The Federalist Papers (Penguin Classics edition)

The Federalist Papers (Penguin Classics edition)

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by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, John Jay
     
 

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A series of letters by some of America's Founding Fathers, whose defenses of the Constitution are still relevant today

Originally published anonymously, The Federalist Papers first appeared in 1787 as a series of letters to New York newspapers exhorting voters to ratify the proposed Constitution of the United States. Still hotly debated, and open to

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Overview

A series of letters by some of America's Founding Fathers, whose defenses of the Constitution are still relevant today

Originally published anonymously, The Federalist Papers first appeared in 1787 as a series of letters to New York newspapers exhorting voters to ratify the proposed Constitution of the United States. Still hotly debated, and open to often controversial interpretations, the arguments first presented here by three of America’s greatest patriots and political theorists were created during a critical moment in our nation’ s history, providing readers with a running ideological commentary on the crucial issues facing democracy. Today The Federalist Papers are as important and vital a rallying cry for freedom as ever.

This edition features the original eighteenth-century text, with James Madison’s fascinating marginal notations, as well as a complete text of the Constitution.

For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780140444957
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
11/28/1987
Series:
Penguin Classics Series
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
528
Sales rank:
354,955
Product dimensions:
5.06(w) x 7.76(h) x 0.96(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Read an Excerpt

The Federalist Papers


By Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, John Jay

Penguin Publishing Group

Copyright © 1987 Alexander Hamilton
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-14-044495-7


The Federalist No. 1: Hamilton

October 27, 1787

To the People of the State of New York.

After an unequivocal experience of the inefficacy of the subsisting Federal Government, you are called upon to deliberate on a new Constitution for the United States of America. The subject speaks its own importance; comprehending in its consequences, nothing less than the existence of the Union, the safety and welfare of the parts of which it is composed, the fate of an empire, in many respects, the most interesting in the world. 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. If there be any truth in the remark, the crisis, at which we are arrived, may with propriety be regarded as the æra in which that decision is to be made; and a wrong election of the part we shall act, may, in this view, deserve to be considered as the general misfortune of mankind.

This idea will add the inducements of philanthropy to those of patriotism to heighten the solicitude, which all considerate and good men must feel for the event. Happy will it be if our choice should be directed by a judicious estimate of our true interests, unperplexed and unbiassed by considerations not connected with the public good. But this is a thing more ardently to be wished than seriously to be expected. The plan offered to our deliberations, affects too many particular interests, innovates upon too many local institutions, not to involve in its discussion a variety of objects foreign to its merits, and of views, passions and prejudices little favourable to the discovery of truth.

Among the most formidable of the obstacles which the new Constitution will have to encounter, may readily be distinguished the obvious interest of a certain class of men in every State to resist all changes which may hazard a diminution of the power, emolument and consequence of the offices they hold under the State-establishments-and the perverted ambition of another class of men, who will either hope to aggrandise themselves by the confusions of their country, or will flatter themselves with fairer prospects of elevation from the subdivision of the empire into several partial confederacies, than from its union under one government.

It is not, however, my design to dwell upon observations of this nature. I am well aware that it would be disingenuous to resolve indiscriminately the opposition of any set of men (merely because their situations might subject them to suspicion) into interested or ambitious views: Candour will oblige us to admit, that even such men may be actuated by upright intentions; and it cannot be doubted that much of the opposition which has made its appearance, or may hereafter make its appearance, will spring from sources, blameless at least, if not respectable, the honest errors of minds led astray by preconceived jealousies and fears. So numerous indeed and so powerful are the causes, which serve to give a false bias to the judgment, that we upon many occasions, see wise and good men on the wrong as well as on the right side of questions, of the first magnitude to society. This circumstance, if duly attended to, would furnish a lesson of moderation to those, who are ever so much persuaded of their being in the right, in any controversy. And a further reason for caution, in this respect, might be drawn from the reflection, that we are not always sure, that those who advocate the truth are influenced by purer principles than their antagonists. Ambition, avarice, personal animosity, party opposition, and many other motives, not more laudable than these, are apt to operate as well upon those who support as upon those who oppose the right side of a question. Were there not even these inducements to moderation, nothing could be more illjudged than that intolerant spirit, which has, at all times, characterised political parties. For, in politics as in religion, it is equally absurd to aim at making proselytes by fire and sword. Heresies in either can rarely be cured by persecution.

And yet however just these sentiments will be allowed to be, we have already sufficient indications, that it will happen in this as in all former cases of great national discussion. A torrent of angry and malignant passions will be let loose. To judge from the conduct of the opposite parties, we shall be led to conclude, that they will mutually hope to evince the justness of their opinions, and to increase the number of their converts by the loudness of their declamations, and by the bitterness of their invectives. An enlightened zeal for the energy and efficiency of government will be stigmatized, as the off-spring of a temper fond of despotic power and hostile to the principles of liberty. An overscrupulous jealousy of danger to the rights of the people, which is more commonly the fault of the head than of the heart, will be represented as mere pretence and artifice; the bait for popularity at the expence of public good. It will be forgotten, on the one hand, that jealousy is the usual concomitant of violent love, and that the noble enthusiasm of liberty is too apt to be infected with a spirit of narrow and illiberal distrust. On the other hand, it will be equally forgotten, that the vigour of government is essential to the security of liberty; that, in the contemplation of a sound and well informed judgment, their interest can never be separated; and that a dangerous ambition more often lurks behind the specious mask of zeal for the rights of the people, than under the forbidding appearance of zeal for the firmness and efficiency of government. History will teach us, that the former has been found a much more certain road to the introduction of despotism, than the latter, and that of those men who have overturned the liberties of republics the greatest number have begun their career, by paying an obsequious court to the people, commencing Demagogues and ending Tyrants.

