Friday, October 25, 2013


AM | @HDI1780

"... to trample on the rules of justice" — James Madison

Very busy, so just a quick post on James Madison. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Madison took inspiration from Mably and Raynal-Diderot when he wrote some of the key articles of that "Bible of Republicanism" called the Federalist Papers [see] (*). I know I should be more methodical about this, but my most significant trouvailles are generally the result of a succession of 'micro-discoveries' that eventually add up to something more substantial.

* * *

So here's another such micro-discovery — in No. 10, Madison takes another key phrase from Diderot in Histoire des deux Indes: "... there is, perhaps, no legislative act in which greater opportunity and temptation are given to a predominant party to trample on the rules of justice". To trample on the rules of justice! This looks a lot like Diderot's "lorsqu'on foule aux pieds la justice" (HDI 1780, xiii.54). Diderot took these lines from Sophocles' Ajax and added them back to Raynal's analysis of credit conditions in French colonies [see].

It was a stroke of genius. And it enabled another genius, James Madison, to embellish his own masterpiece.

(*) See Bernard Bailyn. To Begin the World Anew. The Genius and Ambiguities of the American Founders. New York:  Knopt, 2003, chapter 4. 

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