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Course: US history   >   Unit 3

  • The Articles of Confederation
  • What was the Articles of Confederation?
  • Shays's Rebellion
  • The Constitutional Convention
  • The US Constitution

The Federalist Papers

  • The Bill of Rights
  • Social consequences of revolutionary ideals
  • The presidency of George Washington
  • Why was George Washington the first president?
  • The presidency of John Adams
  • Regional attitudes about slavery, 1754-1800
  • Continuity and change in American society, 1754-1800
  • Creating a nation
  • The Federalist Papers was a collection of essays written by John Jay, James Madison, and Alexander Hamilton in 1788.
  • The essays urged the ratification of the United States Constitution, which had been debated and drafted at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787.
  • The Federalist Papers is considered one of the most significant American contributions to the field of political philosophy and theory and is still widely considered to be the most authoritative source for determining the original intent of the framers of the US Constitution.

The Articles of Confederation and Constitutional Convention

  • In Federalist No. 10 , Madison reflects on how to prevent rule by majority faction and advocates the expansion of the United States into a large, commercial republic.
  • In Federalist No. 39 and Federalist 51 , Madison seeks to “lay a due foundation for that separate and distinct exercise of the different powers of government, which to a certain extent is admitted on all hands to be essential to the preservation of liberty,” emphasizing the need for checks and balances through the separation of powers into three branches of the federal government and the division of powers between the federal government and the states. 4 ‍  
  • In Federalist No. 84 , Hamilton advances the case against the Bill of Rights, expressing the fear that explicitly enumerated rights could too easily be construed as comprising the only rights to which American citizens were entitled.

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Incredible Answer

The American Founding

The Federalist Papers: An Essay-by-summary

federalist era essay

Federalist 1: The Challenge and the Outline

Hamilton says Americans have the opportunity and obligation to “decide the important question” can “good government” be established by “reflection and choice,” or is mankind “forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force.”  

To assist “our deliberations,” he provides an outline of topics to be covered “in a series of papers.” 1) “The utility of the union,” 2) the “insufficiency” of the Articles of Confederation, 3) the minimum “energetic” government requirement, 4) “the true principles of republican government,” 5) the analogy of the proposed Constitution to the State governments, 6) and the added security “to republican government, to liberty, and to property” provided by the proposed Constitution. He concludes this essay on the “momentous decision”:  adopt the Constitution or dismember the Union.

To read the entire essay, click here.

Part II Federalist 2-14:  “The Utility of the Union”

Federalist 2.

Jay urges, in the first of four essays, “calm and mature inquiries and reflections” as well as “cool, uninterrupted, and daily consultation.” He supports “sedate and candid consideration” of the Constitution, the product of the “mature deliberation” that took place in the summer of 1787.  He favors the common ties of the Union and rejects the “novel idea” of seeking “safety and happiness” in three or four separate Confederacies.

Federalist 3

Domestic tranquillity and common defense, says Jay, are better served under one “cordial union” directed by “temperate and cool” policies, in accordance with the “wisdom and prudence” of one well-administered government, than under three or four confederacies.

Federalist 4

One government, continues Jay, efficiently run and well administered, discourages foreigners from invading. One good national government will attract competent people.  

Federalist 5

One government, Jay reiterates, discourages internal division and convulsion, as well as dangers from abroad.  He invites the reader to compare England, Scotland, and Wales united—formidable together– and disunited—formidable against each other.

Federalist 6

Hamilton argues that ambition, rage, jealousy, envy, and vicinity are the five causes of war and faction. Such is human nature: “momentary passions, and immediate interests, have a more active and imperious control over human conduct than general or remote considerations of policy, utility, or justice.”  Reject the “visionary” notions of “perpetual peace,” and that separate “commercial republics” are “pacific and well mannered.” 

Federalist 7

Hamilton argues that disunited, we will be drawn into European politics and Europe will be drawn into American politics.  There will be the usual territorial and commercial disputes if separated.  We won’t remain united under the Articles of Confederation.

Federalist 8

Hamilton details the consequences of being disunited, including the presence of vast standing armies at the borders of each State.  A united America, like the United Kingdom, will bring us the “safety from external danger …[which]…is the most powerful director of national conduct,” rather than the disunited and hostile states of Europe.

Federalist 9

Hamilton’s five improvements in “the science of politics” were “either not known at all, or imperfectly understood by the ancients.” They form the “broad and solid” foundation for the claim that America will succeed where previous regimes have failed.  The improvements are 1) legislative checks and balances, 2) the separation of powers, 3) an independent judiciary, 4) a scheme of representation, 5) “the enlargement of the orbit.” 

He suggests that concerning 5) it is not clear that Montesquieu has a definitive and relevant teaching on enlarging the orbit through federal arrangements. His distinctions seem “more subtle than accurate.” And he chooses the Lycian Confederacy as his favorite where there is no equality of suffrage among the members and no sharp line protecting “internal administration.” Anyway, our States are larger than the small republics he had in mind.  Thus, we need to move beyond the “oracle” Montesquieu’s understanding of federalism as a way of a) retaining the independence of small states deemed traditionally necessary for liberty and happiness yet b) joining such pre-existing entities together so that they can pool their resources for such limited goals as common defence.  We need a new and American understanding of “the enlargement of the orbit.” 

Federalist 10

This is the first essay by Madison in The Federalist. It contains twenty-three paragraphs.

β 1. The “violence of faction” is the “mortal disease” of popular governments. The public assemblies have been infected with the vice of majority tyranny: “measures are too often decided, not according to the rules of justice, and the rights of the minor party; but by the superior force of an interested and overbearing majority.”

β 2.  What is a faction?  “A number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adverse to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.” 

β  3. How can we cure “the mischiefs of faction?” We can either cure it by I) “removing its causes,” or II) “controlling its effects.” 

