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The Federalist Papers

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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 essays written by Hamilton, this enduring classic is perfect for modern audiences passionate about his work or seeking a deeper understanding of one of the most important documents in US history.

688 pages, Mass Market Paperback

First published May 1, 1788

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About the author

Alexander Hamilton

768 books577 followers
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 the Federalist Papers, a primary source for Constitutional interpretation.

Born on the West Indian island of Nevis, Hamilton was educated in North America. During the American Revolutionary War, he joined the American militia and was chosen artillery captain. Hamilton became senior aide-de-camp and confidant to General George Washington, and led three battalions at the Siege of Yorktown. He was elected to the Continental Congress, but resigned to practice law and to found the Bank of New York. He served in the New York Legislature, later returned to Congress, and was the only New York signer at the Philadelphia Convention. As Washington's Treasury Secretary, he influenced formative government policy widely. An admirer of British political systems, Hamilton emphasized strong central government and Implied Powers, under which the new U.S. Congress funded the national debt, assumed state debts, created a national bank, and established an import tariff and whiskey tax.

By 1792, a Hamilton coalition and a Jefferson-Madison coalition had arisen (the formative Federalist and Democratic-Republican Parties), which differed strongly over Hamilton's domestic fiscal goals and his foreign policy of extensive trade and friendly relations with Britain. Exposed in an affair with Maria Reynolds, Hamilton resigned from the Treasury in 1795 to return to Constitutional law and advocacy of strong federalism. In 1798, the Quasi-War with France led Hamilton to argue for, organize, and become de facto commander of a national army.

Hamilton's opposition to fellow Federalist John Adams contributed to the success of Democratic-Republicans Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr in the uniquely deadlocked election of 1800. With his party's defeat, Hamilton's nationalist and industrializing ideas lost their former national prominence. In 1801, Hamilton founded the New York Post as the Federalist broadsheet New-York Evening Post. His intense rivalry with Vice President Burr eventually resulted in a duel, in which Hamilton was mortally wounded, dying the following day. After the War of 1812, Hamilton's former opponents, including Madison and Albert Gallatin, revived some of his federalizing programs, such as a second national bank, national infrastructure, tariffs, and a standing army and navy. Hamilton's federalist and business-oriented economic visions for the country continue to influence party platforms to this day.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,035 reviews
Profile Image for Seth.
18 reviews43 followers
June 10, 2007
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.)
Profile Image for Karen Chung.
389 reviews89 followers
March 8, 2012
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, and outright rude opposition to pretty much every last bit of the Constitution at every turn. This series of essays was painstakingly written to try and convince the country that, while the new Constitution was not and could not be perfect, it was urgently needed to get the Union government functional, and that it was perhaps the best that could be done, given an imperfect world and us imperfect humans. The writers of the new Constitution were clearly trying their utmost to create a government and society as fair, conflict-free and well-functioning as they could manage. Interesting how slaves were reluctantly counted, in a compromise with the South, as having 3/5 the personhood of a free-born man. Really, every American, and anybody interested in how power, justice, and societies work, should read this carefully. It's left me a little tired, but happy and satisfied.
Profile Image for Roy Lotz.
Author 1 book8,127 followers
June 5, 2015
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 through 500 pages of articles by this country’s founding fathers did not exactly give me goosebumps.

I’m afraid that my fears were partially borne out by this book. It was not terribly pleasant. And if I am to be honest, I must shamefacedly admit that I often found these articles dreadfully dull. One obstacle to my reading pleasure simply came from the style of writing. These pieces were written in great haste, over the span of a year, by harried men who were not professional thinkers or writers. As a result, this book can often feel a bit haphazard and disorganized. Several papers seem as though they were dashed off between breakfast and lunch; the arguments tumble forward in a torrential outpouring of frenetic scribbling. The prose, too, was often cramped, bloated, and opaque:
The circumstances of the body authorized to make the permanent appointments would, of course, have governed the modification of a power which related to the temporary appointments; and as the national Senate is the body whose situation is alone contemplated in the clause upon which the suggestion under examination has been founded, the vacancies to which it alludes can only be deemed to respect those officers in whose appointment that body has a concurrent agency with the President.

Another disappointment was simply the method of argumentation. The words “probably” and “likely” do a great deal of work in these papers. The authors are constantly making light of certain possibilities and boldly predicting others. This rhetorical device is seldom convincing. Who knows what the future will bring? A related technique is to use what Dawkins calls the “argument from personal incredulity.” This is when an author says things like “It is impossible for me to believe,” or “I cannot even imagine this to be so,” and the like. Again, the author is using the seeming likelihood of a certain outcome as an argument; but unfortunately for us reality doesn't care what we find easy to believe, or what we think likely to happen.

So because the arguments employed were not based on either philosophical principles or empirical data, I was often left cold. In fact, I was frequently reminded of a criticism Bertrand Russell made of St. Thomas Aquinas. Russell did not consider Aquinas to be a great philosopher because Aquinas began with his conclusions, which he got from Aristotle and the Bible, instead of following his logic wherever it led. Similarly, the authors of these papers started with their conclusion—that we should ratify the Constitution—and then grasped for arguments, like a lawyer defending his client. Of course, that’s the nature of propaganda; but it isn’t very intellectually stimulating.

Aside from the writing and the rhetoric, a third barrier to a pleasant reading experience for me was simply the subject-matter. Many of these essays get into the nitty-gritty of the proposed administration. It often felt as if I were reading a proposal to reorganize a department at work rather than a book of political philosophy. I’m sure if I wasn’t such a troglodyte I would have gotten more out of these managerial niceties; but as I am still thoroughly lodged under a rock, I frequently found it impossible to focus. My eyes would get blurry; my brain would turn off; and I would read several pages on autopilot before realizing that I wasn’t absorbing a thing.

