Wikijunior:United States Charters of Freedom/Federalist Papers

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Title page of the first printing of the Federalist Papers (1788).

The Federalist Papers are a series of 85 articles arguing for the ratification of the United States Constitution. They were first published serially from October 1787 to August 1788 in New York City newspapers. A compilation, called The Federalist, was published in 1788. The Federalist Papers serve as a primary source for interpretation of the Constitution, as they outline the philosophy and motivation of the proposed system of government. The authors of the Federalist Papers were not above using the opportunity to provide their own "spin" on certain provisions of the constitution to (i) influence the vote on ratification and (ii) influence future interpretations of the provisions in question.

The articles were written by James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay, under the pseudonym "Publius," in honor of Roman consul Publius Valerius Publicola. Madison is generally credited as the father of the Constitution and became the fourth President of the United States. Hamilton was an influential delegate at the Constitutional Convention, and later the first Secretary of the Treasury. John Jay would become the first Chief Justice of the United States. Hamilton penned the majority and Madison made several significant contributions to the series. Jay, who fell ill early in the project, wrote only five.

Federalist No. 10 and Federalist No. 51 are generally regarded as the most influential of the 85 articles; 10 advocates for a large, strong republic and includes discussion on factions, 51 explains the need for separation of powers. Federalist No. 84 is also notable for its opposition to what later became the Bill of Rights.

Alexander Hamilton, the author of most of the Federalist Papers

Origins[edit]

The Constitution was sent to the states for ratification in late September 1787. Immediately, it was the target of a substantial number of articles and public letters written by Anti-Federalists and other opponents of the Constitution. For instance, the important Anti-Federalist authors "Cato" and "Brutus" debuted in New York papers on September 27 and October 18, respectively. Hamilton began the Federalist Papers project as a response to the opponents of ratification, a response that would explain the new Constitution to the residents of New York and persuade them to ratify it. He wrote in Federalist No. 1 that the series would "endeavor 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."

Hamilton recruited collaborators for the project. He enlisted Jay, who fell ill and was unable to contribute much to the series. Madison, in New York as a delegate to the Congress, was recruited by Hamilton and Jay and became Hamilton's major collaborator.

Hamilton also chose "Publius" as the pseudonym under which the series would be written. While many other pieces representing both sides of the constitutional debate were written under Roman names, Albert Furtwangler contends that "'Publius' was a cut above 'Caesar' or 'Brutus' or even 'Cato.' Publius Valerius was not a late defender of the republic but one of its founders. His more famous name, Publicola, meant 'friend of the people.'" It was not the first time Hamilton had used this pseudonym: in 1778, he had applied it to three letters attacking Samuel Chase, an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court.

An advertisement for The Federalist

Publication[edit]

The Federalist Papers initially appeared in three New York newspapers: the Independent Journal, the New-York Packet and the Daily Advertiser, beginning on October 27, 1787. Between them, Hamilton, Madison and Jay kept up a rapid pace, with at times three or four new essays by Publius appearing in the papers in a week. Hamilton also encouraged the reprinting of the essay in newspapers outside New York state, and indeed they were published in a number of other states where the ratification debate was taking place.

The high demand for the essays led to their publication in a more permanent form. On January 1, 1788, the New York publishing firm J. & A. McLean announced that they would publish the first thirty-six essays as a bound volume; that volume was released on March 2 and was titled The Federalist. (Its title page appears at the top right of the article.) New essays continued to appear in the newspapers; Federalist No. 77 was the last number to first appear in that form, on April 2. A second bound volume containing the last forty-nine essays was released on May 28. The remaining eight papers were later published in the newspapers as well.

A number of later publications are worth noting. A 1792 French edition ended the collective anonymity of Publius, announcing that the work had been written by "MM Hamilton, Maddisson E Gay," citizens of the State of New York. In 1802 George Hopkins published an American edition that similarly named the authors. Hopkins wished as well that "the name of the writer should be prefixed to each number," but at this point Hamilton insisted that this was not to be, and the division of the essays between the three authors remained a secret.