β  4. There are “two methods of removing the causes of faction”: I a) destroy “the liberty essential to its existence,” or I b) give “to every citizen the same opinions, the same passions, and the same interests.” 

β  5. I a) is a “remedy that is worse than the disease,” because it is “unwise.” It entails the abolition of liberty, “which is essential to political life.” 

β  6. I b) is “impracticable.” Opinions, passions, and interests are unlikely to be in harmony. “The diversity in the faculties of men, from which the rights of property originate, is not less an insuperable obstacle to a uniformity of interests. The protection of these faculties is the first object of government.” And that leads to “the division of society into different interests and parties.” 

β  7.  Further consideration of I b).  “The latent causes of faction are thus sown in the nature of man.”  Thus, there are many sources of factions, “but the most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property.”  The “regulation of these various and interfering interests,” that “grow up of necessity in civilized nations…forms the principal task of modern legislation and forms the spirit of party and faction in the necessary and ordinary operations of government.” 

β  8.  Further consideration of I b). Legislators, alas, tend to be “advocates and parties to the causes which they determine.” But “justice and the public good,” require “impartiality.” 

β  9.  Further consideration of I b).  “It is vain to say that enlightened statesmen will be able to adjust these clashing interests and render all subservient to the public good.  Enlightened statesmen will not always be at the helm.” 

β  10. Conclusion to I b) and the introduction to II.  “The inference to which we are brought is that [I] the causes of faction cannot be removed and that relief is only to be sought in the means of [II] controlling its effects .”

β  11. Further consideration of II) “controlling its effects.”  “The republican principle” of majority rule is the solution to minority faction.  But what if we have majority faction?  “To secure the public good and private rights against the danger of such a faction, and at the same time to preserve the spirit and form of popular government, is then the great desideratum by which this form of government can be rescued from the opprobrium under which it has labored and be recommended to the esteem and adoption of mankind.” 

β  12.  The introduction of II a) and II b) as the solutions to majority faction. “Either [II a)] the existence of the same passion or interest in a majority at the same time must be prevented, or [II b)] the majority having such coexistent passion or interest, must be rendered by their number and local situation, unable to concert and carry into effect schemes of oppression.” 

β  13. The introduction of III, the form of government, to implement the solution.  Madison declares that III a) “pure democracy,” works against solutions II a) and II b.

β 14.  III b) “a republic, by which I mean a government in which the scheme of representation takes place, opens a different prospect and promises the cure for which we are seeking.”  

β  15. “The two great points of difference between a democracy and a republic.” 

β  16.  The first difference III b)* is “to refine and enlarge the public views” by way of the election system.  The question is do we choose “small (IVa) or extensive (IVb) republics?” 

β  17. IV b) is better than IV a) because it provides “a greater probability of a fit choice” of representatives.

β  18. IV b) is better than IV a) because it “will be more difficult for unworthy candidates to practice the vicious arts by which elections are too often carried.” 

β  19. The Constitution “forms a happy combination” of IVa) and IVb): “the great and aggregate interests being referred to the national, the local and particular to the State legislatures.”

β  20. The second difference III b)** “is the greater number of citizens and extent of territory which may be brought within the compass of republican than of democratic government.” 

β  21. III b)** clinches the case for IV b) over IV a).

β  22. “The influence of factious leaders may kindle a flame within their particular States but will be unable to spread a general conflagration through the other States.”

β  23.  “In the extent and proper structure of the Union, therefore, we behold a republican remedy for the diseases most incident to republican government.” 

Federalist 11

 “A unity of commercial, as well as political, interests can only result from a unity of government.” There is another advantage to union: “it belongs to us to vindicate the honor of the human race,” in Africa, Asia, and America.  With a strong union, we can restrain “the arrogant pretensions of the Europeans,” and “dictate the terms of the connection between the old and the new world.” They think, “dogs cease to bark in America.” 

Federalist 12

Agriculture, as well as commerce, will benefit from a strong union.  And experience shows that the interests of both are the same.  Besides, taxing agriculture and commerce is where government revenue comes from.  We need to union if we want government revenue.

Federalist 13

Through economies of scale, it is cheaper to run one government than it is to run thirteen governments or three confederacies.

Federalist 14

Madison concludes this section on “the necessity of the Union,” with a response to the Antifederalist critique that “the great extent of country which the Union embraces” exceeds “the practicable sphere of republican administration.”  Madison offers six arguments. 1) The American experiment rests on a) discovering the distinction between a republic and a democracy. This distinction—“the principle of representation” replaces the people meeting and governing on the spot—was unknown to the ancient world, and b) making “the discovery the basis of unmixed and extensive republics.” Thus “the natural limit of a republic” has been extended far beyond what was ever previously envisioned.  2) the general government “is limited to certain enumerated objects, which concern all the members of the republic.” 3) “intercourse throughout the Union will be facilitated by new improvements…[in]…communication.” 4) “Hearken not to the voice which petulantly tells you that the form of government recommended for your adoption is a novelty in the political world.” 5) The greatness of the people of America is that “they have not suffered a blind veneration for the past….To this manly spirit posterity will be indebted.” 6) Let us “deliberate and decide” whether to adopt “a new and more noble course,” namely, “the experiment of an extended republic.”  

Part III Federalist 15-22:  The “Insufficiency” of the Articles of Confederation

Federalist 15.

There is a “great and radical vice in the construction of the existing confederacy,” says Hamilton.  The structural “defect” of the confederacy is that it is a union of, by, for, and over states and not a government based on individuals.  “The great and radical vice in the construction of the existing confederation is the principle of LEGISLATION for STATES OR GOVERNMENTS, in their CORPORATE or COLLECTIVE CAPACITIES, and as contradistinguished from the INDIVIDUALS of whom they consist.”