Alright, so I’ve discussed all the negatives. But despite all I’ve said, I still think this book is well worth reading. Madison’s essays, in particular, were for me the real highlight, even though they only comprised about a third of this book. Compared with Hamilton, Madison is much more of a theorist. His famous Federalist No. 10 is as deep as anything in Montesquieu, Marx, Machiavelli, or any other political philosopher whose name starts with an M. What’s more, he struck me as more widely learned, often making reference to ancient history as illustrations. And to be fair, the indefatigable Hamilton, though often tiresome, is not without his moments of greatness. He at least possesses the merit of being diligent and thorough.

Yet the real treat, I’d argue, is not reading the articles themselves, but reading the Constitution afterwards. By the time you get to the very end of The Federalist Papers, and turn to that slim founding document in the very back, you will have spent a dozen or more hours interpreting, defending, and exploring these 10 humble pages, tucked away like an appendix. Every sentence in the Constitution has been explained, clarified, and justified with excruciating care. And as a result, it was as if I was reading it for the first time—which is worth some literary boredom and headache, if you ask me.
Profile Image for Greg.
70 reviews70 followers
August 31, 2007
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, 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.
Profile Image for Gator.
271 reviews22 followers
January 27, 2019
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 live in. The fact that all these men existed in this place at the same time to create such an all star team is nothing short of divine providence.

I agree with so much of the reviews I’ve seen here on Goodreads on TFP, it should be mandatory education from 1-8 and all thru high school. The youth would benefit tremendously to know how much blood, sweat, and tears was poured into creating the nation we all so thoroughly enjoy today. Not only should this education be taught in school but the foundation of this education should be laid at home to our children long before they arrive.

As difficult as this book was to read, and so utterly boring most of the time I absolutely loved it and I highly encourage anyone thinking about reading it do so with earnest expedience.

“Accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary in the same hands … may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.” (Madison, #47)

“If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.” (Madison, #51)

“Whatever fine declarations may be inserted in any constitution respecting it, must altogether depend on public opinion, and on the general spirit of the people and of the government.” (Hamilton, # 84)
Profile Image for Stephen.
29 reviews
August 17, 2009
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 challenged me. The arguments were hard to comprehend at times and I really had to bear down in order to gain some understanding. I also spent roughly one quarter of my reading time looking up words in the dictionary. Makes me regret the time I spent in front of the television or video games instead of sharpening my mind. Keep in mind that the Federalist Papers were originally published as a series of essays in a New York newspaper. In comparison, I believe that much of today's news has been watered down for a society that has little patience for a real, thorough debate of substantial issues.
Profile Image for Stephen.
1,517 reviews10.9k followers
June 22, 2010
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.
Profile Image for Connie G.
1,665 reviews440 followers
August 8, 2018
"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.)

"The Federalist" discussed the need for a strong central government which included a standing army and taxation, the weakness of the current Articles of Confederation, the structure of the branches of government under the new Constitution, checks and balances, separation of powers, and the ratification process. There is some repetition of ideas in the essays since "The Federalist" was not written as a book originally.

The framers of the Constitution came from small and large states, and from urban and rural areas. Some states had many areas of commerce and industry where others were mostly agricultural. Some states supported slavery, but others wanted to outlaw it. Some of the Founding Fathers wanted a strong central government, but others were more concerned with states rights. The Constitution may not be perfect, but it was quite an accomplishment considering the different interests of the various states and the willingness to compromise. "The Federalist" helped the people understand the Constitution in 1787, and is still consulted by the courts today.
Profile Image for Jessica.
593 reviews3,387 followers
Want to read
November 27, 2008
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.
Profile Image for Hailey Hudson.
Author 1 book26 followers
April 3, 2017

[edit--I haven't actually read this book, I just felt like commenting that]
Profile Image for Zaphirenia.
278 reviews189 followers
April 10, 2020
Propaganda at its very best and finest. Διότι όπως λέει και ο Hamilton στο πρώτο άρθρο του βιβλίου, "For in politics, as in religion, it is equally absurd to aim at making proselytes by fire and sword. Heresies in either can rarely be cured by persecution."

Το βιβλίο αποτελείται από ογδόντα πέντε κείμενα, δημοσιευμένα το 1788 σε εφημερίδες των ΗΠΑ, με σκοπό την προώθηση της επικύρωσης του Συντάγματος των Ηνωμένων Πολιτειών από τις Πολιτείες που απελευθερώθηκαν μετά την Αμερικανική Επανάσταση. Όλα τα κείμενα απευθύνονται "στους πολίτες της Πολιτείας της Νέας Υόρκης", αλλά στην πραγματικότητα είναι μία απάντηση σε εκείνους που επέκριναν το νέο Σύνταγμα και υποστήριζαν ότι οι Πολιτείες έπρεπε να διατηρήσουν την αυτονομία τους στο πλαίσιο της Συνομοσπονδίας των Αμερικανικών Πολιτειών (Confederation). Πρόκεται για κείμενα προπαγνδιστικού χαρακτήρα με νομικά, πολιτικά και λογικά επιχειρήματα υπέρ της νέας μορφής που επρόκειτο να λάβουν οι Ηνωμένες Πολιτείες της Αμερικής.

