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


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.

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.


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.


All thoughtful citizens should read this classic. Does anything need to be said about its importance? A few new impressions of mine: difficult reading due to the elevated style of the authors of that time, bordering on embarrassing for our present day situation. About 1/3 through the 85 papers, I thought I could begin to determine which "Publius" was the writer, Hamilton being more foreceful in argument and direct in course. The authors predicted some of the problems we have today and the evolution of the Constitution, especially with regard to the variety and continual change of factions (and corresponding need for the country to be flexible. Our government was similar to many others being developed at that time (including the 13 state governments), all based on the recent writings of political philosophers such as Montesque. I think the 3 authors would be most surprised today at the gargantuan size of the federal government. While they admitted of the potential growth, they also believed it would be in relation to the growth of the population. A typical sentence "Our own experience has corroborated the lessons taught by the examples of other nations; that emergencies of this sort will sometimes exist in all societies, however, inseparable from the body politic as tumors and eruption from the natural body; that the idea of governing at all times by the simple force of law (which we have been told is the only admissible principle of republican government) has no place but in the reveries of those political doctors whose sagacity disdains the admonitions of experimental instruction." In #31, Hamilton illustrates his consistency by comparing axioms of good government to the axioms of geometry, the former being that: "there cannot be an effect without a cause, that the means ought to be proportioned to the end, that every power ought to be commensurate with its object, that there ought to be no limitation of a power destined to effect a purpose which is itself incapable of limitation." In reading the Constitution itself, I note that the more recent amendments are significantly longer than the original ten and even longer than most of the original articles.


Learning to read those books of our founding fathers.Haven't read all of it. Just selections.


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.


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.


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.


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.

Jerry Ehrsam

Should be required reading for all politicians before starting term.

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.


Written by the real fore fathers of politics in this country, it teachers a serious lesson about the structure of this government. Might take some time to absorb but it's a worth having on the shelf.


I think a lot of this is going to seem really obvious if you're an American who payed even a little bit of attention in your high school civics class, it's in the federalist papers that you really get the meat of the arguements for the structure and function of the Constitution. I guess I found it hard to get anything really new out of these, but that's probably because things like "checks and balances," " bi-cameral legislature," and "no ex-post facto" are already such well worn pieces of American political vocabulary. It's obviously an important body of writing since it more or less made the case for why the articles of confederation had to be scrapped for something stronger.And since Hamilton, Jay and Madison were actually trying to convince people, the writing style is very clear and concise. Also, it's a good thing to throw back into the face of stupid demagogues who go around screaming about how no one reads the constitution anymore.


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.)


It's hard to rate a book like this. On the one hand, it's one of the foundational writings of American history; on the other hand, it's boring. Much of it is, anyway. Reading it seemed like such a good idea when I first picked it up at Barnes & Noble two or three years ago. I still think it's a book every American should read. I'm just glad I'm finished.I was encouraged by what emerged as the worldview of these authors, as in this excerpt from Federalist 37, written by James Madison, as he reflected on the forces that brought together the United States:"It is impossible, for the man of pious reflection, not to perceive in it a finger of that Almighty Hand, which has been so frequently and signally extended to our relief in the critical stages of the revolution."And there's this response to spin from Alexander Hamilton, in Federalist 36:"They can answer no other end than to cast a mist over the truth."Madison, Hamilton and John Jay had a robust vocabulary that would offer challenging words for any spelling bee. Among the words they used:nugatoryexcrescentapothegmmutabilityanimadversion

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