He then asks the central question undergirding all the essays:  “why has government been instituted at all?”  The answer is:  “because the passions of men will not conform to the dictates of reason and justice without constraint.” Applied to the Articles, this answer suggests that “the ill-informed and prejudicial interference of particular administrators” in national issues ought to be of far greater concern than the other way around.

Federalist 16

The traditional federal principle—legislation over states in their collective political capacity–is anarchistic because it does not “address itself immediately to the hopes and fears of individuals.”  The laws of a Confederacy can only be enforced by a large standing army.  Thus we must adopt the principle of government over individuals for the people ought to be “the natural guardians of the Constitution.”  Hamilton introduces a brief introduction of judicial review and state nullification.

Federalist 17

Hamilton raises a question:  won’t the federal government be so powerful that it will encroach on the States?  No, The real problem is centrifugal and not centripetal.  The States have “a greater degree of influence” in every day matters such as the “ordinary administration of criminal and civil justice” and they are physically closer to the people. “Affections are weak in proportion to distance or diffusiveness of the object.” The objects of the federal government are limited to commerce, finance, negotiation, and war.  In the end, however, the people will throw their loyalty to the level of government that “administer their affairs with uprightness and prudence.”

Federalist 18

The first example of the traditional federal “disease” of anarchism: Greece.

Federalist 19

The second example of the traditional federal “disease” of anarchism:  Germanic.

Federalist 20

The third example of the traditional federal “disease” of anarchism:  Netherlands.

Federalist 21

Three initial “defects” of the Articles of Confederation are examined: 1) all powers of Congress are expressly delegated, 2) no guarantee for state governments and 3) quotas of contribution for raising revenue.

Federalist 22

Five additional “defects” of the Articles of Confederation are examined: 4) no power to regulate interstate commerce, 5) inadequate power to raise troops, 6) the equal representation of states, 7) no judiciary, and 8) inadequate method of ratification. 

Part IV Federalist 23-36: The minimum “energetic” government requirement

Federalist 23.

Hamilton announces the start of several essays dealing with three topics: “the objects to be provided for by a federal government, the quantity of power necessary to the accomplishment of those objects, (and) the persons upon whom that power ought to operate.”  He states that the objects of the federal government encompass, 1) common defense, 2) domestic tranquillity, 3) the regulation of commerce, and 4) relations with foreign nations. And he reminds his readers that it is impossible to foresee future “national exigencies.” Thus we need a degree of power—or energy–commensurate to the end in view.  He begins with 1) the war powers of the nation and declares them to be necessary and proper means to accomplishing the object of common defense. He finds the Antifederalist position to be an “absurdity”:  they support enlarged purposes but want limited powers! If it is safe to delegate the “object,” isn’t it safe to delegate the “power?”

Federalist 24

The object of 1) common defense receives further coverage.  Hamilton critiques, with the help of the observations a fictitious “stranger to our politics,” the objection to the presence of standing armies in time of peace. We live in a hostile world, says Hamilton. Anyway, the power over military establishments is lodged in Congress. The two-year appropriation process, he asserts, is the appropriate protection against the abuse of military power and the creation of “unnecessary military establishments.” He takes the opportunity to note that the Antifederalists have “misled” the electorate by exaggerating the presence of “bills of rights” that are “annexed” to State constitutions. 

Federalist 25

Further coverage of 1) common defense.  Why wait until a formal declaration of war, asks Hamilton, prior to initiating the raising of an army? Anyway, “the formal ceremony of declaring war has fallen into disuse.”  That “we must receive the blow before we could even prepare to return it,” is a “most extraordinary spectacle.” We ought to be “cautious about fettering the government with restrictions that cannot be observed” because “necessity” will prevail over a “parchment barrier.” If a breach, justified by necessity, becomes the norm, it will impair “the sacred reverence” for the “fundamental laws” 

Federalist 26

Further coverage of 1) common defense.  An additional defense of the two-year appropriation process as a check on the abuse of a standing army.  Don’t tie down the legislature with parchment barriers on the means for providing for the common defense. To accept the end, but restrain the means, is to display “a zeal for liberty more ardent than enlightened.”

Federalist 27

Coverage turns to 2) domestic tranquillity by way of 1) common defense.  Hamilton responds to the claim that the Constitution “cannot operate without the aid of a military force to execute its laws.” He lays down “a general rule…of confidence in and obedience to a government.”  The people will support government in “proportion to the goodness or badness of its administration.” He expects the American people will become more and more attached to the general government as it intermingles more in their daily lives.

Federalist 28

Further coverage of 2) domestic tranquillity. Hamilton repeats his maxim “that the means to be employed must be proportioned to the extent of the mischief.” Of course, the rule of law is generally the “admissible principle of republican government.” But there will be emergencies involving domestic insurrection and the general government may have to use force. This conforms to “that original right of self-defense which is paramount to all positive forms of government.” To think otherwise, is to engage in “the reveries” of naïve “political doctors.” But what if the general government or State governments abuse their power?  There are two lines of defense: 1) “the great extent of the country,” and 2) “the people, by throwing themselves into either scale, will infallibly make it preponderate.” 

Federalist 29

Further coverage of 2) domestic tranquillity. Hamilton argues for the existence of a well-regulated militia under the control of the general government.  He accuses the Antifederalists of “a striking incoherence:” they want neither a militia nor an army!  Is this “the inflammatory ravings if chagrined incendiaries or distempered enthusiasts?”

Federalist 30

Hamilton turns to 3) the regulation of commerce.  Once again he states the maxim that “every power ought to be proportionate to its object.” This time, he applies it to taxation: “money is, with propriety, considered the vital principle of the body politic.” He rejects the opposition proposal that the power of internal taxation be given to the States and the power of external taxation be given to the nation. This is romantic poetry.