Για όσους ενδιαφέρονται για την ιστορία αυτής της υπερδύναμης, είναι ένα εκπληκτικά ενδιαφέρον βιβλίο. Προφανώς η θεώρηση των συγγραφέων των άρθρων δεν είναι αντικειμενική, δεδομένου ότι έχουν έναν πολύ συγκεκριμένο σκοπό, είναι όμως εξαιρετικά καλογραμμένα όλα και υποδειγματικά ως προς τον τρόπο ανάπτυξης της θέσης τους και τον τρόπο που... πετσοκόβουν τους πολιτικούς τους αντιπάλους. Επίσης, δεν είναι όλα τα κείμενα το ίδιο ενδιαφέροντα. Υπάρχουν κάποια τα οποία αναπτύσσουν πολύ τεχνικά σημεία του Συντάγματος και τα οποία για κάποιον μη Αμερικανό ίσως δεν έχουν τόσο ενδιαφέρον. Συνολικά, όμως, είναι πολύ διαφωτιστικό για τον τρόπο σκέψης που οδήγησε στο αμερικανικό Σύνταγμα και τις ΗΠΑ όπως τις ξέρουμε σήμερα.

Τώρα, γιατί χρειάστηκε όλη αυτή η προσπάθεια για να επικυρωθεί το Σύνταγμα; Δεν το θέλανε οι Αμερικανοί;

Στα μέσα της δεκαετίας του 1780, οι δεκατρείς Πολιτείες της Αμερικής που είχαν κερδίσει την ανεξαρτησία τους κατά την Αμερικανική Επανάσταση, βρέθηκαν σε ένα κρίσιμο σημείο της αμερικανικής ιστορίας. Η επονομαζόμενη Συνομοσπονδία (Confederation) δε λειτουργούσε. Καθόλου όμως. Χρήματα δεν υπήρχαν και όταν υπήρχαν οι Πολιτείες τα κρατούσαν για τον εαυτό τους χωρίς να στέλνουν την εισφορά τους στο στο Κοινοβούλιο της Συνομοσπονδίας (Congress), όπως είχαν υποσχεθεί. Οι Πολιτείες δεν έστελναν αντιπροσώπους στο εθνικό Κοινοβούλιο , είχαν η καθεμία το δικό της στρατό και ναυτικό και επεδίωκαν να συνάπτουν ξεχωριστές εμπορικές συμφωνίες με άλλες χώρες.

Enter Alexander Hamilton. Με θητεία στον αμερικανικό στρατό κατά την Επανάσταση και έχοντας διατελέσει επιτελάρχης του Washington για τέσσερα χρόνια, ο Hamilton πίστευε απόλυτα (όπως και ο ίδιος ο Washington) στην ύπαρξη μιας ισχυρής κεντρικής εθνικής κυβέρνησης, η οποία θα επέτρεπε στις ΗΠΑ να προκόψουν επιτέλους. Το Σεπτέμβριο 1786, αντιπρόσωποι από πέντε Πολιτείες (New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia) συναντήθηκαν στην Annapolis και συμφώνησαν ότι τα Άρθρα της Συνομοσπονδίας (Articles of the Confederation) οπωσδήποτε δε βοηθούσαν την απελπιστική οικονομική και πολιτική κατάσταση της χώρας και υπέγραψαν μία δήλωση την οποία συνέταξε ο Hamilton (αντιπρόσωπος της Νέας Υόρκης), με την οποία καλούσαν τους αντιπροσώπους των Πολιτειών να συναντηθούν το Μάιο 1787 στη Philadelphia και να αναθεωρήσουν τα Άρθρα της Συνομοσπονδίας και να συντάξουν ένα νέο Σύνταγμα των Ηνωμένων Πολιτειών της Αμερικής.

Έτσι, το Μάιο του 1787 πραγματοποιήθηκε το συνέδριο στη Philadelphia, στόχος του οποίου στην πραγματικότητα ήταν να ενδυναμωθεί η εθνική κυβέρνηση της Συνομοσπονδίας. Παρόντες ήταν η creme de la creme προφανώς: George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison (από τη Virginia), John Dickinson (από το Delaware) και άλλα μεγάλα ονόματα της εποχής. Γρήγορα έγινε σαφές ότι "οκ, είπαμε να κάνουμε τροποποιήσεις αλλά πραγματικά θα ήταν πολύ καλύτερα να το γράψουμε από την αρχή, έτσι δεν είναι"; Και έτσι έκαναν.

Εντελώς τυχαία, ο James Madison είχε ήδη στα σκαριά ένα έτοιμο Σύνταγμα όταν ξεκίνησε η συνεδρίαση, το οποίο οι αντιπρόσωποι πολύ γρήγορα αποφάσισαν να χρησιμοποιήσουν ως βάση. Ο Madison, υπερβολικά μικρόσωμος για να υπηρετήσει στο στρατό και μεγάλος βιβλιοφάγος, είχε μελετήσει σε βάθος τον Montesquieu και επομένως το όλο σύστημα βασίστηκε στην πολιτική θεωρία του τελευταίου περί διάκρισης των εξουσιών (που ισχύει και σήμερα σε όλες τις σοβαρές δημοκρατίες της Δύσης). Το αμερικανικό Σύνταγμα βασίστηκε στο πασίγνωστο σύστημα των "checks and balances", με βάση το οποίο κάθε μέρος της εθνικής κυβέρνησης (η Βουλή των Αντιπροσώπων, η Γερουσία, η Εκτελεστική Εξουσία, τα Δικαστήρια) είναι ανεξάρτητο από τα άλλα αλλά ταυτόχρονα συνδέεται μαζί τους με τρόπο ώστε κανένα μέρος να μην μπορεί να αποκτήσει υπερβολική εξουσία η οποία θα βλάψει το πολίτευμα.

