Lesson on the Federalist Papers and Ratification - History

Lesson on the Federalist Papers and Ratification - History

We are searching data for your request:

Forums and discussions:
Manuals and reference books:
Data from registers:
Wait the end of the search in all databases.
Upon completion, a link will appear to access the found materials.

Understanding Primary Source Documents, Historical Understandings, Public Speaking

Two - Three Classes

EXERCISE: There was significant debate surrounding the vote for ratification. A majorcontribution to that debate was the publication of the Federalist Papers. The Federalist papers were a series of newspapers articles published by some of the key framers of the Constitution.

First Class: Assign different students in the class different Federalist Papers to read if possilbe assign groups of two to work together on the paper. Either as homework or in the next class have them summarize the paper. Then have each speak for ratification and explain how there paper helps citizens better understand the constitution.

Here are a list of the first Federalist Papers:

1. Hamilton writes the Introduction

2. Jay writes on the Dangers from Foreign Influence

3. Jay continues

4. Jay states that union brings strength

5. Jay writes how bad the a disunited country is

6. Hamilton writes about the danger of Civil War

7. Hamilton continues about the dangers of civil conflict

8. Hamilton writes more about the danger of civil conflict

9. Hamilton writes that the size of the union assures its security

10. Madison writes how faction can cause difficulties

11. Hamilton writes on the advantage of union for commerce and the navy

12. Hamilton writes how union will effect taxes

13. Hamilton writes how the union will lower the overall tax burden

14. Madison writes how the size of the union is right

15. Hamilton attacks the Articles of Confederation

Federalist Papers

Known before the twentieth century simply as The Federalist, The Federalist Papers were a series of eighty-five essays written by James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay under the pseudonym "Publius." The essays were written between October 1787 and August 1788, and were intended to build public and political support for the newly constructed Constitution which was sent to the States for ratification in September 1787, following the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia.

George Washington was sent draft versions of the first seven essays on November 18, 1787 by James Madison, who revealed to Washington that he was one of the anonymous writers. Washington agreed to secretly transmit the drafts to his in-law David Stuart in Richmond, Virginia so the essays could be more widely published and distributed. Washington explained in a letter to David Humphreys that the ratification of the Constitution would depend heavily "on literary abilities, & the recommendation of it by good pens," and his efforts to proliferate the Federalist Papers reflected this feeling. 1

Washington was skeptical of Constitutional opponents, known as Anti-Federalists, believing that they were either misguided or seeking personal gain. He believed strongly in the goals of the Constitution and saw The Federalist Papers and similar publications as crucial to the process of bolstering support for its ratification. Washington described such publications as "have thrown new lights upon the science of Government, they have given the rights of man a full and fair discussion, and have explained them in so clear and forcible a manner as cannot fail to make a lasting impression upon those who read the best publications of the subject, and particularly the pieces under the signature of Publius." 2

Although Washington made few direct contributions to the text of the new Constitution and never officially joined the Federalist Party, he profoundly supported the philosophy behind the Constitution and was an ardent supporter of its ratification.

The philosophical influence of the Enlightenment factored significantly in the essays, as the writers sought to establish a balance between centralized political power and individual liberty. Although the writers sought to build support for the Constitution, Madison, Hamilton, and Jay did not see their work as a treatise, per se, but rather as an on-going attempt to make sense of a new form of government.

The Federalist Papers represented only one facet in an on-going debate about what the newly forming government in America should look like and how it would govern. Although it is uncertain precisely how much The Federalist Papers affected the ratification of the Constitution, they were considered by many at the time&mdashand continue to be considered&mdashone of the greatest works of American political philosophy.

Adam Meehan
The University of Arizona

1. "George Washington to David Humphreys, 10 October 1787," in George Washington, Writings, ed. John Rhodehamel (New York: Library of America, 1997), 657.

2. "George Washington to John Armstrong, 25 April 1788," in George Washington, Writings, ed. John Rhodehamel (New York: Library of America, 1997), 672.

Chernow, Ron. Washington: A Life. New York: Penguin, 2010.

Epstein, David F. The Political Theory of The Federalist. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984.

Furtwangler, Albert. The Authority of Publius: A Reading of the Federalist Papers. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1984.

George Washington, Writings, ed. John Rhodehamel. New York: Library of America, 1997.


Origins Edit

The Federal Convention (Constitutional Convention) sent the proposed Constitution to the Confederation Congress, which in turn submitted it to the states for ratification at the end of September 1787. On September 27, 1787, "Cato" first appeared in the New York press criticizing the proposition "Brutus" followed on October 18, 1787. [7] These and other articles and public letters critical of the new Constitution would eventually become known as the "Anti-Federalist Papers". In response, Alexander Hamilton decided to launch a measured defense and extensive explanation of the proposed Constitution to the people of the state of New York. 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." [8]

Hamilton recruited collaborators for the project. He enlisted John Jay, who after four strong essays (Federalist Nos. 2, 3, 4, and 5), fell ill and contributed only one more essay, Federalist No. 64, to the series. Jay also distilled his case into a pamphlet in the spring of 1788, An Address to the People of the State of New-York [9] Hamilton cited it approvingly in Federalist No. 85. James Madison, present in New York as a Virginia delegate to the Confederation Congress, was recruited by Hamilton and Jay and became Hamilton's primary collaborator. Gouverneur Morris and William Duer were also considered. However, Morris turned down the invitation, and Hamilton rejected three essays written by Duer. [10] Duer later wrote in support of the three Federalist authors under the name "Philo-Publius", meaning either "Friend of the People" or "Friend of Hamilton" based on Hamilton's pen name Publius.