Federalist 31

Further coverage of 3) the regulation of commerce. He repeats his point that the general government should not be excluded ahead of time from exercising certain means of raising revenue since the world is full of contingency. Moreover, there are certain “maxims in politics”—“first principles,” or “primary truths”– governing the relationship between ends or objects on the one hand and means or powers on the other hand: the government must be given the “requisite” means for the “complete execution” of the objects “for which it is responsible.” But, say the opposition, the States don’t have a guaranteed source of revenue and won’t be able to protect themselves from the usurpations by general government.  More “enchanted castle,” nonsense replies Hamilton.  We should leave the preservation of the “constitutional equilibrium” between the two levels of government “to the prudence and firmness of the people.” 

Federalist 32

Further coverage of 3) the regulation of commerce.  Hamilton reminds the reader that the Constitution is a “partial consolidation” rather than “an entire consolidation.”  Accordingly, he employs the three-pronged “negative pregnant” test to grasp “the whole tenor of the instrument which contains the articles of the proposed constitution.”  He applies the test to the power of taxation: a) is the power exclusively granted to the union? “No.” b) is the power prohibited to the States? “No.” And c) is the power granted to the union and it makes no sense that the states have concurrent jurisdiction? “No.”  He concludes, therefore, that it was the “sense of the convention,” to permit the states to retain the power of concurrent taxation.

Federalist 33

Further coverage of 3) the regulation of commerce.  Hamilton answers the following Antifederalist claim grounded in “virulent invective and petulant declamation,” namely, that the necessary and proper clause and the supremacy clause will enable the general government to completely take over the power of taxation and thus destroy local government and individual liberty.  Not so; nothing would change if these clauses weren’t even there.  Isn’t the power of taxation given to the general government? All clause 18—the so-called “sweeping clause–is saying is that Congress can “pass all laws necessary and proper to carry it into effect.” Why, then, was “the clause introduced?”  The Convention saw this “tautology” as a precautionary protection of the general government against later attempts “to curtail and evade the legitimate authorities of the Union.”   Anyway, in the end, it is the people of America who will decide the meaning of necessary and proper. And without the supremacy clause, the arrangement would be a mere treaty.

Federalist 34

Further coverage of 3) the regulation of commerce. Hamilton repeats his claim that when thinking about the expenses of government we ought not to tie the hands of the general government. “If we mean to be a commercial people, it must form a part of our policy to be able one day to defend that commerce.”  Accordingly, we must be aware of “future contingencies,” in designing a Constitution that is to last into “remote futurity.” In framing a Constitution, as distinguished from writing legislation, we ought to focus on the future and the permanent rather than the current and temporary scene. 

Federalist 35

Further coverage of 3) the regulation of commerce.  This essay explores the relationship between the power of taxation and the right of representation.  Hamilton criticizes the “frequent objection” of the Antifederalists that the House “is not sufficiently numerous” to provide for a complete and sympathetic representation of the people.  He portrays this argument as  “impracticable” and “unnecessary.” First, “an actual representation of all classes of the people by persons of each class is altogether visionary.” Second, the Congress need not be an exact mirror of the society.  Third, a dependency on the people, and being bound by the very laws he makes, are “the strong chords of sympathy between the representative and the constituent.”  Finally, we need representatives capable of exercising “neutrality” and “impartiality” in the clash between the agricultural and mercantile interests. That is the role of the “learned professions.” 

Federalist 36

Further coverage of 3) “of the regulation of commerce.”  Additional emphasis is given to representation and taxation. If we leave things alone, then merchants, landowners, and the learned professions will be elected to Congress.  They “will truly represent all those different interests and views” across the extended republic. He concludes his coverage of the “energy” essays thus:  “Happy will it be for ourselves, and most honorable for human nature, if we have wisdom and virtue enough to set so glorious an example to mankind!”

Part V Federalist 37-51: “The Great Difficulty of Founding”

Federalist 37-40:  the difficulty with demarcations and definitions , federalist 37.

This is the first of fifteen essays written by Madison that provide a window on the “work of the convention.”  He says, “a faultless plan was not to be expected.” The “indistinctness of the object, imperfection of the organ of conception, [and] inadequateness of the vehicle of ideas” each made the founding of the Constitution “a great difficulty.” 1) Humans are fallible, 2) the undertaking was “novel,” 3) “mingling…together” and “defining with certainty,” the “vital principles” of liberty, energy, and stability in the legislature, executive, and judiciary was very difficult, 4) drawing the line between the powers of the general government and the state governments was “no less arduous,” 5) the “imperfection of the human faculties” is clear and so “meaning” must be “liquidated and ascertained by a series of particular discussions and adjudications,” and 6) “contending interests and local jealousies” had to be dealt with.  It is astonishing that “so many difficulties should have been surmounted.” Is this the result of the “finger” of “the Almighty hand” at work?

Federalist 38

The creation of the Constitution faced another difficulty. It is an “experiment.” This is the first in the history of the world to have “been committed to an assembly of men.”  But, instead of acknowledging “the improvement made by America on the ancient mode of preparing and establishing regular plans of government,” the Antifederalists criticize the plan in an incoherent and irrelevant manner and demand perfection.  Yet “are they agreed, are any two of them agreed, in their objections to the remedy proposed, or in the proper one to be substituted?”   

Federalist 39

Madison addresses two questions: does the Constitution pass 1) the republicanism test and 2) the federalism test?  The answer depends on how we define republicanism and federalism.  These are the “great difficulties” of definition.