Όταν συμφωνήθηκε το κείμενο του Συντάγματος, ξεκίνησε ένας μεγάλος αγώνας για την επικύρωσή του από τις Πολιτείες. Απέναντι στους υποστηρικτές και συντάκτες του, που πίστευαν ότι μόνο μια ισχυρή κεντρική εξουσία μπορεί να πάει μπροστά τις ΗΠΑ, στάθηκαν όσοι θεωρούσαν ότι οι Πολιτείες πρέπει να είναι αυτόνομες και ανεξάρτητες και να έχουν μία χαλαρή σύνδεση μεταξύ τους στο πλαίσιο της Συνομοσπονδίας. Κάτι όμως που είχε ήδη δοκιμαστεί και αποτύχει οικτρά. Οι πρώτοι, που υποστήριζαν την ισχυρή ομοσπονδιακή κυβέρνηση, ονομάστηκαν Federalists και έδωσαν στους αντιπάλους τους την ονομασία Anti-Federalists. Στους επιφανέστερους των πρώτων ανήκουν και ο Alexander Hamilton, ο James Madison και ο John Jay που εξέδωσαν αυτά τα άρθρα, προσπαθώντας να πείσουν το λαό των Ηνωμένων Πολιτειών (ή τουλάχιστον εκείνο το μέρος του λαού που η γνώμη του μετρούσε).

Γιατί προφανώς ένα κείμενο που συμφώνησαν να ονομάσουν "Σύνταγμα των Ηνωμένων Πολιτειών" ορισμένοι πολιτικοί και διανοούμενοι δε σήμαινε απολύτως τίποτα εάν δεν δεσμεύονταν από αυτό οι ίδιες οι Πολιτείες. Όσο πρωτοποριακό και φιλελεύθερο και αν ήταν όμως το νέο Σύνταγμα, η επικύρωσή του από τα 2/3 των Πολιτειών, εννέα Πολιτείες δηλαδή, δεν ήταν απλή υπόθεση. Από την άλλη μεριά, ακόμα και εάν το Σύνταγμα επικυρωνόταν από εννέα πολιτείες, θα ήταν δύσκολο να εφαρμοστεί αποτελεσματικά εάν σημαντικές Πολιτείες όπως η Βιρτζίνια ή η Μασαχουσέτη δεν προχωρούσαν στην επικύρωση. Επιπλέον, οι "Anti-Federalists" ήταν και αυτοί βετεράνοι της Επανάστασης, με μεγάλο πολιτικό βάρος και πίστευαν ότι το Σύνταγμα πρόδιδε το αληθινό πνεύμα της Επανάστασης το ίδιο έντονα που πίστευαν και οι Federalists ότι η επικύρωση αποτελούσε μονόδρομο για την πραγμάτωση του πνεύματος της ίδιας Επανάστασης. Τρία από τα σημεία που προκάλεσαν τριβή ήταν:

1) Ο αριθμός των βουλευτών. Ένα από τα βασικά ζητήματα ήταν με ποιο κριτήριο θα επιλεγόταν ο αριθμός των βουλευτών κάθε Πολιτείας του Κονγκρέσου. Το Σύνταγμα που είχε συντάξει ο Madison, ο οποίος σημειωτέον ήταν από τη Virginia, μία από τις μεγαλύτερες και πλουσιότερες Πολιτείες, είχε ως βάση τον πληθυσμό, κάτι που δεν ικανοποιούσε τις μικρότερες Πολιτείες που δε θα είχαν ισότιμη αντιπροσώπευση και υποστήριζαν ότι κάθε Πολιτεία έπρεπε να έχει ισότιμη ψήφο με τις υπόλοιπες. Παρότι σε πρακτικό επίπεδο το ζήτημα είναι προφανές, θεωρητικά ντύθηκε με την προβληματική εάν το αμερικανικό Κοινοβούλιο αντιπροσωπεύει τις Πολιτείες (οπότε 1 Πολιτεία = 1 ψήφος) ή του λαού (οπότε οι αντιπρόσωποι θα πρέπει να εκλέγονται αναλογικά βάσει πληθυσμού). Η λύση που υιοθετήθηκε τελικά ήταν το διπλό σύστημα που ξέρουμε σήμερα: αναλογική αντιπροσώπευση στη Βουλή Αντιπροσώπων, ισότιμη αντιπροσώπ��υση Πολιτειών στη Γερουσία (2 Γερουσιαστές ανά Πολιτεία). Το σύστημα ικανοποίησε τα μέλη της επιτροπής, αλλά κάπως έπρεπε να το πουλήσουν και παραέξω.

2) Ο πρόεδρος. Στην αυγή της ανεξαρτησίας τους, οι Αμερικανοί είχαν έντονη αλλεργία σε οτιδήποτε θύμιζε Αγγλία. Και τι βρωμάει Αγγλία από χιλιόμετρα; That's right, η βασιλεία. Το Σύνταγμα προέβλεπε ισχυρή εκτελεστική εξουσία. Αυτό κρίθηκε απαραίτητο προκειμένου να υπάρχει έλεγχος και ενότητα στην κυβέρνηση, αλλά δημιουργούσε και έντονη ανησυχία ότι μπορεί να δημιουργούσε πάτημα για την εγκαθίδρυση ενός αντιδημοκρατικού καθεστώτος, όπου ο πρόεδρος θα ισοδυναμούσε με το βασιλιά. Και ενώ εκείνη τη στιγμή αυτό δεν ήταν πρόβλημα γιατί ο πρώτος πρόεδρος της Αμερικής ήταν δεδομένος και έχαιρε της πλήρους εμπιστοσύνης όλων, τι θα γινόταν μετά;

