Liberty's Blueprint: How Madison and Hamilton Wrote the Federalist Papers, Defined the Constitution, and Made Democracy Safe for the World

Liberty's Blueprint: How Madison and Hamilton Wrote the Federalist Papers, Defined the Constitution, and Made Democracy Safe for the World

by Michael Meyerson
     
 

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Aside from the Constitution itself, there is no more important document in American politics and law than The Federalist-the series of essays written by Alexander Hamilton and James Madison to explain the proposed Constitution to the American people and persuade them to ratify it. Today, amid angry debate over what the Constitution means and what the framers

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Overview

Aside from the Constitution itself, there is no more important document in American politics and law than The Federalist-the series of essays written by Alexander Hamilton and James Madison to explain the proposed Constitution to the American people and persuade them to ratify it. Today, amid angry debate over what the Constitution means and what the framers’ “original intent” was, The Federalist is more important than ever, offering the best insight into how the framers thought about the most troubling issues of American government and how the various clauses of the Constitution were meant to be understood. Michael Meyerson’s Liberty’s Blueprint provides a fascinating window into the fleeting, and ultimately doomed, friendship between Hamilton and Madison, as well as a much-needed introduction to understanding how the lessons of The Federalist are relevant for resolving contemporary constitutional issues from medical marijuana to the war on terrorism. This book shows that, when properly read, The Federalist is not a “conservative” manifesto but a document that rightfully belongs to all Americans across the political spectrum.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Thomas Jefferson called it "the best commentary on the principles of government which ever was written." High praise, indeed, for The Federalist, that compendium of brilliant essays on power written in 1787-1788 by Alexander Hamilton and James Madison (with an assist from John Jay) to persuade waverers to ratify the proposed Constitution. Recent scholars have downplayed the work's influence, claiming the essays circulated only among New Yorkers or convinced no one who wasn't already convinced. Meyerson (Political Numeracy), a professor of law at the University of Baltimore, argues conversely that The Federalistremains of critical importance for understanding not only early America but today's divisive debates on issues like clean-air regulation and medical marijuana. In the book's first half, he succinctly narrates the astonishing story of how Hamilton and Madison-the first combustible and heedless, the other priggish and intellectual-subsumed their differences and forged a genuine friendship that lasted only as long as their writing partnership. In the second part, Meyerson analyzes the various meanings and conflicting interpretations of The Federalistover the following centuries. By combining the personal and the constitutional, law and history, Meyerson has produced a remarkably insightful volume on a crucial American document. (Mar.)

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Library Journal

Meyerson (law, Univ. of Baltimore; Political Numeracy) provides both historical and contemporary analyses of the Federalist Papers, examining their key democratic principles and how the papers' main authors, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton, conveyed those principles to persuade state conventions to ratify the Constitution. He demonstrates that Madison's and Hamilton's principles remain central to our controversies over the interpretation of the Constitution and the question of "original intent." Ongoing issues range from the separation of powers and the abuse of government power to the war on terrorism to medical marijuana. Meyerson extends his study to suss out the intricate personal relationship between these two men, as well as their political relationship. In spite of their many conflicts, their intellectual legacy cannot be underestimated. Both public and academic libraries will find this book a useful source for interested readers.
—Steven Puro

Kirkus Reviews - Kirkus Reviews
Cogent, accessible survey of the drafting of The Federalist, spotlighting the lessons these early essays still hold for today's interpreters of the Constitution. Meyerson (Law/Univ. of Baltimore; Political Numeracy: Mathematical Perspectives on Our Chaotic Constitution, 2002) focuses on the unlikely partnership of James Madison and Alexander Hamilton, who under the pseudonym "Publius" published The Federalist over a feverish period of seven months, from October 1787 to May 1788, in several New York newspapers. (Fellow Founding Father John Jay wrote a few early essays before illness halted him.) The 85 essays laid out the entire range of issues involved in the debate over ratification. They aimed to sway New Yorkers to back the fledging Constitution, which was designed to rectify the defects in the Articles of Confederation. Hamilton and Madison later fell out, and Meyerson devotes a chapter to the disintegration of their relationship after Hamilton became the first Secretary of the Treasury in 1789. Two years earlier, however, eager for a share in history's making, the two brainy writers were pleased to collaborate on The Federalist. Hamilton wrote the sections devoted to "the power of the sword and of the purse," while Madison propounded on the dangers of factions, delineated the relationship between the state and national government, elucidated the separation of powers and offered a minute dissection of each part of the federal government, including the notorious three-fifths compromise, without ever mentioning the word slavery. Meyerson portrays the era's roiling debates over ratification, including the ultimately successful clamor for a Bill of Rights, and examines the essays'modern-day relevance, particularly in terms of current Supreme Court arguments between "originalists" and "non-originalists."A useful study of the Founders's noble minds and fallible ideas.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780465002641
Publisher:
Basic Books
Publication date:
03/03/2008
Pages:
336
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.30(d)

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