1) The “genius of the people of America,” and “the fundamental principles of the Revolution,” demand that we “rest all our political experiments on the capacity of mankind for self government.” If the Constitution departs from the “strictly republican” standard, or “character,” it must be rejected.  What, then, is the definition of a republic?  It is “a government which derives all its powers directly or indirectly from the great body of the people, and is administered by persons holding office during good behavior.” We learn that a) “it is essential to such a government that it be derived from the great body of the society, not from an inconsiderable proportion or a favored class of it,” and b) it is sufficient for such a government that the persons administering it be appointed, either directly or indirectly, by the people; and that they hold their appointments by either of the tenures just specified.”  Madison announces that the Constitution passes the test.

2) There are three tests to measure the federalism of the Constitution, the first of which—a) “the real character of the government”—is covered in the remainder of the essay. There are five “considerations” to ponder when dealing with the “real character” standard.  

I) “The foundation on which it is to be established.” Who ratifies the Constitution, the states or the people? II) “The sources from which its ordinary powers are to be drawn.” Are the people or the states represented in the Congress?  III) “The operation of those powers.” Does the government “operate” directly on the people in their “individual capacities” or on the states in “their collective and political capacities?”  IV) “The extent of`… the powers.” Does the general government have “an indefinite supremacy over all persons and things,” or does its jurisdiction extend “to certain enumerated objects only?” V)  “The authority by which future changes in the government are to be introduced.” Are amendments secured by a majority of the people or by the unanimity of the States? 

Madison concludes that it is “in strictness, neither a national nor a federal Constitution, but a composition of both.  In its foundation it is federal, not national; in the sources from which the ordinary powers of government are drawn, it is partly federal and partly national; in the operation of these powers, it is national, not federal; in the extent of them, again, it is federal, not national; and, finally in the authoritative mode of introducing amendments , it is neither wholly federal nor wholly national.” 

Federalist 40

Madison turns to the second and third tests, or difficulties, concerning the “federalism” of the Constitution.  b) Was the convention “authorized to propose such a government?”  Madison’s response is that the delegates were authorized to frame a government “adequate to the exigencies of the Union,” and they performed that task, and c) how far did “considerations of duty arising out of the case itself…supply any defect of regular authority?”   Madison acknowledges that there are some doubts that Congress authorized the delegates to devise a plan that totally overhauled, rather than simply amended, the Articles. So he appeals to the Declaration of Independence: “it is the precious right of the people to ‘abolish or alter their governments as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.’” So the really important question is NOT is the plan legal in the narrow sense of the term, but “whether the advice (of the Convention) be good?”

Federalist 41-46: The Difficulty of Federalism

Federalist 41.

This is the first of six essays on the difficulty of powers and federalism. This difficulty, in turn, can be divided into two parts around the consideration of two questions. The first difficulty of powers and federalism is this: has any unnecessary and improper power been granted to the general government? This is covered in Federalist 41-44. The answer is “no.” (The second difficulty is this: is the mass of power granted to the federal government dangerous to the exercise of power retained by the states? This is covered in Federalist 45-46.)  Six “classes” [1-6 below] of the first difficulty of power and federalism in the Constitution are examined. 

Federalist 41 examines the 1) “security against foreign danger” class of power.  Madison reiterates Hamilton’s earlier defense of the Constitution with respect to military establishments, standing armies, the militia, the power of taxation, and the war powers of the general government. 

Federalist 42

This essay examines the second and third classes of federal power: 2) “regulation of the intercourse with foreign nations,” and 3) “maintenance of harmony and proper intercourse among the states.” The former covers the implications of the “interstate commerce” clause. The latter focuses on the remaining clauses in Article I, Section 8.  

Madison regrets that 2) the “power of prohibiting the importation of slaves had not been postponed until the year 1808, or rather that it had been suffered to have immediate operation.” Nevertheless, he is optimistic that the “the barbarism of modern policy” will be soon “totally abolished.” He concludes:  “Happy would it be for the unfortunate Africans if an equal prospect lay before them of being redeemed from the oppressions of their European brethren.”  Concerning 3) Madison laments that “the mild voice of reason, pleading the cause of an enlarged and permanent interest, is but too often drowned, before public bodies as well as individuals, by the clamors of an impatient avidity for immediate and immoderate gain.”   

Federalist 43

This essay examines the fourth class of federal power: 4) “certain miscellaneous objects of general utility.” Nine miscellaneous clauses are covered.

Most attention is given to the sixth clause, namely, the republican guarantee clause. The main issues here are a) “to defend the system against aristocratic or monarchical innovations,” and b) to protect the principle of majority rule against the actions of a minority of “adventurers.”  Madison then adds:  “I take no notice of an unhappy species of population abounding in some of the States, who, during the calm of regular government are sunk below the level of men; but who, in the tempestuous scenes of civil violence, may emerge into the human character and give a superiority of strength to any party with which they may associate themselves.” 

The ninth and last clause covered is Article VII. This clause provides for ratification of the Constitution by nine out of thirteen specially called conventions. Madison asks: how can the Articles be “superseded without the unanimous consent of the parties to it?  The answer, anticipated in Federalist 40, is “the great principle of self-preservation: to the transcendent law of nature and nature’s God, which declares that the safety and happiness of the society are the objects at which all political institutions aim and to which all such institutions must be sacrificed.”

Federalist 44

This essay examines the fifth and six classes of federal power: 5) “restraint of the States from certain injurious acts,” and 6) “provisions for giving due efficacy to these powers.” The latter revisits the necessary and proper clause.  “Few parts of the Constitution have been assailed with more intemperance than this; yet on a fair investigation of it, as has been elsewhere shown, no part can appear more completely invulnerable.  Without the substance of this power, the whole Constitution would be a dead letter.” He examines, and rejects, the four choices, other than the one stated in Article 1, Section 8, clause 18, that were available to the convention: a) adopt the “expressly” delegated language of the Articles, b) list a “positive enumeration of the powers” attached to the necessary and proper clause, c) list a “negative enumeration” of the powers not attached, and d) remain “altogether silent on the subject, leaving these necessary and proper powers to construction and inference.”  All the clause is saying is that “wherever a general power to do a thing is given, every particular power necessary for doing it is included.”  And if Congress should abuse this power? “The people…can, by the election of more faithful representatives, annul the acts of the usurpers.”  