3) Οι σκλάβοι. Η δουλεία είχε καταργηθεί στο Βορρά, η οικονομία του Νότου όμως εξακολουθούσε να στηρίζεται σε αυτόν τον ευγενή θεσμό. Ένα από τα βασικά προβλήματα ήταν κατά πόσο οι σκλάβοι θα έπρεπε να υπολογίζονται στον πληθυσμό για την εκλογή των βουλευτών στη Βουλή των Αντιπροσώπων. Οι βόρειοι προφανώς δεν ήθελαν να υπολογίζονται οι σκλάβοι, διότι σε αυτήν την περίπτωση αυξανόταν υπερβολικά ο πληθυσμός των νότιων Πολιτειών. Τα εκατέρωθεν επιχειρήματα είναι εξαιρετικά ντροπιαστικά για το ανθρώπινο είδος όπως το αντιλαμβανόναστε τον 20ό και 21ο αιώνα, αλλά τότε αποτελούσε ένα σημαντικό ζήτημα που απαιτούσε λύση. Βεβαίως οι ρόλοι ήταν αντίστροφοι στο ερώτημα κατά πόσο οι σκλάβοι έπρεπε να ληφθούν υπόψη στον πληθυσμό για τον υπολογισμό της οικονομικής εισφοράς κάθε Πολιτείας στην Ένωση. Σε αυτήν την περίπτωση, οι νότιοι προτιμούσαν να μείνουν εκτός οι σκλάβοι, ενώ οι βόρειοι είχαν την αντίθετη άποψη, γιατί δεν ήθελαν να πέσει πάνω τους το οικονομικό βάρος συντήρησης της κυβέρνησης. Ο συμβιβασμός που έγινε τελικά, και τον οποίον έπρεπε να σερβίρουν οι φίλοι μας στους συμπολίτες τους, ήταν τόσο ευρηματικός όσο και επονείδιστος: οι σκλάβοι θα μετρούσαν και στις δύο περιπτώσεις, ισοδυναμώντας με 3/5 του ανθρώπου.

Υπήρχαν βέβαια και άλλα σημαντικά σημεία. Η κοινή εμπορική πολιτική, ο στρατός, η έλλειψη πρόβλεψης για τα ατομικά δικαιώματα στο κείμενο του Συντάγματος και άλλα. Οι Πολιτείες βρέθηκαν αντιμέτωπες με ένα κείμενο που όχι μόνο δεν αποτελούσε μια απλή "τροποποίηση" των Άρθρων της Συνομοσπονδίας, αλλά που εγκαθιστούσε μία εντελώς διαφορετική μορφή διακυβέρνησης. Το πιο γνωστό από τα άρθρα είναι το νο. 10, στο οποίο ο Madison τεκμηριώνει ότι η ενότητα που διασφαλίζει το Σύνταγμα είναι ο μόνος τρόπος διατήρησης της δημοκρατίας έναντι των φραξιονισμών και ότι η δημοκρατία (ο όρος που χρησιμοποιείται είναι "republic" και όχι "democracy", δεδομένου ότι μιλάμε για αντιπροσωπευτική και όχι άμεση δημοκρατία) διατηρείται ευκολότερα σε ένα μεγάλο κράτος. Πολύ σημαντικό επίσης είναι το νο. 51 για τη λειτουργία του συστήματος των "checks and balances".

Ο στόχος των Federalist Papers ηταν να εκπαιδευτεί ο λαός σε αυτό το νέο σύστημα, να το χωνέψουν και να κατανοήσουν την αναγκαιότητά του για την πρόοδο και την ευημερία του αμερικανικού λαού. Και παρότι μάλλον στην εποχή τους δεν διαβάστηκαν τόσο ευρέως ώστε να επηρεάσουν την επικύρωση, εκ των υστέρων αποτέλεσαν θεμελιώδες εγχειρίδιο για την ερμηνεία του Συντάγματος. Και ακόμα πιο εκ των υστέρων, ένα ιστορικής σημασίας βιβλίο.
Profile Image for Amy.
2,556 reviews395 followers
July 13, 2020

Well, folks, I finally did it. It took a combination of audio and print but I finally finished The Federalist Papers.
I went in expecting to love it. I loved Two Treatises of Government. And I loved An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. (Though I haven't finished it yet.) And I loved The Spirit of the Laws. So, it isn't like dense political theory phases me. Particularly when it connects to American constitutional law--one of my favorite subjects. This was going to be easy, right?

I think the problem is you go in expecting theory and get procedure instead. This is the nitty-gritty details of constitutional governance. It references historical examples and quotes political philosophers, but mostly to explain why the constitution was written the way it was. There are details about why state governments will hold more loyalty than the federal government, why the states must unite, why a term limit of four years will curb presidential power, and how pride (if not patriotism) will keep representatives in check.

At the end of the day, I have to go with 5 stars. It is the Federalist Papers. I remain in awe of what these men managed to accomplish with their writing. But I will freely say this was not an interesting or even enjoyable read.

Also, shoutout to Dan who I convinced to read the Federalist Papers with me in high school which I obviously then did not do even though he did and still holds it against me. Sorry 'bout that.
Profile Image for David Huff.
153 reviews46 followers
December 8, 2018
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 Federalist Papers is a collection of 85 essays, published in newspapers over a span of several months in 1787-1788. Authored mostly by Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, with a few by John Jay, the papers were published anonymously under the pen name Publius. Their purpose was to make a comprehensive, detailed and compelling case for the adoption and ratification of a new United States Constitution to supersede the existing Articles of Confederation.

The 18th century intellectual arguments put forth in these essays make some demands on the reader (this is not a beach read), but it is time well invested. The adoption of a new Constitution was controversial, and surrounded with much energetic debate (including similar essays published by the Anti-Federalists). Accordingly, the three writers of the Federalist Papers went to great lengths to make the case for the foundations of what is now our current system of government.