The first publication to divide the papers in such a way was an 1810 edition that used a list provided by Hamilton to associate the authors with their numbers; this edition appeared as two volumes of the compiled "Works of Hamilton." In 1818, Jacob Gideon published a new edition with a new listing of authors, based on a list provided by Madison. The difference between Hamilton's list and Madison's form the basis for a dispute over the authorship of a dozen of the essays.

James Madison, Hamilton's major collaborator, later President of the United States, "Father of the Constitution" and first author of the Bill of Rights

The disputed essays[edit]

The authorship of seventy-three of the Federalist essays is fairly certain. Twelve are disputed, though some newer evidence suggests Madison as the author. The first open designation of which essay belonged to whom was provided by Hamilton provided his lawyer with a list detailing the author of each number. This list credited Hamilton with a full sixty-three of the essays (three of those being jointly written with Madison), almost three quarters of the whole, and was used as the basis for an 1810 printing that was the first to make specific attribution for the essays.

Madison did not immediately dispute Hamilton's list, but provided his own list for the 1818 Gideon edition of The Federalist. Madison claimed twenty-nine numbers for himself, and he suggested that the difference between the two lists was "owing doubtless to the hurry in which [Hamilton's] memorandum was made out." A known error in Hamilton's list—Hamilton incorrectly ascribed No. 54 to Jay, when in fact Jay wrote No. 64—has provided some evidence for Madison's suggestion.

Statistical analysis has been undertaken a number of times to try to decide based on word frequencies and writing styles, and nearly all of the statistical studies show that all twelve disputed papers were written by Madison.

Structure and form[edit]

In Federalist No. 1, which served as the introduction to the series, Hamilton listed six topics to be covered in the subsequent articles:

  1. "The utility of the UNION to your political prosperity" – covered in No. 2 through No. 14
  2. "The insufficiency of the present Confederation to preserve that Union"—covered in No. 15 through No. 22
  3. "The necessity of a government at least equally energetic with the one proposed to the attainment of this object"—covered in No. 23 through No. 36
  4. "The conformity of the proposed constitution to the true principles of republican government"—covered in No. 37 through No. 84
  5. "Its analogy to your own state constitution"—covered in No. 85
  6. "The additional security which its adoption will afford to the preservation of that species of government, to liberty and to prosperity"—covered in No. 85.

Furtwangler notes that as the series grew, this plan was somewhat changed. The fourth topic expanded into detailed coverage of the individual articles of the Constitution and the institutions it mandated, while the two last topics were merely touched on in the last essay.

John Jay, author of five of the Federalist Papers

Judicial use and interpretation[edit]

Federal judges frequently use the Federalist Papers when interpreting the Constitution as a contemporary account of the intentions of the framers and ratifiers. However, the amount of deference that should be given to the Federalist Papers in constitutional interpretation has always been somewhat controversial. As early as 1819, Chief Justice John Marshall said about the Federalist Papers that "the opinions expressed by the authors of that work have been justly supposed to be entitled to great respect in expounding the Constitution. No tribute can be paid to them which exceeds their merit; but in applying their opinions to the cases which may arise in the progress of our government, a right to judge of their correctness must be retained."

Opposition to the Bill of Rights[edit]

The Federalist Papers (specifically Federalist No. 84) are remarkable for their opposition to what later became the Bill of Rights. The idea of adding a bill of rights to the constitution was originally controversial because the constitution, as written, did not specifically enumerate or protect the rights of the people. Alexander Hamilton, in Federalist No. 84, feared that such an enumeration, once written down explicitly, would later be interpreted as a list of the only rights that people had.

However, Hamilton's opposition to the Bill of Rights was far from universal. Brutus, articulated this view point in the so-called Anti-Federalist No. 84, asserting that a government unrestrained by such a bill could easily devolve into tyranny. Other supporters of the Bill argued that a list of rights would not and should not be interpreted as exhaustive; i.e., that these rights were examples of important rights that people had, but that people had other rights as well. People in this school of thought were confident that the judiciary would interpret these rights in an expansive fashion.

