The Federalist Papers

ISBN: 0451619072
ISBN 13: 9780451619075
By: Alexander Hamilton James Madison John Jay Clinton Rossiter

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About this book

The Federalist Papers are a series of 85 articles advocating the ratification of the US Constitution. 77 of the essays were published serially in The Independent Journal & The NY Packet between 10/1787 & 8/1788. A compilation of these & 8 others, called The Federalist, was published in 1788 by J.&A. McLean. The Federalist Papers serve as a primary source for interpretation of the Constitution, as they outline the philosophy & motivation of the proposed system of government.The authors wanted both to influence the vote in favor of ratification & to shape future interpretations of the Constitution. According to historian Richard B. Morris, they are an "incomparable exposition of the Constitution, a classic in political science unsurpassed in both breadth & depth by the product of any later American writer." The articles were written by:Alexander Hamilton (1,6–9,11–13,15–17,21–36,59–61,65–85)James Madison (10,14,18–20,37–58,62–63)John Jay (2–5,64) They appeared under the pseudonym "Publius," in honor of Roman consul Publius Valerius Publicola. Madison is generally credited as the father of the Constitution & became 4th President of the United States. Hamilton was an active delegate at the Constitutional Convention & became 1st Secretary of the Treasury. John Jay became 1st Chief Justice of the United States.

Reader's Thoughts


I spent some part of the day yesterday reviewing my marked up copy of the Federalist Papers. Hamilton's eloquence makes the dry facts of political theory not only palatable, but delicious. Here is a sampling:"It will be forgotten, on the one hand, that jealousy is the usual concomitant of love, and that the noble enthusiasm of liberty is 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...." These noble words of caution are as essential in our day as they were in the precarious dawn of our government. Reading these papers reminds us of the debt we owe to the brilliant men who fashioned our constitution, not out of their own invention, but through dedicated effort at studying every form of government that had ever existed, and gleaning from the lessons of history those principles that would create the very best government imaginable. These essays provide glimpses into one of the minds responsible for that creation. Offered here are the pure principles themselves. Hamilton (and occasionally Jay as well) explains the reasoning behind every nuanced phrase in the constitution. It leaves one feeling grateful for their efforts on our behalf, and better informed about the strength of what has been given us.

William Martin

Obligatory reading for all who want to understand the Constitution of the United States or the history of the early republic.It really is a shame how far the US has drifted away from her founding principles.


During South by Southwest 2003, I saw a movie called The Revolution Will Not Be Televised. The movie is about President Chavez in Venezuela and the failed coup attempt on his presidency. In the background coverage of his presidency, the filmmakers recounted how as President, he encouraged his citizens to read their brand new constitution and learn it. They interviewed some Venezuelans who did not know to read, but had learned to read by reading their constitution.[return][return]I was touched by this, but then I thought "how many Americans can say they've read the Constitution?" My guess is probably not many. And those that have only did it for school and have since forgotten much of what they learned. Personally, I remember having to memorize the Bill of Rights for a class, but that's about it.[return][return]In a time when Congress is passing legislation that infringes upon the rights guaranteed us by our Constitution, it's important now more than ever that we read and understand it. And the Federalist Papers are a great way to learn what the founders were thinking when shaping the Constitution and to learn the issues they were concerned about in the structure of our government.

Erik Graff

The Federalist Papers, this very edition, were required reading for the U.S. History and Government course mandated for all students during their junior year at Maine Twp. H.S. South in Park Ridge, Illinois, along with such documents as The Declaration of Independence, The Articles of Confederation, The Constitution of the United States of America, etc. The Constitution had, of course, also been required in junior high school along with that of the State of Illinois, but I much preferred the level of discussion in high school.

Taft Babbitt

This is a must read for any American. It will make you think and ponder about the complexities that our Founding Fathers had to address when forming our government. Too many people today comment on what should change in our government structure not appreciating the immaculate architecture the Founders put in place. The government of the USA is one of the greatest achievements in mankind’s history. Not something to be tampered with lightly. This book should have a class all to itself in High School or College and be mandatory.

John Gardner

I’ve not yet read all 82 papers in this collection, but I’m almost there! These papers were written and published in several New York newspapers between 1787 and 1789, during a period of intense debate between the writing of the U.S. Constitution and its ratification. The Federalists were in favor of ratification, while the Anti-Federalists — led by Thomas Jefferson — opposed it, largely on the grounds that it did not originally contain a Bill of Rights. These are difficult reading, but worth the effort. It’s amazing to see the way the great patriots of our nation’s founding era debated the fine points of legislation in a civil and respectful manner. We could all learn much from them!I picked up a nice, hardbound copy of the Federalist Papers at Books-A-Million for just $10, but you can also read them for free online here . The Anti-Federalist Papers are online here .


The Federalist Papers was a tough slog to get through, but, like mining for diamonds, it was worth it. There are no published records of the internal deliberations of the Founding Fathers in their development of the U.S. Constitution ---- the Federalist Papers is really our only intense summary of their thinking in why they put its various measures in it. With some input from John Jay, the Papers are overwhelmingly the product of two great men who would later be political opponents -- James Madison and Alexander Hamilton. Nevertheless, on the Constitution, these two very different men came together, and crafted one of the greatest works in political thought. I think that, such as it is now, these United States are far from the Constitution --- due to modern developments of a constitutionally and economically ignorant citizenry; a craven, imperial President; a cowardly, short-sighted, selfish Congress; and last and, perhaps, most lethally, a Federal Court system that is out of touch, arrogant, politically active and ideological, unaccountable, constitutionally ignorant, and usurping of the power of legislation properly belonging to Congress. I don't think that the Papers are for the average reader. They are written largely in 18th Century terminology, but, even for their times, seem intended for a highly educated, well-informed audience. However, every law student and every judge should demonstrate mastery and understanding of them. Moreover, no politician aspiring to high federal office has any business in such unless they have read and understand the Federalist Papers in my opinion. They are the source code of our Federal Republic, and the ignorance of the body politic and of the courts are sending America on the road to damnation.


First, I'm going to begin with a bitch. THIS "BOOK" WAS NOT WRITTEN BY ALEXANDER HAMILTON. IT IS NOT A BOOK. IT IS A COMPILATION OF SEVERAL ESSAYS WRITTEN UNDER THE PSEUDONYM "PUBLIUS" AND THE AUTHOR(S) WERE ANONYMOUS FOR A LONG TIME.The true authorship of these was only known several years after the fact. And took several decades after the authors had been determined to finalize exactly who wrote what.Furthermore, virtually ever copy includes at least a copy of the Bill of Rights, Declaration of Independence, and (if you're very lucky) The Articles of confederation.None of the US foundational documents were conceivably written by Alexander Hamilton. However, he did write the vast majority of the Federalist Papers.There are hundreds of printings of this work. The copy I read well over 200 times (well, the first 30 of the federalists or so, anyway) was a deep red mass market paperback. I can't remember the publisher. There was a publisher that made all its mass market "classic" paperbacks in deep red for awhile. It had the lovely disintegrating acidic paper, and the binding was just starting to fall apart as I slugged the bottle of champagne and vowed to not read the work again until I was 30.Anyway, this is an incredible book if you're willing to read it well. That means at least one week for one paper. I'm not kidding. It benefits very much from close reading.All the hype is true, but reading it poorly makes it sound like pithy bullshit. Follow the terminology in the paper, and put together the relationships between all terms. Anyway, read it.


I just finished this book after a long hiatus. It took me awhile to figure out a strategy for reading it, which for me turned out to be reading one chapter a day. Once I approached it that way, I found it to be fascinating, inspiring and eye-opening. Reading it now in the midst of so many debates about the proper role of each of the branches of government as they address domestic and international issues has been very interesting. The thoroughness of the analysis is very impressive. Madison, Jay and Hamilton had such a wealth of historical knowledge that they brought into their discussions, not just about the forms of various governments (ancient and contemporary), but how those forms played out in particular circumstances. One curious aspect of it though is a strange sort of naivete about the honesty and integrity of individuals who would be filling positions in government. Each of the authors goes to great lengths to describe the checks on less than admirable behavior, but at the same time argues that anyone called to any of these positions would have a certain nobility of character that would ensure acting in the best interests of all the people. Time has shown us over and over again that this is not the case. Even with that small contradictory element, I can't recommend this work more highly--I wish I had read it long ago, and would be interested in a reread of it with other folks.


Read the Federalist Papers. Then, just for kicks, switch on Hannity & Colmes, or Crossfire, or read USA Today... and then ask yourself, WHAT THE FUCKING CHRIST HAPPENED TO THIS COUNTRY? Then crawl into a corner and whimper for eight hours straight. (That's what I did.)

Gregory Mcdonald

When I read this back in the 90's I confess my motives weren't of the noble or patriotic in any fashion. I'd read an article by a then prominent columnist who said that "a person couldn't consider themselves well educated unelss they''d read The Federalist Papers." Well I was young,arrogant and vain(not much has changed but the young part)and I wanted to be seen as well educated so I bought a copy and began to read. It's not easy read,and more than once I thought about giving up and picking up a sci-fi or mystery novel instead. But I didn't,and today I'm glad I didn't.This is a book that every American,along with all lovers of freedom wherever they call home,should read. It will help you to understand the vision the founders had for this country, It will help you see the limits they felt needed tobe placed on a central goverment to keep it from becoming a tyranny like the one they had just faught a war against. It will show how much they valued the rights of each and every individual to live free. This book wont be the most enjoyable read you've ever had,but it might just be the most important.

Jeff Shelnutt

We live in a time in history when the individual can't afford to be uninformed. If you want to know foundational American political philosophy, start with the Constitution and the Federalists Papers. Not only does this book give crucial insight into a timeless debate, but it draws the modern reader into keeping up with the intricate prose and penetrating analysis that characterized the writing style of the era. It should be required reading in every high school. I'm sure it was at one time.


Those founding fathers, they understood us--man, did they understand us--how farking crazy people get when they get into politics. Thank you for the system. It still works more or less.


Essential commentary on the U.S. federal Constitution by some of the Founding Fathers (Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay). There was substantial argument around the founding of the federal government regarding how much power the national government should have, or how much power should be reserved to the states and the people. These three men (particularly Hamilton, who wrote most of the papers) argued for a federal government with substantial power, at least compared with many of the other men in the constitutional convention.While I don't agree with everything they say, the perspective that these writings give to the finished -- and significantly briefer -- Constitution is invaluable. After this I need to read The Anti-Federalist Papers.


The Federalist is somewhat dry and pompous but what can you expect from politicians. Also I have noticed that the founding fathers were not perfect and I am now wondering if the colonists were not propagandized into Union. I really don't like Alexander Hamilton's writing style. It is some of the dryest and most boring stuff I have ever read.

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