As you read, you will see the varying currents of ideas that gradually became our executive, legislative and judicial branches. There are many historical references to republics and political systems from centuries past, and the essays are a great tutorial in making a reasoned argument and defending it. Fascinating reading about the birth and evolution of the greatest of republics!
Profile Image for John.
730 reviews21 followers
December 3, 2008
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:


Profile Image for Kelly Holmes.
Author 1 book74 followers
December 22, 2019
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.

So I bought a copy of the Constitution for myself and began reading it. It's important now more than ever that we read and understand it.
Profile Image for Michael O'Brien.
293 reviews80 followers
July 5, 2012
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.
Profile Image for Christopher.
733 reviews39 followers
October 18, 2011
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 that they took the view that the Constitution didn't need a bill of rights (that was passed after the writing of these papers), you will find no better examination of the Constitution. But that is one of the problems with "The Federalist Papers," it examines the structure of the federal government in detail (brilliantly too), but most of today's Constitutional questions revolve around the amendments to the Constitution. So, if you were looking for the Founding Fathers' ideas about the meaning behind the second amendment, you better find a different book. The other problem with the book is that while the language is not archaic (yet), it is still difficult for the average reader to grasp. If you didn't get a high verbal score on the SATs, look for the version in modern English. So really, this is a great book to read for the serious political scientist, but the average reader should look for something easier or limit themselves to Papers 10 and 51.
Profile Image for Miss Clark.
2,503 reviews196 followers
December 4, 2013
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.

And the sheer history of it! To understand that time and what people were concerned about. To think that hundreds and thousands of Americans read those same papers as they strove to chart the course of America's future and took them into account,as well as the Anti-Federalist papers (which I often lean toward).

An important, if somewhat somnambulent, read for every American!
Profile Image for booklady.
2,200 reviews65 followers
Want to read
February 17, 2021
I have had this audio book on my shelves for years and thought I might not be able to get through it, but now realize that is no excuse. Politics these days have deteriorated to such an extent I cannot read or watch any 'news' for long, whether it be mainstream or alternative. As a nation we have killed millions of babies and call it health-care for women. We have leaders in high office who call themselves 'Catholic' who support this and many other things contrary to the teachings of our faith and 'Catholic' bishops who not only do not speak out against their actions, but openly endorse them. This is NOT what the Catholic Church teaches, nor do I believe is it what our founding fathers intended. In fear for all of our souls, I pray for every single person, born and preborn, that God have mercy on us. In between prayers, I will learn what our nation's founders really intended for our country because I cannot believe they meant for any of this.
Profile Image for Xander.
410 reviews139 followers
March 14, 2019
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 the logical follow-up question soon arose: And what next?

There were, at the time, 13 states, which all had their own power structure and political and economic interests. For example, Northern states depended more on international trade, while Southern states depended more on the plantation industry. Adding to this the continuous westward exploration and settlement of new lands, and there would arise inevitable conflicts of interest between the states.

The recent struggle against the British (as well as against the French earlier in the century) had shown the American peoples on the one hand that there was a need for military, political and economic bundling of strength, while at the same time existing conflicts of interests would srve as future levers for European empires to manipulate. So, ultimately, the question boiled down to this: should we, the American inhabitant, unite under a Federal government, or should we remain independent states? Or, put in another form, should we institute a Federal Constitution which would bind all states to a common cause?

Each state had to decide the answer to this question for itself, meaning that in each state debate arose between federalists and anti-federalists. The authors of The Federalist Papers were federalists and tried to sway the reading public in New York to their cause. So, these 85 essays explain why a federal constitution is the only way out of the current problems, and how such a constitution and federal state should function in practice.

The interesting part, for me, is the realism portrayed by the authors, in that acknowledge the need for authority (due to the flawed nature of man) while also acknowledging that power corrupts and should be curbed. They draw on a wide range of sources for inspirations in order to come up with a concrete, comprehense view on how the American federal state should function.

In short, it should be a democratic republic, in which voters choose their representatives and in which a binding constitution clearly circumscribes the room for manoeuvre for administrators. Power is chopped up and placed into different state organs which then keep each other in balance; the whole system is a system of checks and balances, all designed to curb the malignent designs of scheming politicians and power-hungry despots. In a sense, the Union is designed to enforce deliberation and procrastrination in policiy-making and law-giving, in order to prevent the rise of a despot or monarch.

The doctrines of separation of powers and the institution of a system of checks and balances draw heavily on ideas as propagated by Montesquieu, while notions like republicanism and democracy draw heavily on Ancient Greece. When it comes to the protection of individual citizens against an oppressive and powerful state, the federalists draw heavily on ideas of John Locke. For example, the freedom of speech and the right to bear arms are manifestations of the ultimate right to protect your life, property and liberty.

The essays themselves are rather contextual, meaning that one cannot fully understand them without any prior historical understanding of 18th century America. Also, the style of writing is very typical of the time - the English they use is beautiful, but for a modern reader rather longwinded. Lastly, the subject matter is abstract and dry by nature, and the manifold repeating of the same ideas over 400 pages can become rather boring (and rather quick, at that). Safe to say, one doesn't need to read all of the essays to understand the ideas Hamilton, Madison & Jay set out to defend.

(I always find it hard to rate books such as these. Historically, this book is very influential - still. Also, the subject matter is at times highly interesting. Yet the style of writing and the longwindedness are rather tiresome... So I'll just give two stars; take it for what it's worth.)
Profile Image for Cary Giese.
77 reviews6 followers
June 13, 2018
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-federalist used pen names to hide their identity, but history has identified them. Hamilton, Jay, and Madison.

Most commonly quoted are numbers, 2, Jay, on foreign interference, 9, Hamilton,on protection against domestic insurrection, 10, Madison, same as 9, 14, Madison,the nations boundaries and scope, 23, Hamilton, on the need for a Federal Government for the common defense, 30, Hamilton, on the need for federal power of taxation, 51, Madison, on the powers vested in the federal government, 57, reiterating that citizenship was the only requirements for voting, and 68, Madison, on the reasoning of the construction of the house and senate.