List of Federalist Papers[edit]

Here is a list of the Federalist Papers:

# Title Author
1 General Introduction Alexander Hamilton
2 Concerning Dangers from Foreign Force and Influence John Jay
3 The Same Subject Continued:

Concerning Dangers from Foreign Force and Influence

John Jay
4 The Same Subject Continued:

Concerning Dangers from Foreign Force and Influence

John Jay
5 The Same Subject Continued:

Concerning Dangers from Foreign Force and Influence

John Jay
6 Concerning Dangers from Dissensions Between the States Alexander Hamilton
7 The Same Subject Continued:

Concerning Dangers from Dissensions Between the States

Alexander Hamilton
8 The Consequences of Hostilities Between the States Alexander Hamilton
9 The Union as a Safeguard Against Domestic Faction and Insurrection Alexander Hamilton
10 The Same Subject Continued:

The Union as a Safeguard Against Domestic Faction and Insurrection

James Madison
11 The Utility of the Union in Respect to Commercial Relations and a Navy Alexander Hamilton
12 The Utility of the Union in Respect to Revenue Alexander Hamilton
13 Advantage of the Union in Respect to Economy in Government Alexander Hamilton
14 Objections to the Proposed Constitution from Extent of Territory Answered James Madison
15 The Insufficiency of the Present Confederation to Preserve the Union Alexander Hamilton
16 The Same Subject Continued:

The Insufficiency of the Present Confederation to Preserve the Union

Alexander Hamilton
17 The Same Subject Continued:

The Insufficiency of the Present Confederation to Preserve the Union

Alexander Hamilton
18 The Same Subject Continued:

The Insufficiency of the Present Confederation to Preserve the Union

Alexander Hamilton and James Madison
19 The Same Subject Continued:

The Insufficiency of the Present Confederation to Preserve the Union

Alexander Hamilton and James Madison
20 The Same Subject Continued:

The Insufficiency of the Present Confederation to Preserve the Union

Alexander Hamilton and James Madison
21 Other Defects of the Present Confederation Alexander Hamilton
22 The Same Subject Continued:

Other Defects of the Present Confederation

Alexander Hamilton
23 The Necessity of a Government as Energetic as the One Proposed to the Preservation of the Union Alexander Hamilton
24 The Powers Necessary to the Common Defense Further Considered Alexander Hamilton
25 The Same Subject Continued:

The Powers Necessary to the Common Defense Further Considered

Alexander Hamilton
26 The Idea of Restraining the Legislative Authority in Regard to the Common Defense Considered Alexander Hamilton
27 The Same Subject Continued:

The Idea of Restraining the Legislative Authority in Regard to the Common Defense Considered

Alexander Hamilton
28 The Same Subject Continued:

The Idea of Restraining the Legislative Authority in Regard to the Common Defense Considered

Alexander Hamilton
29 Concerning the Militia Alexander Hamilton
30 Concerning the General Power of Taxation Alexander Hamilton
31 The Same Subject Continued:

Concerning the General Power of Taxation

Alexander Hamilton
32 The Same Subject Continued:

Concerning the General Power of Taxation

Alexander Hamilton
33 The Same Subject Continued:

Concerning the General Power of Taxation

Alexander Hamilton
34 The Same Subject Continued:

Concerning the General Power of Taxation

Alexander Hamilton
35 The Same Subject Continued:

Concerning the General Power of Taxation

Alexander Hamilton
36 The Same Subject Continued:

Concerning the General Power of Taxation

Alexander Hamilton
37 Concerning the Difficulties of the Convention in Devising a Proper Form of Government James Madison
38 The Same Subject Continued, and the Incoherence of the Objections to the New Plan Exposed James Madison
39 The Conformity of the Plan to Republican Principles James Madison
40 The Powers of the Convention to Form a Mixed Government Examined and Sustained James Madison
41 General View of the Powers Conferred by the Constitution James Madison
42 The Powers Conferred by the Constitution Further Considered James Madison
43 The Same Subject Continued:

The Powers Conferred by the Constitution Further Considered

James Madison
44 Restrictions on the Authority of the Several States James Madison
45 The Alleged Danger From the Powers of the Union to the State Governments Considered James Madison
46 The Influence of the State and Federal Governments Compared James Madison
47 The Particular Structure of the New Government and the Distribution of Power Among Its Different Parts James Madison
48 These Departments Should Not Be So Far Separated as to Have No Constitutional Control Over Each Other James Madison
49 Method of Guarding Against the Encroachments of Any One Department of Government by Appealing to the People Through a Convention Alexander Hamilton or James Madison
50 Periodic Appeals to the People Considered Alexander Hamilton or James Madison
51 The Structure of the Government Must Furnish the Proper Checks and Balances Between the Different Departments Alexander Hamilton or James Madison
52 The House of Representatives Alexander Hamilton or James Madison
53 The Same Subject Continued:

The House of Representatives

Alexander Hamilton or James Madison
54 The Apportionment of Members Among the States Alexander Hamilton or James Madison
55 The Total Number of the House of Representatives Alexander Hamilton or James Madison
56 The Same Subject Continued:

The Total Number of the House of Representatives

Alexander Hamilton or James Madison
57 The Alleged Tendency of the Plan to Elevate the Few at the Expense of the Many Considered in Connection with Representation Alexander Hamilton or James Madison
58 Objection that the Number of Members Will Not Be Augmented as the Progress of Population Demands Considered James Madison
59 Concerning the Power of Congress to Regulate the Election of Members Alexander Hamilton
60 The Same Subject Continued:

Concerning the Power of Congress to Regulate the Election of Members

Alexander Hamilton
61 The Same Subject Continued:

Concerning the Power of Congress to Regulate the Election of Members

Alexander Hamilton
62 The Senate Alexander Hamilton or James Madison
63 The Senate Continued Alexander Hamilton or James Madison
64 The Powers of the Senate John Jay
65 The Powers of the Senate Continued Alexander Hamilton
66 Objections to the Power of the Senate To Set as a Court for Impeachments Further Considered Alexander Hamilton
67 The Executive Department Alexander Hamilton
68 The Mode of Electing the President Alexander Hamilton
69 The Real Character of the Executive Alexander Hamilton
70 The Executive Department Further Considered Alexander Hamilton
71 The Duration in Office of the Executive Alexander Hamilton
72 The Same Subject Continued, and Re-Eligibility of the Executive Considered Alexander Hamilton
73 The Provision for Support of the Executive, and the Veto Power Alexander Hamilton
74 The Command of the Military and Naval Forces, and the Pardoning Power of the Executive Alexander Hamilton
75 The Treaty Making Power of the Executive Alexander Hamilton
76 The Appointing Power of the Executive Alexander Hamilton
77 The Appointing Power Continued and Other Powers of the Executive Considered Alexander Hamilton
78 The Judiciary Department Alexander Hamilton
79 The Judiciary Continued Alexander Hamilton
80 The Powers of the Judiciary Alexander Hamilton
81 The Judiciary Continued, and the Distribution of Judicial Authority Alexander Hamilton
82 The Judiciary Continued Alexander Hamilton
83 The Judiciary Continued in Relation to Trial by Jury Alexander Hamilton
84 Certain General and Miscellaneous Objections to the Constitution Considered and Answered Alexander Hamilton
85 Concluding Remarks Alexander Hamilton

Text of Federalist Papers[edit]

For the text of the Federalist Papers, see the following subpages:

  1. Federalist No. 1-10
  2. Federalist No. 11-20
  3. Federalist No. 21-30
  4. Federalist No. 31-40
  5. Federalist No. 41-50
  6. Federalist No. 51-60
  7. Federalist No. 61-70
  8. Federalist No. 71-80
  9. Federalist No. 81-85

Source[edit]

Basically a junior version of the Wikipedia article