Alexander Hamilton chose the pseudonymous name "Publius". While many other pieces representing both sides of the constitutional debate were written under Roman names, historian Albert Furtwangler contends that " 'Publius' was a cut above 'Caesar' or 'Brutus' or even 'Cato'. Publius Valerius helped found the ancient republic of Rome. His more famous name, Publicola, meant 'friend of the people'." [11] Hamilton had applied this pseudonym to three letters in 1778, in which he attacked fellow Federalist Samuel Chase and revealed that Chase had taken advantage of knowledge gained in Congress to try to dominate the flour market. [11]

Authorship Edit

At the time of publication, the authors of The Federalist Papers attempted to hide their identities due to Hamilton and Madison having attended the convention. [12] Astute observers, however, correctly discerned the identities of Hamilton, Madison, and Jay. Establishing authorial authenticity of the essays that constitute The Federalist Papers has not always been clear. After Alexander Hamilton died in 1804, a list emerged, claiming that he alone had written two-thirds of The Federalist essays. Some believe that several of these essays were written by James Madison (Nos. 49–58 and 62–63). 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: [13]

  • Alexander Hamilton (51 articles: Nos. 1, 6–9, 11–13, 15–17, 21–36, 59–61, and 65–85)
  • James Madison (29 articles: Nos. 10, 14, 18–20, [14] 37–58 and 62–63)
  • John Jay (5 articles: Nos. 2–5 and 64).

In six months, a total of 85 articles were written by the three men. Hamilton, who had been a leading advocate of national constitutional reform throughout the 1780s and was one of the three representatives for New York at the Constitutional Convention, in 1789 became the first Secretary of the Treasury, a post he held until his resignation in 1795. Madison, who is now acknowledged as the father of the Constitution—despite his repeated rejection of this honor during his lifetime, [15] 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 (1809-1817). [16] 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.

Publication Edit

The Federalist articles appeared in three New York newspapers: The Independent Journal, the New-York Packet, and the Daily Advertiser, beginning on October 27, 1787. Although written and published with haste, The Federalist articles were widely read and greatly influenced the shape of American political institutions. [17] Hamilton, Madison and Jay published the essays at a rapid pace. At times, three to four new essays by Publius appeared in the papers in a single week. Garry Wills observes that this fast pace of production "overwhelmed" any possible response: "Who, given ample time could have answered such a battery of arguments? And no time was given." [18] Hamilton also encouraged the reprinting of the essays in newspapers outside New York state, and indeed they were published in several other states where the ratification debate was taking place. However, they were only irregularly published outside New York, and in other parts of the country they were often overshadowed by local writers. [19]

Because the essays were initially published in New York, most of them begin with the same salutation: "To the People of the State of New York".

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 36 essays as a bound volume that volume was released on March 22, 1788, and was titled The Federalist Volume 1. [1] New essays continued to appear in the newspapers Federalist No. 77 was the last number to appear first in that form, on April 2. A second bound volume was released on May 28, containing Federalist Nos. 37–77 and the previously unpublished Nos. 78–85. [1] The last eight papers (Nos. 78–85) were republished in the New York newspapers between June 14 and August 16, 1788. [1] [17]

A 1792 French edition ended the collective anonymity of Publius, announcing that the work had been written by "Mm. Hamilton, Maddisson e Gay, citoyens de l'État de New York". [20] 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 among the three authors remained a secret. [21]

The first publication to divide the papers in such a way was an 1810 edition that used a list left 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 formed the basis for a dispute over the authorship of a dozen of the essays. [22]

Both Hopkins's and Gideon's editions incorporated significant edits to the text of the papers themselves, generally with the approval of the authors. In 1863, Henry Dawson published an edition containing the original text of the papers, arguing that they should be preserved as they were written in that particular historical moment, not as edited by the authors years later. [23]

Modern scholars generally use the text prepared by Jacob E. Cooke for his 1961 edition of The Federalist this edition used the newspaper texts for essay numbers 1–76 and the McLean edition for essay numbers 77–85. [24]

Disputed essays Edit

While the authorship of 73 of The Federalist essays is fairly certain, the identities of those who wrote the twelve remaining essays are disputed by some scholars. The modern consensus is that Madison wrote essays Nos. 49–58, with Nos. 18–20 being products of a collaboration between him and Hamilton No. 64 was by John Jay. The first open designation of which essay belonged to whom was provided by Hamilton who, in the days before his ultimately fatal gun duel with Aaron Burr, provided his lawyer with a list detailing the author of each number. This list credited Hamilton with a full 63 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. [25]

Madison did not immediately dispute Hamilton's list, but provided his own list for the 1818 Gideon edition of The Federalist. Madison claimed 29 essays 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 John Jay, when in fact, Jay wrote No. 64—provided some evidence for Madison's suggestion. [26]

Statistical analysis has been undertaken on several occasions in attempts to accurately identify the author of each individual essay. After examining word choice and writing style, studies generally agree that the disputed essays were written by James Madison. However, there are notable exceptions maintaining that some of the essays which are now widely attributed to Madison were, in fact, collaborative efforts. [13] [27] [28]

Influence on the ratification debates Edit

The Federalist Papers were written to support the ratification of the Constitution, specifically in New York. Whether they succeeded in this mission is questionable. Separate ratification proceedings took place in each state, and the essays were not reliably reprinted outside of New York furthermore, by the time the series was well underway, a number of important states had already ratified it, for instance Pennsylvania on December 12. New York held out until July 26 certainly The Federalist was more important there than anywhere else, but Furtwangler argues that it "could hardly rival other major forces in the ratification contests"—specifically, these forces included the personal influence of well-known Federalists, for instance Hamilton and Jay, and Anti-Federalists, including Governor George Clinton. [29] Further, by the time New York came to a vote, ten states had already ratified the Constitution and it had thus already passed—only nine states had to ratify it for the new government to be established among them the ratification by Virginia, the tenth state, placed pressure on New York to ratify. In light of that, Furtwangler observes, "New York's refusal would make that state an odd outsider." [30]

Only 19 Federalists were elected to New York's ratification convention, compared to the Anti-Federalists' 46 delegates. While New York did indeed ratify the Constitution on July 26, the lack of public support for pro-Constitution Federalists has led historian John Kaminski to suggest that the impact of The Federalist on New York citizens was "negligible". [31]

As for Virginia, which ratified the Constitution only at its convention on June 25, Hamilton writes in a letter to Madison that the collected edition of The Federalist had been sent to Virginia Furtwangler presumes that it was to act as a "debater's handbook for the convention there", though he claims that this indirect influence would be a "dubious distinction". [32] Probably of greater importance to the Virginia debate, in any case, were George Washington's support for the proposed Constitution and the presence of Madison and Edmund Randolph, the governor, at the convention arguing for ratification.