Most interesting, Madison, in 62, is describing the need for stable figures in the senate who are older, have longer terms of office and represent each state with equal votes. They then would be less mutable (I.e. changeable/inconsistent) eliminating the mischievous effects of such a mutable government. “it (mutability) forfeits the respect and confidence of other nations, and all advantages connected with national character.” (My comment, Surely Madison’s observation should also apply to our president if he believed it’s a must apply to Senators!!!)

Far and away the best writers are Hamilton and Madison. Jay’s style is full of commas separating diversionary comments, that causes his point often to be lost.

The books best-use is as a reference when trying to understand the reasoning of the founders leadingto the way our nation was to be constituted. Courts habitually have referenced these papers as justifications for their decisions.

The brilliance of these men is astonishing, their anticipation of issues uncanny! The miracle of our founding cannot be understood without reading these papers, and continuing to refer to them.

Clearly, reading these are necessary for every educated citizen.

Next I need to read the anti federalist papers!
Profile Image for Clif Hostetler.
1,063 reviews697 followers
January 2, 2018
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 Constitution. I guess I can be thankful to live in a country where so much effort and care was put into forming the government.

Here's my favorite quotation from The Federalist Papers:
"Had every Athenian citizen been a Socrates, every Athenian assembly would still have been a mob." — James Madison, Federalist No. 55

The following are copies of comments I made on our reading group's blog while reading The Federalist Papers. Posting them here without editing is easier that trying to write a review:

Federalist No. 84
Opposition to the Bill of Rights

Since the Bill of Rights is considered very important to most Americans today, it is interesting to note the reasons why they were not included in the original constitution. 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.

Lectures about Federalist and Anti-Federalist debate:
Here's a link to information about twelve lectures about the Federalist Papers: http://t.co/RO9YN7K6

Federalist No. 10
Causes of factions and republican versus democratic government

Some things I found of interest about No. 10 is that it mentions some to the causes of factions between citizens and discusses the differences between a democracy and a republic.

I found the following quotation regarding disparity of wealth of particular interest in light of recent statistics showing that the disparity has become greater in recent years:

”But the most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property.”

Regarding democratic government, the following quotation is of interest:

”The other point of difference is, the greater number of citizens and extent of territory which may be brought within the compass of republican than of democratic government; and it is this circumstance principally which renders factious combinations less to be dreaded in the former than in the latter.”

Note that “former” is referring to “republican” and “latter” is referring to "democratic" government.

Free E-Text
The Library of Congress provides the Federalist Papers free as on-line e-text based on archives from Project Gutenberg http://thomas.loc.gov/home/histdox/fedpapers.html

Message from: Christopher Nov 12, 2011 10:13am
I don't quite know what this amounts to:
"as on-line e-text based on archives from Project Gutenberg."
"Based on" seems to me to mean something like "created with the original as a starting point but different from the original." It seems to suggest that the Thomas version is different from the Gutenberg version. Is this the case? If so, what is the relationship of the Thomas text to the "original" Gutenberg text on which it is "based"?

My Reply:
If you go to the following link you will find a discussion of the fact that there are "many available versions of the papers."
I take this to mean that since multiple sources vary that some judgement is used by the compilers on what is made available for public downloading. Thus what the Library of Congress provides is what the scholars at Project Gutenberg have decided to make available. They have used the term "based on" to describe its source, and to explain why others may have a slightly different version.

Questions and Answers about The Federalist Papers
Here's A LINK to some interesting questions and answers about The Federalist Papers.

Dates of When States Adopted the Constitution
Here's A LINK to a listing of the dates that various states ratified the Constitution.

Eleven of the thirteen States approved The Constitution by the summer of 1788. It's interesting to note that North Carolina did not enter the Union until Nov. 21, 1789 or a year later after the new government was well on its way. The first N.C. convention (July, 1788) refused, by a vote of 184 to 84, to ratify the Constitution because of the lack of a Bill of Rights and in the fear that the strong National government would in time overbear State authority.

Rhode Island, which did not send delegates to the Constitutional Convention, was last of all by approving it on May 29, 1790, two years after the first eleven. By that time the new U.S.A. government began to deal with it as a foreign country and subjected it to taxes on its exports.

How about the Anti-Federalist?
In case you'd like the see the other side of the debate, the following is a link to a collection of the Anti-Federalist Papers:
It's interesting to note that many of the very dire predictions made by the Anti-federalists have proven correct, although some took longer than others for their realization. On the other hand, if the Constitution had not been adopted the dire predicted consequences made by the Federalists would have probably been proven correct.

Why were pseudonyms used?
Here's LINK TO A LIST of pseudonyms used in the American constitutional debates. I can find no rational explanation why everybody (both Federalists and Anti-Federalists) used pseudonyms. Apparently it was simply established practice in the 18th and 19th centuries for political articles to be signed with pseudonyms. Since our book group has read "Plutarch's Lives," we are already familiar with Publius Valerius Publicola after which the Pseudonym "Plublius" was taken by Hamilton, Madison and Jay.

Did the Federalists believe that the States had the right to secede?
A little-known fact of the Constitution is that two of the largest states -- Virginia and New York -- made the right to withdraw from the union explicit in their acceptance of the Constitution. -Source-

Also, Alexander Hamilton in paper 28 appeals to what he calls in his words “that original right of self defense which is paramount to all positive forms of government and against the usurpation of the national rulers may be exerted by the states.” And then in paper 60 Hamilton refers to, “an immediate revolt of the great body of the people headed and directed by the state governments,” as the means of checking the central government.

