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Serious Political Thinking
on April 16, 2006
The new edition of THE FEDERALIST PAPERS edited by Clinton Rossiter and co. is probably the best paperback edition. Rossiter and Charles Kesler did a good job in presenting these papers, and their explanations and notes make this book clear for readers. THE FEDERALIST PAPERS alone are an important source of serious political thinking. In an age of almost unbridled political power, corruption, empire buidling, etc. THE FEDERALIST PAPERS are important reminder of what a Free Republic (not an empire) should be.
THE FEDERALIST PAPERS were written by Alexander Hamilton (1757-1804), John Jay (1745-1829), and James Madison (1751-1835). Due to concerns about the New York State legislators ratifying the The U.S. Constitution, these papers were journal pieces written to New York journals and newspapers to convince both the residents and state legislators to ratify The U.S. Constitution. One should note there were other published articles supporting ratification of The U.S. Constitution and other articles can be read in a text titled FRIENDS OF THE CONSTITUTION.
What is alarming about THE FEDERALISTS PAPERS is that they were written for most readers. If one were to write such articles these days, most Americans would not read them nor comprehend them. This is a sad commentary on Americans regarding serious political writing regarding their birthright. If THE FEDERALIST PAPERS were assigned to high school kids, whoever would make such an assignment would be fired or worse.
THE FEDERALIST PAPERS give important explanations of the separation of powers, limits of each branch of the central government (The Federal Government), and how political power should be used within severe limitations. These articles were a brilliant attempt to mitigate fears that The U.S. Constitution would give far too much power to the the central or federal government.
The late Clinton Rossiter had a useful suggestion for those who did not want to read all 85 of THE FEDERALIST PAPERS. He suggested that the best numbers were 1,2,6,9,10, 14, 15, 16,23, 37, 39,47, 49, 51, 62, 70, 78, 84, and 85. Those readers who read these numbered papers would probably want to read the remainder.
This newer paperback edition of THE FEDERALIST PAPERS has some valuable features to help the reader navigate complex political thinking. The U.S. Constitution is placed in the end of the book with page numbers of the book whereby the authors of THE FEDERALIST PAPERS refer to that section of the U.S. Constitution. This gives clarity as to exactly what the authors were arguing regarding specific sections of the proposed U.S. Constitution. Another important feature of this edition of THE FEDERALIST PAPERS consists of the notes. The men who wrote THE FEDERALIST PAPERS were learned men who had seriously studied history and political thought. The notes explain the examples of Ancient Greek and Roman History used to make some of the arguments. These notes also refer to examples of Renaissance and English History which were also used to make good arguments from historical examples. One could get first rate learning experience of Ancient Greek and Roman History as well as a better view of European Renaissance and English History.
Readers should not forget that the authors of THE FEDERALIST PAPERS were responding to the Anti-Federalists and their articles titled THE ANTI-FEDERALIST PAPERS. Too often the Anti-Federalists are referred to as obstrcutionists and narrow minded men. This is simply not true. The ANTI-FEDERALIST PAPERS were as well written and brilliantly argued as THE FEDERALIST PAPERS.
One should note that one of the major objections of the Anti-Federalists to ratification of The U.S. Constitution was that it did not contain a Bill of Rights. The Federalists took this argument seriously. Basically, one could argue that without the Anti-Federalists, there would have been no Bill of Rights. Ergo, without The Bill of Rights, there would have been no U.S. Constitution. The Anti-Federalists were very important in the ratification of The U.S. Constitution.
Anyone who wants to define who Americans should be should read THE FEDERALIST PAPERS. They should also read THE ANTI-FEDERALIST PAPERS and read clear, informed, and well written political theory from men who could actually think. Most political hacks and too many American citizens are not even vaguely aware of this important political writing. Yet, this political writing is the very best American political thinking in U.S. History. This reviewer highly recommends the Rossiter-Kesler edition of THE FEDERALIST PAPERS and other editions of THE ANTI-FEDERALIST PAPERS.