Federalist 45

This essay starts the consideration of the second difficulty of power and federalism: is the mass of power granted to the federal government dangerous to the exercise of power retained by the states? The answer is “no.” 

Federalist 45 begins with the question: was the revolution fought to secure the peace, liberty, safety, and public good of the American people or to secure the sovereignty of the states?  Madison says, the former, and he is willing, if necessary, to sacrifice the states for the “public happiness.” But it will be difficult to do away with the states even if one wanted to because they are “ constituent and essential parts of the federal government.” Besides, “the powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined.  Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite.” Actually, he concludes, the Constitution doesn’t enlarge the powers of the federal government; “it only substitutes a more effectual mode of administering them.” But the federal government will grow in importance during wartime.

Federalist 46

This essay concludes the consideration of the second difficulty of power and federalism: is the mass of power granted to the federal government dangerous to the exercise of power retained by the states? The answer, again, is “no.” 

Madison suggests that the federal government has more to fear from the encroachment of the state governments than vice versa. And the state governments are capable of defending themselves. The sentiments of the people are naturally closer to the state governments and things will stay that way unless the federal government is better administered.  In which case, “the people ought not surely to be precluded from giving most of their confidence where they may discover it to be the most due.”  

Federalist 47-51:  The Difficulty of Republicanism

Federalist 47.

This is the first of five essays on the difficulty of republicanism. He is interested in “the structure” of the government.  Madison begins with a “political truth”: “the accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands…may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.” The Antifederalists, relying on Montesquieu the “oracle” on the doctrine of separation of powers, claim that the Constitution violates the political truth or maxim, because the branches are not separate and “distinct.” Madison argues 1) that Montesquieu wasn’t advocating a complete “wall of separation” between the branches, but endorsed “ partial agency ,” b) there isn’t a strictly “distinct” separation of powers in the state constitutions and 3) the “political truth” really means that the separation of powers is violated when “the whole power of one department is exercised by the same hands which possess the whole power of another department,” and not when one branch has a partial agency in another branch. In fact, partial agency in practice is needed to accomplish the separation of powers in theory. 

Federalist 48

Madison declares that “the most difficult task” is to provide “some practical” security for each branch against “the invasion of the others.”  The Madison “correction” of “the founders of our early republics,” is this:  Legislative tyranny is far more likely than executive tyranny “in a democracy.” Virginia and Pennsylvania in the 1780s are proof for Madison that their Constitutions actually encourage the emergence of this new kind of tyranny. And, says Madison, Jefferson, in his Notes on the State of Virginia , came to recognize the reality of “ elective despotism ”: “One hundred and seventy-three despots would surely be as oppressive as one.” What “precautions” then shall be taken against this dangerous branch?  More is needed than “a mere demarcation on parchment of the constitutional limits of the several departments.” 

Federalist 49

Madison opens with a critique of Jefferson: he understands the problem, but not the solution. Jefferson proposes that when violations of the separation of powers occur, “a convention shall be called for the purpose” of “ correcting breaches .” But, asks Madison, won’t it be the executive and judiciary appealing to the people to call a convention to restrain the legislature?  And who would most likely be elected to the convention than the very legislators who caused the problem?   “The passions , therefore, not the reason , of the public would sit in judgment.  But it is the reason, alone, of the public, that ought to control and regulate the government. The passions ought to be controlled and regulated by the government.” Even if these conventions are called only for “certain great and extraordinary occasions,” we must remember “that all governments rest on opinion,” and the calling of a correcting convention would “deprive the government of that veneration which time bestows on everything, and without which perhaps the wisest and freest governments would not possess the requisite stability.” 

Federalist 50

Madison says the same objections apply to “periodical appeals” as they do to “occasional appeals to the people” to correct infractions of the Constitution.

Federalist 51

This is the last of fifteen essays written by Madison on “the great difficulty” of founding. There are ten paragraphs in the essay.

β 1. The way to implement the theory of separation of powers in practice is to so contrive “the interior structure of the government as that its several constituent parts may, by their mutual relations, be the means of keeping each other in their proper places.” 

β 2. Accordingly, “each department should have a will of its own; and consequently should be so constituted that the members of each should have as little agency as possible in the appointment of the members of the others.” 

β 3.  “It is equally evident that the members of each department should be as little dependent as possible on those of the others for the emoluments annexed to their offices.”

β 4. A.“The Great Security”

“The great security against a gradual concentration of the several powers in the same department consists in giving to those who administer each department the necessary constitutional means and personal motives to resist encroachments of the others…Ambition must be made to counteract ambition.  The interests of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place.”  

B:  “A Reflection on Human Nature”

Isn’t relying on ambition and interest, “a reflection on human nature?” But, adds Madison, what is government itself but the greatest reflection on human nature?  If men were angels, no government would be necessary.” 

C:  “The Great Difficulty” of Founding

“You must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government, but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.”  

β 5.  “This policy of supplying, by opposite and rival interests, the defect of better motives, might be traced through the whole system of human affairs, private as well as public.” Madison calls this policy “inventions of prudence.”

β 6.  “In republican government, the legislative authority necessarily predominates.” Thus, it is “not possible to give to each department an equal power of self-defense.” Accordingly, we need to add here and subtract there. We can divide the legislature into two branches and fortify the executive a) with the power of a conditional veto and b) “some qualified connection” with the Senate.

β 7. The general government comes closer to passing the “self-defense” of each branch test than do the State governments.