In Federalist No. 1, 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. [33]

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.

The papers can be broken down by author as well as by topic. At the start of the series, all three authors were contributing the first 20 papers are broken down as 11 by Hamilton, five by Madison and four by Jay. The rest of the series, however, is dominated by three long segments by a single writer: Nos. 21–36 by Hamilton, Nos. 37–58 by Madison, written while Hamilton was in Albany, and No. 65 through the end by Hamilton, published after Madison had left for Virginia. [34]

Opposition to the Bill of Rights Edit

The Federalist Papers (specifically Federalist No. 84) are notable for their opposition to what later became the United States 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, rather it listed the powers of the government and left all that remained to the states and the people. Alexander Hamilton, the author of 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. [ citation needed ]

However, Hamilton's opposition to a Bill of Rights was far from universal. Robert Yates, writing under the pseudonym "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. References in The Federalist and in the ratification debates warn of demagogues of the variety who through divisive appeals would aim at tyranny. The Federalist begins and ends with this issue. [35] In the final paper Hamilton offers "a lesson of moderation to all sincere lovers of the Union, and ought to put them on their guard against hazarding anarchy, civil war, a perpetual alienation of the States from each other, and perhaps the military despotism of a successful demagogue". [36] The matter was further clarified by the Ninth Amendment.

Federal judges, when interpreting the Constitution, frequently use The Federalist Papers as a contemporary account of the intentions of the framers and ratifiers. [37] They have been applied on issues ranging from the power of the federal government in foreign affairs (in Hines v. Davidowitz) to the validity of ex post facto laws (in the 1798 decision Calder v. Bull, apparently the first decision to mention The Federalist). [38] By 2000 [update] , The Federalist had been quoted 291 times in Supreme Court decisions. [39]

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 noted in the famous case McCulloch v. Maryland, 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." [40] In a letter to Thomas Ritchie in 1821, James Madison stated of the Constitution that "the legitimate meaning of the Instrument must be derived from the text itself or if a key is to be sought elsewhere, it must be not in the opinions or intentions of the Body which planned & proposed the Constitution, but in the sense attached to it by the people in their respective State Conventions where it recd. all the authority which it possesses." [41] [42]

The colors used to highlight the rows correspond to the author of the paper.

