Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Federalist Papers” as Want to Read:
The Federalist Papers
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Read eBook* *Different edition

The Federalist Papers

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  33,166 ratings  ·  749 reviews

Hailed by Thomas Jefferson as “the best commentary on the principles of government which was ever written", The Federalist Papers is a collection of eighty-five essays published by Founding Fathers Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay from 1787 to 1788, as a means to persuade the public to ratify the Constitution of the United States.

With nearly two-thirds of the es

Paperback, 688 pages
Published April 1st 2003 by Signet Classics (first published September 17th 1780)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Federalist Papers, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Bret I gave up reading this book about a hundred pages in. Without having a lot of background knowledge about the articles of confederation and…moreI gave up reading this book about a hundred pages in. Without having a lot of background knowledge about the articles of confederation and contemporary events, I could understand little of what was written.

It is remarkable that this books has so many reviews, given that so few understand it. (less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.07  · 
Rating details
 ·  33,166 ratings  ·  749 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Jun 10, 2007 rated it really liked it
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.)
Karen Chung
Feb 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
With all the talk in political discourse these days about "what the US Founding Fathers intended", I felt it was time to go straight to the source. If you've ever had similar thoughts, this is the place to start. This work is long - around 22 hours of Librivox audio - and written in archaic, ornate English. But anyone reading it will be immediately impressed by its scholarship and depth. It also gives a clear picture of what said Founding Fathers were up against - unbridled, often unprincipled, ...more
Feb 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Praise God I'm an American. One should not be able to graduate public high schools without mastery of Basic Economics & The Federalist Papers.
Roy Lotz
Jun 17, 2013 rated it liked it
Why has government been instituted at all? Because the passions of men will not conform to the dictates of reason and justice without restraint.

Like any educated American who hasn’t already read this book, this classic has long been on my reading list. Nevertheless, even amongst us haughty literati, I suspect that this book is a Mark Twain kind of classic—one that we wish to have read, but don’t look forward to actually reading. It certainly was that way for me. Philistine that I am, the idea of leafing
Aug 31, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Someone willing to give it the time it merits
First, I'm going to begin with a bitch.
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, D
Connie G
Aug 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics, law, history, essays
"The Federalist" is a collection of 85 essays published originally in New York state newspapers in 1787-1788 encouraging the ratification of the Constitution. The pseudonym Publius was used for the three intelligent authors--Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay. The authors were responding to criticisms against the Constitution by the anti-Federalists who also wrote newspaper articles. (Some of the concerns of the anti-Federalists were addressed in the Bill of Rights in 1791.)
Jan 13, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Wow...This book has completely transformed my views and understanding of our government. The US constitution make so much more sense now that I have read its defense. It's also interesting to read some of the outlandish arguments that were propagated against this ingenious document. Not much has changed in American politics over the centuries. Our media, pundits, and politicians still banter in much the same way today as they did back in the 1780's.

I will admit that this book challen
4.0 stars. One of the most important works of American political science and philosophy, this collection of arguments detailing the benefits and advantages of the federal system as envisioned by the founding fathers is a must read to understand the beginnings of the republic.
Jan 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
First and foremost let me just say, God Bless These United States of America.

Significance of this book is beyond a 5. Enjoyability is below a 3. Hence I’ll meet in the middle and give it a 4.

If your going into reading this thinking it’s going to be awesome, you’re wrong. It’s a full time job and it’s extraordinarily difficult, however difficult it may be it is essential reading. These men were brilliant and I am incredibly thankful they existed at the Time they did to allow us the future we li
Nov 27, 2008 marked it as to-read
Shelves: dicklits
I don't know who's a bigger jackass: me, for never having so much as peeped at these, or the grownps at all the various schools I've attended, for not even once suggesting I should.

Actually, that's a lie. I totally do know.
Hailey Hudson
Feb 07, 2017 rated it it was ok

[edit--I haven't actually read this book, I just felt like commenting that]
David Huff
Dec 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
We can all probably think of certain books we "should have read" during high school, or college, and somehow never did. For me, the collection of short essays that make up The Federalist Papers was one of those books. Since I love my country and am an ardent believer in her Constitution, my lengthy delay in reading TFP is both ironic and embarrassing. Now, however, my conscience is assuaged and I appreciate the Constitution, and the complicated path to its birth, all the more.

The Fed
Nov 20, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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, a
Jan 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Oct 17, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
Don't let the 3 star rating mislead you. This is a brilliant summation of the Constitution by three of the smartest Founding Fathers: Alexander Hamilton (first Secretary of the Treasury), James Madison (Father of the Constitution and fourth President of the U.S.), and John Jay (first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court). It is such a shame that there are so few political geniuses in government today. The breadth of their knowledge, particularly Madison's, boggles the mind. Except for the fact tha ...more
Miss Clark
Oct 15, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Every American and anyone who wants to understand what it was envisioned to be when it began
Boring as all get out, practically put me to sleep and still I ended up liking this book. How could I not in some ways? It presents the arguments of three men, who if I certainly did not admire, can certainly respect their passionately held opinions and their hopes for what America could be. Also, it really helped me to better understand the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and the historical context that resulted in some of the seemingly odd or unnecessary clauses and stipulations.
Cary Giese
May 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read some of these papers in college as directed by my Professor, but had never read them all. This book should be studied and used as a reference! You have likely heard legal scholars refer to quotes that happen to be apt in a certain circumstance! But the point of having this book is to be able to understand the minds of the founders on every issue of the draft Constitution. Amazingly, these founder advocacy efforts was their pro-Constitution’s social media campaign. They and the anti-federa ...more
Clif Hostetler
Nov 01, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: history
The Federalist Papers are a series of 85 essays written in 1787 and 1788 to promote the ratification of the United States Constitution. I found it to be the equivalent of reading a 600 paged legal brief written by an 18th century lawyer. Actually, that's exactly what it is. I found these lectures helpful in describing the debates that took place at the time these papers were written. I was impressed at the extent and variety of the arguments of "The Federalist Papers" in defending the proposed Constitut ...more
Jul 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A nation, without a national government, is in my view, an awful spectacle. The establishment of a Constitution, in time of profound peace, by the voluntary consent of the whole people, is a prodigy, to the completion of which I look forward with trembling anxiety. (Alexander Hamilton writing as “Publius” near the end of Federalist Paper No. 85)

The U.S. Constitution was ratified on March 4, 1789, and it has survived as the most well-devised government in the history of the world. Many smart political minds converge
Michael O'Brien
May 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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 Madi ...more
Jun 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: politics
It's an understandable shame that more people don't want to read this. True, it's not all that entertaining. At times, it feels like reading the most boring parts of the Old Testament. It requires a lot from the reader. But it is such an important book to read in order to understand our government and why it was structured the way it was. And ultimately, it was structured the way it was in order to protect the people's liberties. Therefore, if we don't understand this, our liberties are at risk. ...more
Sep 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Mar 14, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The Federalist Papers is a collection of 85 short essays, written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison & John Jay, in order to convince the readers of New York newspapers to support the institution of a federal Constitution.

In order to understand the content of these essays, it is important to understand the times in which they were written. The former 13 American colonies had revolted against the British Empire and declared their indepdence in 1776. But this was only the beginning, because
Kar Wai Ng
Dec 17, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
tl;dr: read papers #10 and #68 to understand how accurately the founders have predicted America today, yet despite all the ingenious systems they put in place, the Constitution was not able to prevent the Office of the President to 'fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications'.

This is much like a 3.5 stars for it has a strong build-up of narration, but lacks the climatic ending one would have been waiting for, I am sorry to say
Liss Carmody
Feb 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is the sort of book you read (or I read, anyway) because you think it'll be good for you, not because you expect it to be fun. Your literary lima beans, to better inform your understanding of American civics and provide insight into the motivations and thoughts of the much-referred-to-and-presumed-upon founding fathers. It's propaganda from the Federalist side of the movement, which is important to keep in mind, because although they won (we got this constitution ratified, yay!), and thereb ...more
Soy Boy James
Apr 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
It took me forever to get through this book—partly because I took extensive notes—but it was worth it.

Hamilton, Madison and Jay wrote this series of esseys in defence of the U.S. Constitution, and it's a fantastic look at the philosophical insight that went into forming that document and structuring our government. They provide ideological support to show that the intent behind each decision was right. And they provide historical support to show that the logic behind each decision wa
Yogy TheBear
Feb 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
As a non American I must say this was very good and interesting, the language was a little hard but not imposible for the able reader.
I must say that the US is a lucky country !! It was borned out of a revolution but it was build in time of peace ! The people who build it were all educated and well read in history and politics, and the population of the States of those times were also very educated and smart !!
The succes of this model of Guv is evident from the fact that it was coppi
Jul 16, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics
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 Ameri ...more
Mar 12, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I feel the need to be excessively verbose after spending several months on this cherished piece of US history. I couldn't help but wonder who took the time to read this in the eighteenth century, especially when the entire collection was first published in one volume! It was interesting to witness the different styles of the three writers known together as Publius. Hamilton especially could get quite passionate. At times entertaining, at times mundane; sometimes courteous and sometimes rude; The ...more
Mar 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hamilton, Madison, and Jay: Is there, anywhere, a higher quality discussion about the practicalities, implementation, and possible outcomes of various federal republican and democratic systems than in The Federalist Papers? I don't think so. Could three (OK, mostly two) people generate such intellectually stimulating, elegantly phrased, and thoughtfulness-inundated prose - such as would still enthrall readers several centuries after its date of composition - in today's political atmosphere? I don't think so.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Anti-Federalist Papers and the Constitutional Convention Debates
  • Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787 Reported by James Madison
  • Anti-Federalist Papers (1787-1789)
  • Democracy in America
  • The Debate on the Constitution, Part 1: Federalist and Anti-Federalist Speeches, Articles, and Letters During the Struggle over Ratification: September 1787 to February 1788
  • Common Sense, The Rights of Man and Other Essential Writings
  • Miracle at Philadelphia: The Story of the Constitutional Convention, May to September 1787
  • The Real Benjamin Franklin (Vol. 2 of the American Classic Series)
  • Writings: Autobiography / Notes on the State of Virginia / Public and Private Papers / Addresses / Letters
  • Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution, 1787-1788
  • The Making of America: The Substance and Meaning of the Constitution
  • America's Constitution: A Biography
  • Original Intent: The Courts, the Constitution, & Religion
  • Second Treatise of Government
  • The Rough Riders
  • Seek: Reports from the Edges of America and Beyond
  • The Gettysburg Address
See similar books…
Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

Alexander Hamilton (January 11, 1755 or 1757 – July 12, 1804) was the first United States Secretary of the Treasury, a Founding Father, economist, and political philosopher. He led calls for the Philadelphia Convention, was one of America's first Constitutional lawyers, and cowrote th
“The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, selfappointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.” 93 likes
“Safety from external danger is the most powerful director of national conduct. Even the ardent love of liberty will, after a time, give way to its dictates. The violent destruction of life and property incident to war, the continual effort and alarm attendant on a state of continual danger, will compel nations the most attached to liberty to resort for repose and security to institutions which have a tendency to destroy their civil and political rights. To be more safe, they at length become willing to run the risk of being less free.” 57 likes
More quotes…