β 8. “There are, moreover, two considerations particularly applicable to the federal system of America, which place that system in a very interesting point of view.” 

β 9.  First, America is a “compound republic,” rather than a “single republic.” This provides for a “double security…to the rights of the people.  The different governments will control each other, at the same time that each will be controlled by itself.” 

β 10. Second, there are only two ways to combat “the evil” of majority faction, a) “by creating a will in the community independent of the majority,” or b) creating an authoritative source “dependent on the society,” but, and here is the essence of the American experiment, the society “will be broken down into so many parts,” that it contain a vast number and variety of interests. 

To repeat, the American society will “be broken down into so many parts, interests and classes of citizens, that the rights of individuals, or the minority, will be in little danger from interested combinations of the majority.”  Echoing Federalist 10, Madison says “the security for civil rights must be the same as that for religious rights.  It consists in the one case in the multiplicity of interests, and in the other in the multiplicity of sects.” And both depend on “the extended republic.”  Let us not forget, adds Madison, that “justice is the end of government.  It is the end of civil society.  It ever has been and ever will be pursued until it be obtained, or until liberty be lost in the pursuit.”  Fortunately, in “the extended republic…a coalition of a majority of the whole society could seldom take place on any other principles than those of justice and the general good.”  We have rejected the “precarious security” provided by the “hereditary or self-appointed” alternative of “introducing into the government…a will independent of the society itself.”  

Part VI Federalist 52-84: “The True Principles of Republican Government”

Federalist 52-61:  the house of representatives, federalist 52.

Madison introduces the “more particular examination of the several parts of the government,” with ten essays on the House of Representatives. He organizes the treatment around “five views.” 1) “The qualification of electors” is completely covered and 2) the duration in office is partially covered in Federalist 52.  With regard to the former, he says the electoral “door” is wide “open to merit of every description,” regardless of place of birth, “young or old, and without regard to poverty or wealth, or to any particular profession of religious faith.” Concerning the latter, he reminds the reader that “the scheme of representation as a substitute for a meeting of the citizens in person being at most but very imperfectly known to ancient polity, it is in more modern times only that we are to expect instructive examples.” 

Federalist 53

Further coverage of 2) duration in office. One of the “instructive examples” derived from the modern understanding of constitutionalism, says Madison, is that we can safely discard the notion “that where annual election end, tyranny begins.”  The only “reason on which this proverbial observation is founded” can be traced to Britain where the Parliament can, and has, “by ordinary power of government…changed the period of election.” But no such security “for the liberty of the people” against “these dangerous practices” is necessary in America because the government is “limited…by the authority of a paramount Constitution.”  Besides which, a two year “unalterably fixed” biennial elections provides more time for representatives to acquire the “practical knowledge…useful to the affairs of the public.” 

Federalist 54

This essay covers 3) “the apportionment of its members.” Madison says that the rule for apportionment is to be the “same rule with that of direct taxes.” There is no inherent reason, he says, why the rule should not be “numbers” for both.  However, property has “recently obtained the general sanction of America” as the rule for direct taxes.  Does it then follow “that slaves ought to be in the numerical rule of representation?”  He lets an unidentified defender of “southern interests” make the case—articulate in quotation marks over four pages–for the modification in “the census of persons” rule for apportionment.  Madison concludes: “it may appear a little strained in some points, yet on the whole, I must confess that it fully reconciles me to the scale of representation which the convention have established.” 

Federalist 55

This is the first of four essays on 4) “the number of which the House of Representatives is to consist.” The apparently small size of the House, says Madison, has been given extensive attention by the most worthy of the opponents.  He outlines four “charges” concerning the small number:  the House will a) be “an unsafe depository of the public interests,” b) fail to “possess a proper knowledge” of the interests of their constituents, c) be “taken from” the class least sympathetic to the “mass of the people,” and most disposed to sacrifice their interest, and d) the defect in numbers of representatives will become “more disproportionate” as the population increases.  This essay discusses a) and makes the following two points i) “Had every Athenian been a Socrates, every Athenian assembly would still have been a mob,” and ii) there is a decent side to human nature that balances the depraved side. In fact, “republican government presupposes the existence of these [better] qualities in a higher degree than any other form.” 

Federalist 56

This is the second essay on 4) “the number of which the House of Representatives is to consist.”  It addresses the “second charge”:  b) the House “will be too small to possess a due knowledge of the interests of its constituents.” The essay says that the kind of information the representatives need to assist their constituents, echoing Federalist 35 and 53, is knowledge about “commerce, taxation, and the militia,” rather than “particular knowledge of their affairs.” 

Federalist 57

This is the third essay on 4) “the number of which the House of Representatives is to consist.”  It addresses the “third charge”:  c) the chosen representatives will “have least sympathy with the mass of the people,” and be inclined to “sacrifice” the interests of the people.  Madison describes this objection as “extraordinary,” because “the principle of it strikes at the very root of republican government.”  The objective, says Madison, is to elect wise and virtuous representatives and then adopt “precautions” to keep them that way whilst in office.  The primary method of keeping the representatives virtuous is a “habitual recollection of their dependence on the people.” But “human prudence” has “devised” four “cords by which they will be bound to fidelity and sympathy with the great mass of the people”: “duty, gratitude, interest, ambition.” 

Federalist 58

This is the fourth and final essay on 4) “the number of which the House of Representatives is to consist.”  It addresses the “remaining charge”:  “the number of representatives will not be augmented” as the population increases.  Madison admits, “this objection, if well supported, would have great weight.” But, he continues,  “there is a peculiarity in the federal Constitution which insures a watchful attention…to a constitutional augmentation.” The four largest states “will have a majority of the whole votes in the House,” and since they hold the power of the purse, “the most complete and powerful weapon with which any constitution can arm the immediate representatives of the people, for obtaining a redress of every grievance, and for carrying into effect every just and salutary measure,” these states can defeat “unfriendly” opposition in the Senate. Madison, in conclusion, warns about increasing the size of the House “beyond a certain limit.”  Experience demonstrates “that the countenance of the government may become more democratic, but the soul that animates it will be more oligarchic.”