# Date Title Author
1 October 27, 1787 General Introduction Alexander Hamilton
2 October 31, 1787 Concerning Dangers from Foreign Force and Influence John Jay
3 November 3, 1787 The Same Subject Continued: Concerning Dangers from Foreign Force and Influence John Jay
4 November 7, 1787 The Same Subject Continued: Concerning Dangers from Foreign Force and Influence John Jay
5 November 10, 1787 The Same Subject Continued: Concerning Dangers from Foreign Force and Influence John Jay
6 November 14, 1787 Concerning Dangers from Dissensions Between the States Alexander Hamilton
7 November 15, 1787 The Same Subject Continued: Concerning Dangers from Dissensions Between the States Alexander Hamilton
8 November 20, 1787 The Consequences of Hostilities Between the States Alexander Hamilton
9 November 21, 1787 The Union as a Safeguard Against Domestic Faction and Insurrection Alexander Hamilton
10 November 22, 1787 The Same Subject Continued: The Union as a Safeguard Against Domestic Faction and Insurrection James Madison
11 November 24, 1787 The Utility of the Union in Respect to Commercial Relations and a Navy Alexander Hamilton
12 November 27, 1787 The Utility of the Union In Respect to Revenue Alexander Hamilton
13 November 28, 1787 Advantage of the Union in Respect to Economy in Government Alexander Hamilton
14 November 30, 1787 Objections to the Proposed Constitution From Extent of Territory Answered James Madison
15 December 1, 1787 The Insufficiency of the Present Confederation to Preserve the Union Alexander Hamilton
16 December 4, 1787 The Same Subject Continued: The Insufficiency of the Present Confederation to Preserve the Union Alexander Hamilton
17 December 5, 1787 The Same Subject Continued: The Insufficiency of the Present Confederation to Preserve the Union Alexander Hamilton
18 December 7, 1787 The Same Subject Continued: The Insufficiency of the Present Confederation to Preserve the Union James Madison [14]
19 December 8, 1787 The Same Subject Continued: The Insufficiency of the Present Confederation to Preserve the Union James Madison [14]
20 December 11, 1787 The Same Subject Continued: The Insufficiency of the Present Confederation to Preserve the Union James Madison [14]
21 December 12, 1787 Other Defects of the Present Confederation Alexander Hamilton
22 December 14, 1787 The Same Subject Continued: Other Defects of the Present Confederation Alexander Hamilton
23 December 18, 1787 The Necessity of a Government as Energetic as the One Proposed to the Preservation of the Union Alexander Hamilton
24 December 19, 1787 The Powers Necessary to the Common Defense Further Considered Alexander Hamilton
25 December 21, 1787 The Same Subject Continued: The Powers Necessary to the Common Defense Further Considered Alexander Hamilton
26 December 22, 1787 The Idea of Restraining the Legislative Authority in Regard to the Common Defense Considered Alexander Hamilton
27 December 25, 1787 The Same Subject Continued: The Idea of Restraining the Legislative Authority in Regard to the Common Defense Considered Alexander Hamilton
28 December 26, 1787 The Same Subject Continued: The Idea of Restraining the Legislative Authority in Regard to the Common Defense Considered Alexander Hamilton
29 January 9, 1788 Concerning the Militia Alexander Hamilton
30 December 28, 1787 Concerning the General Power of Taxation Alexander Hamilton
31 January 1, 1788 The Same Subject Continued: Concerning the General Power of Taxation Alexander Hamilton
32 January 2, 1788 The Same Subject Continued: Concerning the General Power of Taxation Alexander Hamilton
33 January 2, 1788 The Same Subject Continued: Concerning the General Power of Taxation Alexander Hamilton
34 January 5, 1788 The Same Subject Continued: Concerning the General Power of Taxation Alexander Hamilton
35 January 5, 1788 The Same Subject Continued: Concerning the General Power of Taxation Alexander Hamilton
36 January 8, 1788 The Same Subject Continued: Concerning the General Power of Taxation Alexander Hamilton
37 January 11, 1788 Concerning the Difficulties of the Convention in Devising a Proper Form of Government James Madison
38 January 12, 1788 The Same Subject Continued, and the Incoherence of the Objections to the New Plan Exposed James Madison
39 January 16, 1788 The Conformity of the Plan to Republican Principles James Madison
40 January 18, 1788 The Powers of the convention to Form a Mixed Government Examined and Sustained James Madison
41 January 19, 1788 General View of the Powers Conferred by the Constitution James Madison
42 January 22, 1788 The Powers Conferred by the Constitution Further Considered James Madison
43 January 23, 1788 The Same Subject Continued: The Powers Conferred by the Constitution Further Considered James Madison
44 January 25, 1788 Restrictions on the Authority of the Several States James Madison
45 January 26, 1788 The Alleged Danger From the Powers of the Union to the State Governments Considered James Madison
46 January 29, 1788 The Influence of the State and Federal Governments Compared James Madison
47 January 30, 1788 The Particular Structure of the New Government and the Distribution of Power Among Its Different Parts James Madison
48 February 1, 1788 These Departments Should Not Be So Far Separated as to Have No Constitutional Control Over Each Other James Madison
49 February 2, 1788 Method of Guarding Against the Encroachments of Any One Department of Government James Madison [43]
50 February 5, 1788 Periodic Appeals to the People Considered James Madison [43]
51 February 6, 1788 The Structure of the Government Must Furnish the Proper Checks and Balances Between the Different Departments James Madison [43]
52 February 8, 1788 The House of Representatives James Madison [43]
53 February 9, 1788 The Same Subject Continued: The House of Representatives James Madison [43]
54 February 12, 1788 The Apportionment of Members Among the States James Madison [43]
55 February 13, 1788 The Total Number of the House of Representatives James Madison [43]
56 February 16, 1788 The Same Subject Continued: The Total Number of the House of Representatives James Madison [43]
57 February 19, 1788 The Alleged Tendency of the New Plan to Elevate the Few at the Expense of the Many James Madison [43]
58 February 20, 1788 Objection That The Number of Members Will Not Be Augmented as the Progress of Population Demands Considered James Madison [43]
59 February 22, 1788 Concerning the Power of Congress to Regulate the Election of Members Alexander Hamilton
60 February 23, 1788 The Same Subject Continued: Concerning the Power of Congress to Regulate the Election of Members Alexander Hamilton
61 February 26, 1788 The Same Subject Continued: Concerning the Power of Congress to Regulate the Election of Members Alexander Hamilton
62 February 27, 1788 The Senate James Madison [43]
63 March 1, 1788 The Senate Continued James Madison [43]
64 March 5, 1788 The Powers of the Senate John Jay
65 March 7, 1788 The Powers of the Senate Continued Alexander Hamilton
66 March 8, 1788 Objections to the Power of the Senate To Set as a Court for Impeachments Further Considered Alexander Hamilton
67 March 11, 1788 The Executive Department Alexander Hamilton
68 March 12, 1788 The Mode of Electing the President Alexander Hamilton
69 March 14, 1788 The Real Character of the Executive Alexander Hamilton
70 March 15, 1788 The Executive Department Further Considered Alexander Hamilton
71 March 18, 1788 The Duration in Office of the Executive Alexander Hamilton
72 March 19, 1788 The Same Subject Continued, and Re-Eligibility of the Executive Considered Alexander Hamilton
73 March 21, 1788 The Provision For The Support of the Executive, and the Veto Power Alexander Hamilton
74 March 25, 1788 The Command of the Military and Naval Forces, and the Pardoning Power of the Executive Alexander Hamilton
75 March 26, 1788 The Treaty Making Power of the Executive Alexander Hamilton
76 April 1, 1788 The Appointing Power of the Executive Alexander Hamilton
77 April 2, 1788 The Appointing Power Continued and Other Powers of the Executive Considered Alexander Hamilton
78 May 28, 1788 (book)
June 14, 1788 (newspaper)
The Judiciary Department Alexander Hamilton
79 May 28, 1788 (book)
June 18, 1788 (newspaper)
The Judiciary Continued Alexander Hamilton
80 June 21, 1788 The Powers of the Judiciary Alexander Hamilton
81 June 25, 1788
June 28, 1788
The Judiciary Continued, and the Distribution of the Judicial Authority Alexander Hamilton
82 July 2, 1788 The Judiciary Continued Alexander Hamilton
83 July 5, 1788
July 9, 1788
July 12, 1788
The Judiciary Continued in Relation to Trial by Jury Alexander Hamilton
84 July 16, 1788
July 26, 1788
August 9, 1788
Certain General and Miscellaneous Objections to the Constitution Considered and Answered Alexander Hamilton
85 August 13, 1788
August 16, 1788
Concluding Remarks Alexander Hamilton

The purposes and authorship of The Federalist Papers were prominently highlighted in the lyrics of "Non-Stop", the finale of Act One in the 2015 Broadway musical Hamilton, written by Lin-Manuel Miranda. [44]

What was the Federalists' position in the debate over ratification and what strategies did they use? (Video)

Logistical and rhetorical strategies rapid ratification process process tailored to specific situations in states published essays The Federalist.

What were the Federalists' response to Anti-Federalist fears of a strong central government? (Video)

Madison's responses - definition of faction, breaking or controlling the effects of factions liberty destroyed by removing liberty, the cause of factions controlling effects of factions problem of majority faction depriving minority factions of their rights problem with democracies problem of small republics advantages of large republics in securing liberty. Contemporary relevance of Madison's argument.

