The Federalist Papers are a series of 85 articles or essays promoting the ratification of the United States Constitution. Seventy-seven of the essays were published serially in The Independent Journal and The New York Packet between October 1787 and August 1788. A compilation of these and eight others, called The Federalist; or, The New Constitution, was published in two volumes in 1788 by J. and A. McLean. The series' correct title is The ...
The Federalist Papers are a series of 85 articles or essays promoting the ratification of the United States Constitution. Seventy-seven of the essays were published serially in The Independent Journal and The New York Packet between October 1787 and August 1788. A compilation of these and eight others, called The Federalist; or, The New Constitution, was published in two volumes in 1788 by J. and A. McLean. The series' correct title is The Federalist; the title The Federalist Papers did not emerge until the twentieth century.
The authors of The Federalist wanted both to influence the vote in favor of ratification and to shape future interpretations of the Constitution.
However, the authors of the Federalist papers also had a greater plan in mind. According to Federalist 1:
It has been frequently remarked, that it seems to have been reserved to the people of this country, by their conduct and example, to decide the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not, of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend, for their political constitutions, on accident and force.
According to historian Richard B. Morris, they are an "incomparable exposition of the Constitution, a classic in political science unsurpassed in both breadth and depth by the product of any later American writer."
At the time of publication, the authorship of the articles was a closely guarded secret, though astute observers guessed that Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay were the likely authors. Following Hamilton's death in 1804, a list that he drew up became public; it claimed fully two-thirds of the essays for Hamilton, including some that seemed more likely the work of Madison (Nos. 49-58, 62, and 63). The scholarly detective work of Douglass Adair in 1944 postulated the following assignments of authorship, corroborated in 1964 by a computer analysis of the text:
Alexander Hamilton (51 articles: nos. 1, 6–9, 11–13, 15–17, 21–36, 59–61, and 65–85)
James Madison (26 articles: nos. 10, 14, 37–58 and 62–63)
John Jay (5 articles: 2–5 and 64).
Nos. 18–20 were the result of a collaboration between Madison and Hamilton.
The authors used the pseudonym "Publius", in honor of Roman consul Publius Valerius Publicola. While some historians credit Jefferson's influence, it is Madison who often now receives greater foundational credit as the father of the Constitution despite his repeated rejection of the honor during his lifetime. Madison became a leading member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Virginia (1789–1797), Secretary of State (1801–1809), and ultimately the fourth President of the United States. Hamilton, who had been a leading advocate of national constitutional reform throughout the 1780s and represented New York at the Constitutional Convention, in 1789 became the first Secretary of the Treasury, a post he held until his resignation in 1795. John Jay, who had been secretary for foreign affairs under the Articles of Confederation from 1784 through their expiration in 1789, became the first Chief Justice of the United States in 1789, stepping down in 1795 to accept election as governor of New York, a post he held for two terms, retiring in 1801.
There are many highlights among the essays of The Federalist. Federalist No. 10, in which Madison discusses the means of preventing rule by majority faction and advocates a large, commercial republic, is generally regarded as the most important of the 85 articles from a philosophical perspective; it is complemented by Federalist No. 14, in which Madison takes the measure of the United States, declares it appropriate for an extended republic, and concludes with a memorable defense of the constitutional and political creativity of the Federal Convention. In Federalist No. 84, Hamilton makes the case that there is no need to amend the Constitution by adding a Bill of Rights, insisting that the various provisions in the proposed Constitution protecting liberty amount to a bill of rights. Federalist No. 78, also written by Hamilton, lays the groundwork for the doctrine of judicial review by federal courts of federal legislation or executive acts. Federalist No. 70 presents Hamilton's case for a one-man chief executive. In Federalist No. 39, Madison presents the clearest exposition of what has come to be called "Federalism". In Federalist No. 51, Madison distills arguments for checks and balances in a memorable essay often quoted for its justification of government as "the greatest of all reflections on human nature."
To say that The Federalist Papers is a work of great importance is an understatement in many ways. First, it is a classic volume of political theory...indeed it is America's great contribution to political theory. The Federalist Papers stand alongside Leviathan,, Two Treatises, The Social Contract, and The Spirit of the Laws as the great works of the age. Second, it is the first and best defense for constitutionalism, particularly, the American Constitution, which it promoted with unwavering and ferocious ardor. What few people outside the scholastic disciplines of American history, political theory, and American jurisprudence realize is how majestic and remarkable the American Constitution and all that encompasses it really are. When the Articles of Confederation failed, the need for a new document outlining a better system of government was needed. What emerged from the 1787 Philadelphia convention was grander and more misunderstood than anyone could have envisioned. Indeed, Sir William Pitt, the famous English Parliamentarian and jurist said of the American efforts , 'It will be the wonder and admiration of all future generations, and the model of all future constitutions.' Even more remarkable is that such a radical document, formulated as the result of debate and compromise, was ever ratified. America's radical experiment may never have seen the light of day were it not for the eloquent and brilliant arguments proffered by Publius. In careful study of the making of this remarkable document, one can begin to appreciate how unique the American experience really is begins to emerge. The nature of Publius' arguments is testament to The Federalist Papers universal and immortal impact. These essays are the definitive argument for Republican democracy, and, indeed, self-government and the notion of a government which operated under the principles set forth in the Declaration of Independence. The Federalist Papers, along with a few other documents (The Declaration of Independence, the writings of James Wilson, and the great speeches of Lincoln, form elegant and eloquent testament to why democracy should work. Than I can write this unworthy and insignificant missive is testament to why these great men, Publius and all the rest, were right.