The book was heartily applauded by some and roundly condemned by others, and has remained extremely controversial-and influential-to this day. Beard does praise The Federalist as a “wonderful piece of argumentation,” but he makes plain his conviction that the authors of the work were the advocates for a narrow, self-interested group, and that they principally desired to hamper and restrain government, not to invigorate it.
A later critic concurring with Beard is James MacGregor Bums, pillar of the East Coast liberal establishment and, like Brant and Morley, a winner of the Pulitzer Prize. Bums observes that the Constitution was “intended more to thwart popular majorities in the states. . . than to empower national majorities,” and that it has consequently given us a regime of “sharply limited powers” and “a balance of checks” that is usually prone to “inaction.” Bums cites The Federalist, especially No. 10 and No. 51, to prove that Madison, who conceived this purposely weak arrangement, saw government as “a necessary evil to be curbed, not an instrument for the realization of. . . a nation’s broader interests. ”
A more upbeat statement of this conception of Publius is provided by Albert Balitzer, in a little study-financed by the American Medical Political Action Committeewhich maintains that our modem PACs embody the finest traditions of American democracy. “The authors of The Federalist,” says Balitzer, wished to foster “the spirit of compromise in private and public measures,” and No. 10 shows that they sought to “permit the entry of private interest into public counsels, reminding government of the existence of opposite and rival powers.”