What were the central arguments of the Federalists? (Video)

Articles insufficient for functional national government Constitution only reliable alternative Constitution can be amended when necessary will add amendments including the Bill of Rights in the first Congress cannot rely upon civic virtue checks and balances manages problem of unreliability of civic virtue.

How did the ratification process succeed? (Video)

Small states saw benefits to them and ratified quickly Federalists agreed to add Bill of Rights in First Congress Anti-Federalists abstain from voting George Washington pressures Rhode Island.

Carol Berkin on Federalists and Anti-Federalists (Video)
The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History presents historian Carol Berkin on the role of the Federalists and the Antifederalists in the Founding Era.

Jack Rakove on the Ratification of the Constitution (Video)
The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History presents historian Jack Rakove on the ratification of the Constitution.

Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution (Video)
A video discussing the debates over and ratification of the U.S. Constitution in 1787-1788.

Harvey Mansfield on the Wisdom of The Federalist (Video)
Journalist Bill Kristol and Harvard professor Harvey Mansfield discuss The Federalist and why it should be considered a great work on politics. Mansfield describes the complexity of the argument of The Federalist, and explains why it remains an important guide for thinking about American government.

The Federalist (Audio)
Audio recordings of eighty-five essays, also known as the Federalist Papers, written between October 1787 and May 1788 by James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay. Various lengths and file sizes. From LibriVox.

Virginia Ratifies the Constitution - 1788 (Audio)
A radio dramatization of Virginia's ratification of the Constitution. From You Are There!, a CBS radio show from the 1940s and 50s. File size: 28.5 mb.

60-Second Civics, Episode 377, The Federalists organize quickly (Audio)
The Federalists organize quickly to counter their opponents.

60-Second Civics, Episode 378: The Federalists and the Ratification Debates (Audio)
Three men--Hamilton, Madison, and Jay--publish essays in support of ratification.

60-Second Civics, Episode 380: The Central Problem of Republican Government (Audio)
The Federalist response to Anti-Federalist fears of a large republic.

60-Second Civics, Episode 381: Federalist 10: Part 1 (Audio)
Madison's solution to the problem of a republican government over a large geographic region.

60-Second Civics, Episode 382: Federalist 10: Part 2 (Audio)
Madison's views on the dangers of faction.

60-Second Civics, Episode 383: Federalist 10: Part 3 (Audio)
Majority tyranny defined by James Madison.

60-Second Civics, Episode 384: Federalist 10: Part 4 (Audio)
Madison's views on the benefits of a large, diverse republic.

60-Second Civics, Episode 385: Federalist Arguments about Civic Virtue (Audio)
We begin an examination of the Federalists' views on civic virtue.

60-Second Civics, Episode 386: Federalist Mistrust of Civic Virtue (Audio)
Continued discussion of the Federalists and civic virtue.

60-Second Civics, Episode 387: The Constitution Does Not Rely on Civic Virtue (Audio)
The Federalist claim that the national government created by the Constitution did not rely on civic virtue.

60-Second Civics, Episode 388: The Constitution Protects the Common Good (Audio)
A discussion of the Federalist claims about how the Constitution promotes the goals of republicanism.

60-Second Civics, Episode 389: The Constitution: Not Too Complicated (Audio)
James Madison's rebuttal to the claim that the Constitution was too complicated to be effective.

The Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton Loyal Books

In order to promote the ratification of the United States Constitution in the late 1780s, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Hay wrote a series of 85 articles and essays explaining their reasons to support the constitution. Most of these articles were published in The Independent Journal and The New York Packet and they later became known as “The Federalist Papers.”
In reading the articles, one will encounter very interesting issues like Hamilton’s opposition to including the Bill of Rights in the Constitution and why he thinks a Union is better than a Confederation. He opposed the inclusion of the Bill of Rights in the Constitution because he thought that people would later interpret it as the only rights guaranteed to the people. He also supported the formation of the Union largely because of the economic benefit it would have to the states.
“The Federalist Papers” aren't just a series of articles that history students read. Their contents have been used as a reference in many US Supreme Court decisions which make this book still very influential today.

The Anti-Federalist Papers

Unlike the Federalist, the 85 articles written in opposition to the ratification of the 1787 United States Constitution were not a part of an organized program. Rather, the essays–– written under many pseudonyms and often published first in states other than New York — represented diverse elements of the opposition and focused on a variety of objections to the new Constitution. In New York, a letter written by “Cato” appeared in the New-York Journal within days of submission of the new constitution to the states, led to the Federalists publishing the “Publius” letters. “Cato”, thought to have been New York Governor George Clinton, wrote a further six letters. The sixteen “Brutus” letters, addressed to the Citizens of the State of New York and published in the New-York Journal and the Weekly Register, closely paralleled the “Publius” newspaper articles and Justice Robert Yates, is the presumed author. Melancton Smith’s speeches are considered part of the Anti-Federalist Papers and he may have been the author of the “Federal Farmer” articles.

The Founders’ Constitution is an anthology of political and legal writings relating to Federal Constitution. It includes letters, records of debates, and case law.

The Founders Constitution contains the following writings from the Anti-Federalist Papers:

  • Brutus, no. 1, 18 Oct. 1787
  • Brutus, no. 3, 15 Nov. 1787
  • Brutus, no. 4, 29 Nov. 1787
  • Brutus, no. 5, 13 Dec. 1787
  • Brutus, no. 6, 27 Dec. 1787
  • Brutus, no. 7, 3 Jan. 1788
  • Brutus, no. 8, 10 Jan. 1788
  • Brutus, no. 9, 17 Jan. 1788
  • Brutus, no. 10, 24 Jan. 1788
  • Brutus, no. 11, 31 Jan. 1788
  • Brutus, no. 12, 7 Feb. 1788
  • Brutus, no. 13, 21 Feb. 1788
  • Brutus, no. 14, 28 Feb- 6 Mar. 1788
  • Brutus, no. 15, 20 Mar. 1788
  • Brutus, no. 16, 10 Apr. 1788
  • Cato, no. 1, 27 Sept. 1787
  • Cato, no. 2, 10 Dec. 1787
  • Cato, no. 3, Fall 1787
  • Cato, no. 4, 8 Nov. 1787
  • Cato, no. 5, Fall 1787
  • Melancton Smith, New York Ratifying Convention 20󈞁 June 1788
  • Melancton Smith, New York Ratifying Convention 21 June 1788
  • Melancton Smith, Proposed Amendment, New York Ratifying Convention 2 July 1788
  • Melancton Smith’s Notes, 26 Sept.