Federalist 59

This is the first of three essays on 5) “the times, places, and manner” clause.  Hamilton states the case for this clause:  “ every government ought to contain in itself the means of its own preservation .” What if “the leaders of a few of the most important States should have entered into a previous conspiracy to prevent an election?”

Federalist 60

This is the second of three essays on 5) “the times, places, and manner” clause.  Couldn’t this clause be manipulated to confine “the places of election to particular districts and rendering it impracticable to the citizens at large to partake in the choice?” This, says Hamilton, is “the most chimerical” of  “all chimerical propositions.”  Hamilton continues: “to speak in the fashionable language of the adversaries of the Constitution,” will this clause “court the elevation of the ‘wealthy and the well-born,’ to the exclusion and debasement of all the rest of the society?” “No,” because of the multiplicity of interests, the separation of powers, and the scheme of representation.

Federalist 61

This is the third of three essays on 5) “the times, places, and manner” clause. Here the defense of the clause moves beyond the argument that it is necessary and proper to “a positive advantage.” In conclusion, “I allude to the circumstance of uniformity in the time of elections for the federal House of Representatives.” 

Federalist 62-66: The Senate

Federalist 62.

Madison “enters next on the examination of the Senate.”  He organizes the five essays on the Senate around five “heads.” Federalist 62 covers four of the “heads.” 

The first three are “1) the qualification of Senators, 2) the appointment of them by the state legislatures, 3) the equality of representation in the Senate. ” It is “unnecessary to dilate,” says Madison, on 1) and 2).  Concerning 3) this is the result of the compromise, which renders us a “compound republic, partaking of both the national and federal,” and, accordingly, “ does not call for much discussion.” But, he does say that it is “a advantageous consequence” that “no law or resolution can now be passed without the concurrence, first, of a majority of the people, and then of a majority of the States.” 

The remainder of Federalist 62 introduces 4) “the number of Senators and the term for which they are to be elected.” Madison divides the coverage of 4) into six parts. The treatment of the first four of these six “defects” and six “remedies,” occurs in this essay and are directed to checking the House, that “numerous and changeable body.”  

First .  The Senate operates as “a salutary check” on efforts by representatives in the House to betray the public trust. Second . The smaller numerical size, and the longer duration in office, provides a healthy restraint “to the impulse of sudden and violent passions.” Third . A Senate is vital to overcoming “the blunders” of popular legislation.  “A good government implies two things; first, fidelity to the object of government, which is the happiness of the people; secondly, a knowledge of the means by which that object can be best attained….I scruple not to assert that in American Governments too little attention has been paid to the last. The federal Constitution avoids this error; and what merits particular notice, it provides for the last mode which increases the security for the first.” Fourth . A Senate helps overcome the “mutability in the public councils.” A frequent change of the representatives in the lower House causes a “change in opinions,” and then a “change in measures.”  

Madison outlines five “mischievous effects of mutable government.” A) “It forfeits the respect and confidence of other nations, and all the advantages connected with national character.” B) At home, it “poisons the blessings of liberty itself…if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood.” C) “Public instability” favors “the sagacious, the enterprising, and the moneyed few over the industrious and uninformed mass of the people.” D) “No great improvements or laudable enterprises can go forward” without the presence of “a steady system of national policy.”  E) It robs the system of “attachment and reverence.” 

Federalist 63

This essay contains twenty-one paragraphs.  The first six paragraphs of the essay concludes the fifth and sixth part of 4) “the number of Senators and the term for which they are to be elected.” Madison then turns in paragraph seven to protecting the people “against their own temporary errors and delusions.” Paragraphs 8 through 14 revisit the sufficiency of the extended orbit and what the ancients knew about the principle of representation. The essay concludes with a consideration of the Antifederalist claim that the Senate will become a “Tyrannical Aristocracy.” 

The Idea of “Due Responsibility”

β 1. Fifth . A Senate is valuable because it provides “ a due sense of national character.” 

β 2 and 3. In particular, it is wise to listen to the “opinion of the impartial world,” and the “unbiased part of mankind” lest the “numerous and changeable” House of Representatives “be warped by some strong passions or momentary interest.”

 β 4.  Sixth .  Madison introduces a “new, but paradoxical, understanding” of “the due responsibility in the government to the people.”  

β 5.  Instead of understanding “responsibility” exclusively in terms of “dependence on the people” through “the frequency of elections, ” Madison puts forth the idea of the “responsibility” of the representatives to the long run interests of the community.

β 6.  This is the “responsibility” of the Senate.

“The Cool and Deliberate Sense of the Community”

β 7. The Senate is valuable at certain “critical moments” in “public affairs.” It is “salutary” to have a Senate that can check the “temporary errors and delusions of the people,” until reason, justice, and truth can regain their authority over the public mind.” The vital role of the Senate in the institutional framework, then, is to secure the principle of “the cool and deliberate sense of the community.”

The “Extension of the Orbit” Revisited

β 8.  Madison revisits the importance of  “the extension of the orbit” element in the science of politics introduced in Federalist 9 and explicated in Federalist 10.  He admits that the extended orbit theory of Federalist 10 is necessary but insufficient and, may in fact, be counterproductive.  Once again, we need further “auxiliary precautions” to make the American experiment succeed.

β 9.  To be sure, America is different from other governments, both “ancient and modern.“ Yet, it is instructive to note that “history informs us of no long-lived republic which had not a senate.” 

The “Principle of Representation” Revisited

β 10. