavery were discussed by the founding fathers such as taxes regarding the slaves. However, the morality of slavery was not addressed in the Federalist Papers. Women’s’ rights were not brought up because of the trouble it would create.
Ultimately, these major issues were not discussed because of the larger problem of passing the constitution, which these issues would only hinder. There is evidence that supports the claim that the Constitution is an unfinished document, in which the hope of equality for all is made known, and is rooted in the founding principles. This claim of the unfinished Constitution can be seen as Madison states, “But whatever may be the defect of the existing powers of Congress, the Constitution has pointed out the way in which it can be supplied” (Madison 1819, 275, Stein-Roggenbuck, September 21). The Federalists argue that a republic is the cure for tyranny of the majority. This is because in a republic, the minority enjoys freedoms. In a democracy, the government reserves the authority to expand the population and extend the territory. A crucial differing point between the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists can be seen in their views concerning the checks and balances of the system. The Federalists trusted the checks and balances and saw them as a way to prevent an unconstitutional decision from taking place by equally distributing power among the branches of government, and prevent various forms of tyranny. The Anti-Federalists did not trust this system at all.
However, The Federalists tried to word the constitution in a way that all majority tyranny is fixable through the system of checks and balances. While the Federalists presented good thoughts on majority faction, representation has problems of its own. In this form of government, the majority is the common motive. In addition, representation may result in an intellectually elite class forming. Altogether the Federalists fear of majority faction was greater than any other class forming, be it an intellectually superior class, or the Anti-Federalists main fear, the tyranny of the aristocracy. The Anti-Federalists fear of the tyranny of the aristocracy stemmed from their fear of a large, centralized, national government, and distrust of the system of checks and balances. The Anti-Federalists did not believe that the system of checks and balances worked. They argued for more State’s rights and viewed themselves as friends of the people. This is in contrast with the Federalists friendship with the nation. The Anti-federalists believed that the major, underlying problem that the new nation faced was the tyranny of the aristocracy. A tyrannical aristocracy would be undesirable because it could lead to a possible monarchy. A monarchy is what the newly founded America just finished fighting for. Therefore it would be illogical to allow tyranny of the aristocracy from taking place. The Federalists tried to pass the constitution so the wrongs in society could be corrected. However, the Federalists chose to very briefly address these issues because of the larger problem at hand of passing the constitution. Alexis de Tocqueville saw the problems that plagued America and openly discussed them.
Tocqueville voices his opinion of how democracy and despotism work hand in hand. He understands racial despotism and democratic despotism to be separate and equal. Tocqueville said, “these two unfortunate races… both occupy an equally inferior position in the country they inhabit; both experience the effects of tyranny; and, if their sufferings are different, they are able to blame the same people”. (Tocqueville, 371) Tocqueville describes how the blacks were below the Indians in the American model of racial tyranny. This was because although Native Americans showed pride, they were too independent and did not allow themselves to assimilate and civilize. Tocqueville feared that the Indians would adopt different attributes of lifestyle from different civilizations and become like the newly created United States, or perish. His view was less optimistic and predicted that the latter would happen. Eventually he was right as the Negro submitted and demoralized while the American Indians have remained independent but have deteriorated because of their independence. The Indians were doomed to perish because they were not strong enough to resist the Europeans and did not want to absorb their culture.
While the Native Americans experienced racial tyranny from the whites, the black slaves experienced it much more. Tocqueville understood slavery as the biggest flaw in the American society. However, he did not blame the slave holders for slavery but instead the conditions for needing slavery. The dilemma of black slaves in the United States was one that had two unlikely outcomes. Either the blacks and whites would have to completely mingle or be completely separate. The problem with all of a sudden mingling is the animosity felt by the blacks and whites alike. Completely separating would be difficult to as some blacks had been freed and culture clashes would surely arise as Africans are deported on a massive scale back to Africa. The only outcome is to completely abolish slavery and have blacks seen as equal members of society, or to keep the Negros in slavery for as long as possible.
Tocqueville’s criticism of America’s racial tyranny is very apparent as he does not endorse slaves used in the way America did or support the deprivation of their rights. On pages 375-376 Tocqueville explains how one day he saw a Negro women, Indian women, and little white girl who practiced white superiority to some extent. This was observed through slight movements she made that contrasted with her youthful weakness. These slight movements followed various form of attention from the Negro and Indian woman.
Tocqueville also discusses tyranny of patriarchy from a surprisingly supportive standpoint. He believes that the American woman is completely content and that the appropriate amount of freedom is given to her. This can be seen when he says, “For my part, I say this without hesitation: although the American woman rarely leaves her domestic sphere and in certain respects is very dependent within it, nowhere does she enjoy a higher status…if I am asked how we should account for the unusual prosperity and growing strength of this nation, I would reply that they must be attributed to the superiority of their women” (Tocqueville, 700). By comparing the standard of living for women then against the standard of living in the past, he reasons that women were treated well in the 1800’s. Tyranny of patriarchy was a form of tyranny overlooked in America by the founding fathers and Alexis de Tocqueville. The inequality of gender was a serious problem that faced America but was dealt with because it would hinder solving the larger problem at hand. Like slavery, the problem with gender rights in America was one that could not be dealt with at the time because it would not contribute to passing the constitution. Instead, these two issues would divert attention away from the main issue.
Finally, Tocqueville addresses the tyranny of soft despotism. This form of tyranny is not as evident as other types but is just as oppressive. In this form of tyranny, the people are under the false impression that they have control of the government when in reality they have no influence. Here, people tend to “follow the crowd” and receive thoughts controlled by the government. The social and cultural tyranny that occurs because of soft despotism is detrimental. Tocqueville realizes that soft despotism goes hand in hand with democracy. This comes about from people stop caring about government. The Federalists and the Anti-Federalists held opposing viewpoints regarding the power of the government and the type of tyranny they feared the most. Other issues that beset America include slavery, the inequality of women, and soft despotism. Although the Federalists and Anti-Federalists opinions on the other issues remain in the dark, Tocqueville discusses them in their eternity and alludes to the possibility of the constitution changing in the future to deal with the other unmentioned and serious problems at the time.

Works Cited: Hamilton, Alexander, James Madison, John Jay, Clinton Rossiter, and Charles R. Kesler. The Federalist Papers. New York, NY: Signet Classic, 2003. Tocqueville, Alexis De, and George Lawrence. Democracy in America. Chicago: Encyclopædia Britannica, 1990. Stein-Roggenbuck, Susan. Slavery in the Founding. September 21, 2011.

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