About The Society

The Historical Society of the New York Courts was founded in 2002 by then New York State Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye. Its mission is to preserve, protect and promote the legal history of New York, including the proud heritage of its courts and the development of the Rule of Law.

Join Our Mailing List

Sign up to receive our free quarterly newsletter, invitations to public CLE programs, important announcements & much more!

Lesson on the Federalist Papers and Ratification - History

To the People of the State of New York:

A FIRM Union will be of the utmost moment to the peace and liberty of the States, as a barrier against domestic faction and insurrection. It is impossible to read the history of the petty republics of Greece and Italy without feeling sensations of horror and disgust at the distractions with which they were continually agitated, and at the rapid succession of revolutions by which they were kept in a state of perpetual vibration between the extremes of tyranny and anarchy. If they exhibit occasional calms, these only serve as short-lived contrast to the furious storms that are to succeed. If now and then intervals of felicity open to view, we behold them with a mixture of regret, arising from the reflection that the pleasing scenes before us are soon to be overwhelmed by the tempestuous waves of sedition and party rage. If momentary rays of glory break forth from the gloom, while they dazzle us with a transient and fleeting brilliancy, they at the same time admonish us to lament that the vices of government should pervert the direction and tarnish the lustre of those bright talents and exalted endowments for which the favored soils that produced them have been so justly celebrated.

From the disorders that disfigure the annals of those republics the advocates of despotism have drawn arguments, not only against the forms of republican government, but against the very principles of civil liberty. They have decried all free government as inconsistent with the order of society, and have indulged themselves in malicious exultation over its friends and partisans. Happily for mankind, stupendous fabrics reared on the basis of liberty, which have flourished for ages, have, in a few glorious instances, refuted their gloomy sophisms. And, I trust, America will be the broad and solid foundation of other edifices, not less magnificent, which will be equally permanent monuments of their errors.

But it is not to be denied that the portraits they have sketched of republican government were too just copies of the originals from which they were taken. If it had been found impracticable to have devised models of a more perfect structure, the enlightened friends to liberty would have been obliged to abandon the cause of that species of government as indefensible. The science of politics, however, like most other sciences, has received great improvement. The efficacy of various principles is now well understood, which were either not known at all, or imperfectly known to the ancients. The regular distribution of power into distinct departments the introduction of legislative balances and checks the institution of courts composed of judges holding their offices during good behavior the representation of the people in the legislature by deputies of their own election: these are wholly new discoveries, or have made their principal progress towards perfection in modern times. They are means, and powerful means, by which the excellences of republican government may be retained and its imperfections lessened or avoided. To this catalogue of circumstances that tend to the amelioration of popular systems of civil government, I shall venture, however novel it may appear to some, to add one more, on a principle which has been made the foundation of an objection to the new Constitution I mean the ENLARGEMENT of the ORBIT within which such systems are to revolve, either in respect to the dimensions of a single State or to the consolidation of several smaller States into one great Confederacy. The latter is that which immediately concerns the object under consideration. It will, however, be of use to examine the principle in its application to a single State, which shall be attended to in another place.

The utility of a Confederacy, as well to suppress faction and to guard the internal tranquillity of States, as to increase their external force and security, is in reality not a new idea. It has been practiced upon in different countries and ages, and has received the sanction of the most approved writers on the subject of politics. The opponents of the plan proposed have, with great assiduity, cited and circulated the observations of Montesquieu on the necessity of a contracted territory for a republican government. But they seem not to have been apprised of the sentiments of that great man expressed in another part of his work, nor to have adverted to the consequences of the principle to which they subscribe with such ready acquiescence.

When Montesquieu recommends a small extent for republics, the standards he had in view were of dimensions far short of the limits of almost every one of these States. Neither Virginia, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New York, North Carolina, nor Georgia can by any means be compared with the models from which he reasoned and to which the terms of his description apply. If we therefore take his ideas on this point as the criterion of truth, we shall be driven to the alternative either of taking refuge at once in the arms of monarchy, or of splitting ourselves into an infinity of little, jealous, clashing, tumultuous commonwealths, the wretched nurseries of unceasing discord, and the miserable objects of universal pity or contempt. Some of the writers who have come forward on the other side of the question seem to have been aware of the dilemma and have even been bold enough to hint at the division of the larger States as a desirable thing. Such an infatuated policy, such a desperate expedient, might, by the multiplication of petty offices, answer the views of men who possess not qualifications to extend their influence beyond the narrow circles of personal intrigue, but it could never promote the greatness or happiness of the people of America.

Referring the examination of the principle itself to another place, as has been already mentioned, it will be sufficient to remark here that, in the sense of the author who has been most emphatically quoted upon the occasion, it would only dictate a reduction of the SIZE of the more considerable MEMBERS of the Union, but would not militate against their being all comprehended in one confederate government. And this is the true question, in the discussion of which we are at present interested.

So far are the suggestions of Montesquieu from standing in opposition to a general Union of the States, that he explicitly treats of a CONFEDERATE REPUBLIC as the expedient for extending the sphere of popular government, and reconciling the advantages of monarchy with those of republicanism.

"It is very probable,'' (says he1) "that mankind would have been obliged at length to live constantly under the government of a single person, had they not contrived a kind of constitution that has all the internal advantages of a republican, together with the external force of a monarchical government. I mean a CONFEDERATE REPUBLIC .

"This form of government is a convention by which several smaller STATES agree to become members of a larger ONE , which they intend to form. It is a kind of assemblage of societies that constitute a new one, capable of increasing, by means of new associations, till they arrive to such a degree of power as to be able to provide for the security of the united body.

"A republic of this kind, able to withstand an external force, may support itself without any internal corruptions. The form of this society prevents all manner of inconveniences.

"If a single member should attempt to usurp the supreme authority, he could not be supposed to have an equal authority and credit in all the confederate states. Were he to have too great influence over one, this would alarm the rest. Were he to subdue a part, that which would still remain free might oppose him with forces independent of those which he had usurped and overpower him before he could be settled in his usurpation.

"Should a popular insurrection happen in one of the confederate states the others are able to quell it. Should abuses creep into one part, they are reformed by those that remain sound. The state may be destroyed on one side, and not on the other the confederacy may be dissolved, and the confederates preserve their sovereignty.

"As this government is composed of small republics, it enjoys the internal happiness of each and with respect to its external situation, it is possessed, by means of the association, of all the advantages of large monarchies.''

I have thought it proper to quote at length these interesting passages, because they contain a luminous abridgment of the principal arguments in favor of the Union, and must effectually remove the false impressions which a misapplication of other parts of the work was calculated to make. They have, at the same time, an intimate connection with the more immediate design of this paper which is, to illustrate the tendency of the Union to repress domestic faction and insurrection.

A distinction, more subtle than accurate, has been raised between a CONFEDERACY and a CONSOLIDATION of the States. The essential characteristic of the first is said to be, the restriction of its authority to the members in their collective capacities, without reaching to the individuals of whom they are composed. It is contended that the national council ought to have no concern with any object of internal administration. An exact equality of suffrage between the members has also been insisted upon as a leading feature of a confederate government. These positions are, in the main, arbitrary they are supported neither by principle nor precedent. It has indeed happened, that governments of this kind have generally operated in the manner which the distinction taken notice of, supposes to be inherent in their nature but there have been in most of them extensive exceptions to the practice, which serve to prove, as far as example will go, that there is no absolute rule on the subject. And it will be clearly shown in the course of this investigation that as far as the principle contended for has prevailed, it has been the cause of incurable disorder and imbecility in the government.

The definition of a CONFEDERATE REPUBLIC seems simply to be "an assemblage of societies,'' or an association of two or more states into one state. The extent, modifications, and objects of the federal authority are mere matters of discretion. So long as the separate organization of the members be not abolished so long as it exists, by a constitutional necessity, for local purposes though it should be in perfect subordination to the general authority of the union, it would still be, in fact and in theory, an association of states, or a confederacy. The proposed Constitution, so far from implying an abolition of the State governments, makes them constituent parts of the national sovereignty, by allowing them a direct representation in the Senate, and leaves in their possession certain exclusive and very important portions of sovereign power. This fully corresponds, in every rational import of the terms, with the idea of a federal government.

In the Lycian confederacy, which consisted of twenty-three CITIES or republics, the largest were entitled to THREE votes in the COMMON COUNCIL , those of the middle class to TWO , and the smallest to ONE . The COMMON COUNCIL had the appointment of all the judges and magistrates of the respective CITIES . This was certainly the most, delicate species of interference in their internal administration for if there be any thing that seems exclusively appropriated to the local jurisdictions, it is the appointment of their own officers. Yet Montesquieu, speaking of this association, says: "Were I to give a model of an excellent Confederate Republic, it would be that of Lycia.'' Thus we perceive that the distinctions insisted upon were not within the contemplation of this enlightened civilian and we shall be led to conclude, that they are the novel refinements of an erroneous theory.

The average reader will spend 4 hours and 34 minutes reading this book at 250 WPM (words per minute). The Federalist (later known as The Federalist Papers) is a collection of 85 articles and essays written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay promoting the ratification of the United States Constitution.

Finally, Federalist 39 contends that the language in the Constitution explicitly prohibiting titles of nobility and guaranteeing the states will have a republican form of government proves the republicanism of the proposed government. This large republic was also to be a (con)federal republic.

Lesson 2.03 Ratification: Federalist vs. Anti-Federalist

To access the material on PBS Learning Media, you will need the PBS login information.

Ratification of the Constitution

The struggle to establish a new national government was not over at the end of the Constitutional Convention in 1787. The process of writing the Constitution had been tough, but the fight to make it the law of the land would be equally as challenging.

The Constitution specifies that at least nine of the existing thirteen states had to ratify , or approve the Constitution in order for it to take effect. Over the next several months, a bitter fight over ratification raged between Americans who supported the new Consitution and those who opposed it.

Read "Ratifying the Constitution" to learn more about ratification.

Federalists vs. Anti-Federalists

The bitter debate over ratification divided Americans into two factions, the Federalists , who wanted a stronger federal government and supported the new Constitution, and the Anti-Federalists , who wanted the state governments to retain most of the power to govern and did not support it.

Federalists who supported the new, stronger central government and the Anti-Federalists , who wanted the state governments to retain most of the power to govern.


The Anti-Federalists feared a large national government would crush the state and local governments. They also felt a president would be no better than a king. Moreover, they feared the new government was so strong that it would infringe on the rights of the people. They sought the addition of a bill of rights to the Constitution to ensure protection of individual freedoms. The bill of rights is a formal summary of those rights and liberties considered essential to a people or rgroup of people. Perhaps the most famous anti-federalist was Virginian Patrick Henry . Henry, who refused to attend the Constitutional Convention because he thought the new Constitution granted too much power to the national government, was very influential in getting a bill of rights added to the Constitution.

Read "Anti-Federalists" to learn more about opposition to ratification.


The Federalists wanted a strong national government as provided in the Constitution. They argued the Articles of Confederation had proven to be weak and ineffective, so there was an urgent need for a much stronger national government. Also, they were quick to point out that the new Constitution specified the separation of powers, which would limit the power of the national government.

Read "Federalists" to learn more about those who supported the Constitution and a strong central government.

Image credits: Matthews, George after after Sully, Thomas. Patrick Henry. c. 1891. Wikimedia Commons. [Image]. April 15, 2015 Trumbull, John. Alexander Hamilton. 1806. Wikimedia Commons. [Image]. April 15, 2015.

Read Anti-Federalist vs. Federalist for a comparision of the two view points.

The Federalist Papers

The Federalists were more organized in their efforts to persuade Americans to support and ratify the new Constitution. Prominent federalists Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay wrote and published a series of essays promoting a strong central government. The essays were all signed with the fictitious name, Publius. The collection of the eighty-five essays is known as the Federalist Papers .

Watch Hamilton's Amerca: The Federalist Papers (1:25) to learn more about the essays that explain the meaning behind the Constitution.

The Federalists Succeed

In an effort to gain the support of the Antifederalists and get the new Constitution ratified, the Federalists agreed to add a bill of rights. Perhaps the biggest ally the Federalists had in their fight for the Constitution was George Washington, whose support was critical in helping win its ratification. The Constitution became the law of the land in June 1788 when New Hampshire became the ninth state to ratify it. Rhode Island was the last state to ratify the Constitution.

Image credit: An Advertisement of The Federalist. 1787. Project Gutenberg. Wikimedia Commons. [Image]. April 15, 2015.

New Leaders

In the winter of 1788-89, shortly after the Constitution was ratified, the delegates met to select a president. George Washington was unanimously elected as the first President of the United States. John Adams , who received the second-highest number of votes, was elected Vice President.

George Washington was unanimously elected by the Electoral College as the first President of the United States. John Adams had the second highest popular vote, so he was elected Vice-President.-->

Washington surrounded himself with trustworthy advisors, later known as the Presidential Cabinet . Thomas Jefferson was named Secretary of State to handle relations with foreign countries. Alexander Hamilton was named Secretary of the Treasury. The national capitol was established New York City .

Image credit: Stuart, Gilbert. Portrait of George Washington. 1795. Metropolitan Museum of Art. Wikimedia Commons. [Image]. April 15, 2015.

Federalist papers

Our editors will review what you’ve submitted and determine whether to revise the article.

Federalist papers, formally The Federalist, series of 85 essays on the proposed new Constitution of the United States and on the nature of republican government, published between 1787 and 1788 by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay in an effort to persuade New York state voters to support ratification. Seventy-seven of the essays first appeared serially in New York newspapers, were reprinted in most other states, and were published in book form as The Federalist on May 28, 1788 the remaining eight essays appeared in New York newspapers between June 14 and August 16, 1788.

All the papers appeared over the signature “Publius,” and the authorship of some of the papers was once a matter of scholarly dispute. However, computer analysis and historical evidence has led nearly all historians to assign authorship in the following manner: Hamilton wrote numbers 1, 6–9, 11–13, 15–17, 21–36, 59–61, and 65–85 Madison, numbers 10, 14, 18–20, 37–58, and 62–63 and Jay, numbers 2–5 and 64.

The authors of the Federalist papers presented a masterly defense of the new federal system and of the major departments in the proposed central government. They also argued that the existing government under the Articles of Confederation, the country’s first constitution, was defective and that the proposed Constitution would remedy its weaknesses without endangering the liberties of the people.

As a general treatise on republican government, the Federalist papers are distinguished for their comprehensive analysis of the means by which the ideals of justice, the general welfare, and the rights of individuals could be realized. The authors assumed that people’s primary political motive is self-interest and that people—whether acting individually or collectively—are selfish and only imperfectly rational. The establishment of a republican form of government would not of itself provide protection against such characteristics: the representatives of the people might betray their trust one segment of the population might oppress another and both the representatives and the public might give way to passion or caprice. The possibility of good government, they argued, lay in the crafting of political institutions that would compensate for deficiencies in both reason and virtue in the ordinary conduct of politics. This theme was predominant in late 18th-century political thought in America and accounts in part for the elaborate system of checks and balances that was devised in the Constitution.

The authors of the Federalist papers argued against the decentralization of political authority under the Articles of Confederation. They worried, for example, that national commercial interests suffered from intransigent economic conflicts between states and that federal weakness undermined American diplomatic efforts abroad. Broadly, they argued that the government’s impotence under the Articles of Confederation obstructed America’s emergence as a powerful commercial empire.

The authors were also critical of the power assumed by state legislatures under the Articles of Confederation—and of the characters of the people serving in those assemblies. In the authors’ view, the farmers and artisans who rose to power in postrevolutionary America were too beholden to narrow economic and regional interests to serve the broader public good. Of particular concern to the authors was the passage by state legislatures of pro-debtor legislation and paper money laws that threatened creditors’ property rights. Unlike most Americans of the period, who typically worried about the conspiracies of the elite few against the liberties of the people, the authors were concerned about tyrannical legislative majorities threatening the rights of propertied minorities. The Articles of Confederation, in their view, had provided no safeguards against the vices of the people themselves, and the American Revolution’s enthusiasm for liberty had diminished popular appreciation of the need for good governance. The Federalist papers presented the 1786–87 insurrection of debtor farmers in western Massachusetts—Shays’s Rebellion—as a symptom of this broader crisis.

The authors of the Federalist papers argued for an increase in the “energy” of the federal government to respond to this crisis. However, the national government’s increased power would have to be based in republican principles and retain a federal distribution of power there would be no return to monarchical rule or consolidation of central authority.

In one of the most notable essays, “Federalist 10,” Madison rejected the then common belief that republican government was possible only for small states. He argued that stability, liberty, and justice were more likely to be achieved in a large area with a numerous and heterogeneous population. Although frequently interpreted as an attack on majority rule, the essay is in reality a defense of both social, economic, and cultural pluralism and of a composite majority formed by compromise and conciliation. Decision by such a majority, rather than by a monistic one, would be more likely to accord with the proper ends of government. This distinction between a proper and an improper majority typifies the fundamental philosophy of the Federalist papers republican institutions, including the principle of majority rule, were not considered good in themselves but were good because they constituted the best means for the pursuit of justice and the preservation of liberty.

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica This article was most recently revised and updated by Brian Duignan, Senior Editor.