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 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.


I did not read this collection until law school, but I have often thought that it should be required reading for every American. Quite simply, these papers are the alpha and omega to understanding the Constitution of the United States.


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.


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.


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.

Karl Kindt

After reading this for the first time straight through, I have determined two things. I am more states'-rights than federalist. One of the big mistakes made in forming a federal government was in the way senators are elected. Originally, the two senators from each state were to be chosen by the states' legislature. This would have given an enormous amount of power to state representatives and would have tied the state government more tightly to that of the national government. Why have citizens directly elect representatives and senators? The whole idea for the senate was to provide a wiser and more sober check upon the passionate surges representatives directly elected by would engage in. Why bother have two houses of a parliament/congress when they are all elected by the same people? Kind of silly, but it did make the federal government more powerful with respect to state governments.The other thing I learned is that the Bill of Rights was a bad idea. The Federalist Paper writers even thought so! They feared that delineating the rights of the people beyond the constitution itself would actually limit the scope of the peoples' rights by naming them specifically. This is exactly what happened. We have big brother government 200 years later. Why does the federal government have to say the press has rights? Of course they do! But in so declaring the press has rights, the federal government assumes it has justification to control, limit, and interfere with those rights! The federal government can then extend its powers beyond those named in the constitution. What does this mean? You could not HAVE an FCC without the Bill of Rights! By saying the press has rights, the feds can define them! Bill of Rights...bad idea...more like a Bill of Big-Time Government telling the citizens what they can and cannot do, way beyond the vision of the constitution.

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.


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.


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.


In anticipation of the upcoming election season and my burgeoning respect and curiosity of the foundation of our federal government and justice systems, I decided to get back to the source, the heart of the matter if you will. In these papers, originally published in newspapers to persuade the general public of the benefit and virtuosity of the ideas coming forth from the COnstitutional Conventions, the theory and philosophy of some of our most important founding fathers is revealed. Yet it is not just the outline of the basic structure our government should follow today that one gains from this reading, but a respect for the intellectual capablities of the public during this very important time of our our country. I fear that if these papers were somehow to slip through the cracks and make it into our modern newspapers, many would not be able to drag themselves past the first sentence.

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.

Jerry Ehrsam

Should be required reading for all politicians before starting term.


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


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.


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.

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