And in civil war or revolutionary language with a similar meaning is found in Madison’s later restatement of his claim that the states have a checking power over the national government. As Madison puts it in paper 46, “Ambitious encroachments of the federal government on the authority of the state governments would not excite the opposition of a single state or of a few states only, they would be signals of general alarm. Every government would espouse the common cause. A correspondence would be opened, plans of resistance would be concerted,” he says.

The Madisonian Republic
The following is a link to an edited excerpt from Lecture 7 “The Madisonian Republic” by Thomas L. Pangle, published as part of the series, “Great Debate: Advocates and Opponents of the American Constitution,” published by The Teaching Company.

Argument over Representation
The following is a link to an edited excerpt from Lecture 8 “The Argument over Representation” by Thomas L. Pangle, published as part of the series, “Great Debate: Advocates and Opponents of the American Constitution,” published by The Teaching Company.
Profile Image for Joshua Guest.
286 reviews61 followers
January 24, 2023
It is truly a pity that we have become so antiracially prejudiced that we have a generation or more of people who can't see the genius in the statecraft managed by the likes of Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and the rest of the Founders. These scholars did their homework in politics, history, philosophy and law. They studied the reasons for the decline of the Roman empire. They studied Blackstone. They knew the strengths and the weaknesses of monarchies, aristocracies, and democracies. And they managed to negotiate a system that essentially amounts to the equivalent of a country created by college seminar.

So many of us like to talk online about how to save the world, imagine that we solved it, and then do nothing about it. The stakes were real in their deliberations, and they came out on the other end with a system that, while imperfect, helps to keep the competing ambitions in check.

To get a sense of its enduring influence, a study published by the University of Minnesota Law School showed that five of the essays in this volume have been cited by the United States Supreme Court at least 25 times each.

It's not always a page-turner, granted. But there are here and there little gems about the human condition in a world of would-be tyrants. Every American ought to read it, certainly anyone who pretends to any interest in its laws and politics.

My favorite line: "But what is government itself but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself." [#51]

The more I reflected on these essays, I came to the conclusion that liberty and security can continue under this system only so long as Americans continue to maintain a solid moral compass and that they continue to pay attention to the goings-on of their government. So many of the safeguards built into the Constitution require voters to remain vigilant and largely wise. Even a Constitution so brilliantly conceived as this will not prevent the downfall of a nation of people who are indifferent to evil or too distracted to do anything about it.

Two quotes to recommend this book. One from a Supreme Court Justice, the other from an American prophet-statesman.

"Read the Federalist Papers.... Buy a hardcover copy, which should be dog-eared on your desks. That, more than anything else, can give you a real appreciation for the meaning of the Constitution, the reasons for its finely wrought provisions, and the brilliance of the Founders who created it. It used to be taught in our schools, but alas is unknown nowadays to most Americans." - Antonin Scalia (2011)

"We should understand the Constitution as the founders meant that it should be understood. We can do this by reading their words about it, such as those contained in the Federalist Papers. Such understanding is essential if we are to preserve what God has given us." - Ezra Taft Benson (1976)
Profile Image for Erin Matson.
258 reviews7 followers
January 30, 2021
Maddening, esoteric, repetitive, brilliant, The Federalist Papers put our era of political discourse to shame. The version I read concluded with the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and then the Constitution. I began to cry when I read the procedure for certifying electors, and by the time I reached the nineteenth amendment I was sobbing. I found myself reaching for the Equal Rights Amendment that is still not there. Our system has always been cruel to those who are not white male property owners, and we have to fight so hard for change. But we also need to fight for what we have had, imperfect as it has been. Crying over the Constitution on a Friday night, this is January 2021.
Profile Image for Matt.
389 reviews
July 24, 2019
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 converged to construct it but it was considered so radical that its supporters had to go on the offensive to defend it - this is how and why The Federalist Papers came into fruition.

What I learned from “Publius” (the pseudonym of Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay) in The Federalist Papers is that the Constitution is malleable and that it is definitely not infallible. As a matter of fact, Hamilton explicitly stated that “I never hope to see a perfect work for imperfect men.” Proof that it is not perfect is that we’ve had numerous tests of the Constitution - ie, The U.S. Civil War, and it has been amended 27 times!

Publius’ arguments were sound throughout these papers and the quality and quantity of the output of Publius’ work is really impressive. What the convention devised in the document of the U.S. Constitution was very good, and it had a champion in Publius. I would argue that the Federalist Papers are as important to the U.S. Constitution itself because in the Federalist we get to see the motivations of the convention and why they set up the government like they did.

The Constitution’s goals are stated succinctly in the Preamble:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

230 years later, I believe we have attained this, and we owe it to those imperfect founding fathers, and Publius.

Why should someone read The Federalist Papers today? If you want a refresher of the intentions of the founders and what the true spirit of the U.S. Constitution is, then I recommend this wholeheartedly.

Profile Image for Lisa.
406 reviews14 followers
April 1, 2011
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.
Profile Image for M.E..
339 reviews12 followers
February 11, 2011
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. And personally, I think that preserving our liberties is worth going through a few hundred pages of prose that is slightly less gripping than a Dan Brown novel. It only took me about a month to finish this book only reading it on one way of my subway trip every day. I don't think that that is too much to ask.

Also, its unbelievable that it took 500 pages of explanation in order to get 11 pages of legislation (the Constitution) passed. The advocates for the Constitution left no stone unturned as they justified its adoption. These days, it seems like politicians are only willing to provide 11 pages of explanation to get 500 pages of legislation passed. They demand that our representatives vote on bills in order to get the chance to read them. We should learn something from the past and demand the same amount of explanation that our Founding Fathers demanded from Hamilton, Madison, and Jay.
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