In the course of the preceeding observations I have had an eye, my Fellow Citizens, to putting you upon your guard against all attempts, from whatever quarter, to influence your decision in a matter of the utmost moment to your welfare by any impressions other than those which may result from the evidence of truth. You will, no doubt, at the same time, have collected from the general scope of them that they proceed from a source not unfriendly to the new Constitution. Yes, my Countrymen, I own to you, that, after having given it an attentive consideration, I am clearly of opinion, it is your interest to adopt it. I am convinced, that this is the safest course for your liberty, your dignity, and your happiness. I effect not reserves, which I do not feel. I will not amuse you with an appearance of deliberation, when I have decided. I frankly acknowledge to you my convictions, and I will freely lay before you the reasons on which they are founded. The consciousness of good intentions disdains ambiguity. I shall not however multiply professions on this head. My motives must remain in the depository of my own breast: My arguments will be open to all, and may be judged of by all. They shall at least be offered in a spirit, which will not disgrace the cause of truth.

I propose in a series of papers to discuss the following interesting particulars-The utility of the Union to your political prosperity-The insufficiency of the present Confederation to preserve that Union-The necessity of a government at least equally energetic with the one proposed to the attainment of this object-The conformity of the proposed constitution to the true principles of republican government-Its analogy to your own state constitution-and lastly, The additional security, which its adoption will afford to the preservation of that species of government, to liberty and to property.

In the progress of this discussion I shall endeavour to give a satisfactory answer to all the objections which shall have made their appearance that may seem to have any claim to your attention.

It may perhaps be thought superfluous to offer arguments to prove the utility of the Union, a point, no doubt, deeply engraved on the hearts of the great body of the people in every state, and one, which it may be imagined has no adversaries. But the fact is, that we already hear it whispered in the private circles of those who oppose the new constitution, that the Thirteen States are of too great extent for any general system, and that we must of necessity resort to separate confederacies of distinct portions of the whole.1 This doctrine will, in all probability, be gradually propagated, till it has votaries enough to countenance an open avowal of it. For nothing can be more evident, to those who are able to take an enlarged view of the subject, than the alternative of an adoption of the new Constitution, or a dismemberment of the Union. It will therefore be of use to begin by examining the advantages of that Union, the certain evils and the probable dangers, to which every State will be exposed from its dissolution. This shall accordingly constitute the subject of my next address.
(Continues...)

Excerpted from The Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, John Jay. Copyright © 1987 Alexander Hamilton. Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Meet the Author

Alexander Hamilton (1757-1804) was born in the West Indies and served during the War of Independence as a captain. His military brilliance was recognized, and he was sent on several important military commissions. He was George Washington’s secretary and aide-de-camp and in 1787 become a Member of the Constitutional Convention. From 1789 to 1795 he was the first Secretary of the Treasury, and in 1801 he held the casting vote against Burr and for Jefferson. He fought a duel with Burr and died the next day.

James Madison (1751-1836) was the fourth President of the United States and become known as the ‘father’ of the Constitution because of his influence in planning it and drawing up the Bill of Rights. He was Secretary of State under Jefferson, and his main achievement in this role was the purchase of Louisiana from the French. He lived in Montpelier, Virginia, for eighty-five years, two of which he spent on the governor’s council. He was elected President in 1809 and again in 1812. During his terms in office he worked to abolish slavery, to disestablish the Church and to seek peace, although under his command the war against Britain resulted in a U.S. triumph.

John Jay
(1745-1829) served the new nation in both law and diplomacy and established important judicial precedents as first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. A New York attorney from 1768, he won a wide reputation with The Address to the People of Great Britain, which stated the claims of the colonists. He did not sign the Declaration of Independence in 1776 but helped to ensure its approval in New York. In 1789 he was appointed the first U.S. Chief Justice and shaped the Supreme Court procedures. The Jay Treaty of 1794 with Great Britain made him unpopular, and his hopes of succeeding Washington as President faded. After a spell as Governor of New York he retired to a farm, where he spent twenty-seven uneventful years.

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The Federalist Papers (Illustrated + FREE audiobook link + Active TOC) 4 out of 5 based on 2 ratings. 56 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Federalist is a must read for anyone interested in the origins of US government, American political values, the history of colonial America or Democracy. Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay authored the 85 part piece as letters to the editor to gain public support for the new consititution. This gives it a comprehensive and admittedly (by the author(s)) repetitive look at the reasoning behind every decision made in writing the Constitution. It provides an explanation for American government, but it's true strength as a work of political theory is that it articulates American political values by it creating them, rather than by reporting them through a historical lens. Finally, while reading the book, any student of American history or politics can not stray from the importance of the work. I still find it awe inspiring thinking that it was written by some of America's greatest minds, and even today has an undeniable influence on the world's oldest democracy.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A must read for those who claim to understand the constitution. It must be read with the counterpoints however. Recomended: The Essential Antifederalist by Lloyd & Allen.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is good for reference and research, it's a glimpse into what happened in the founding of our great nation.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a copy of the essays written by Madison, Hamilton, and Jay; it has a great introduction. It's wonderful.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A great companion read to the U.S. Constitution. Reveals some of the thought processes behind the ratification of our Constitution, and the thoughts of the Framers.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It was very informative and concise. I'm sure I will use it often for material
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Needs a table of contents
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