- Hardcover: 528 pages
- Publisher: American Bar Association (July 16, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1604427213
- ISBN-13: 978-1604427219
- Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.1 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars See all reviews (807 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,381,302 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Federalist Papers
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"This country and this people seem to have been made for each other, and it appears as if it was the design of Providence, that an inheritance so proper and convenient for a band of brethren ... should never be split into a number of unsocial, jealous, and alien sovereignties." So wrote John Jay, one of the revolutionary authors of The Federalist Papers, arguing that if the United States was truly to be a single nation, its leaders would have to agree on universally binding rules of governance--in short, a constitution. In a brilliant set of essays, Jay and his colleagues Alexander Hamilton and James Madison explored in minute detail the implications of establishing a kind of rule that would engage as many citizens as possible and that would include a system of checks and balances. Their arguments proved successful in the end, and The Federalist Papers stand as key documents in the founding of the United States.
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Hamilton was only one of three authors (James Madison and John Jay being the others), although he wrote about 50 of the 85 articles. The first 77 were originally published in colonial newspapers in 1787 and 1788 as individual pieces, all written under the pseudonym, Publius. The collection of all these articles, plus another eight written by Hamilton, was first published as "The Federalist" in 1788 -- the word "Papers" was added in later editions. The Federalist writings supported ratification of the Constitution, and were instrumental in securing that ratification. The collected articles are rightly considered to be the best source for determining what was in the minds of the framers when they were drafting the Constitution. If we had only the Constitution to go by, bare of supporting opinion, it would be virtually impossible for any of the three branches of government (but especially the judiciary) to interpret the Constitution, in order to honor their oaths to support and defend it (or in the case of the President, to preserve, protect and defend it).
In recent decades, it seems all three branches have forgotten that oath.
The issue with the Federalist Papers is that although it is the leading arguments for the creation of a more centralized government (to replace the Articles of Confederation which seemed inpractible), not all of these arguments were adopted in the Constitution, and some that were did not survive very long. As a result, you may get the wrong impression that the Federalist Papers=the Constitution. Remember, Hamilton's party, the Federalists, did not survive much longer after the defeat of Adams by Jefferson in the 1800 election. The populism of Jefferson and Madison were the ultimate winners *at the time*.
And my *at the time* comment is important. Nowadays the federal government of the US holds a superior and decisive position in the governing of its people; this has not always been the case. In the early-to-mid 19th century, federal power was severely limited when it came to internal affairs; most of the government was conducted at the local level, with some county and state control thrown in where applicable. So *at the time*, the fact that the Senate had 2 members from each state (and appointed by the state legislature) regardless of population was *not* a measure that was anti-democratic in purpose. Democracy existed because the government was predominantly local and the people were predominantly involved in its affairs.
Thus my contention; now for the suggestion: if your project is strictly to research the creation of the US Constitution, than the Federalist Papers by themselves are fine. If, however, you are more interested in how the Constitution affected American society at that time, I would recommend that you start by reading de Tocqueville's "Democracy in America", and working backwards. The immediate results of the Constitution are best expressed in de Tocqueville (he toured the United States and published his work in Europe within 50 years of the ratification) because its not the causes of the Constitution he is discussing, but its effects. After you have completed Democracy in America, then you'll be able to approach the Federalist (and of course the Anti-Federalist) Papers with the understanding of what worked, what didn't, and maybe what we need to work again for.
Each provision of the Constitution is explained and defended. Historical facts about previous governments are reasons for specific provisions. Brilliant men of the Enlightenment created a new type of republic. This new government, created in a time of peace, would depend upon and require rational thought instead of unpredictable monarchs/oligarchs reacting to public convulsions.
I am struck by papers #42 thru #47. They define the shared power between the Sovereign States and the proposed federal Union; this tension is nearly gone today. Paper #68 explains the original (and now abandoned) Electoral College. And, paper #10 warns us that “democracies are short in life and end violently”.
The republic born in 1791 (with the Bill of Rights) is unique in human history. A miracle! Today, the US is a shadow of itself. What does a republic deriving its power from the consent of WE THE PEOPLE look like? Read the Federalist Papers.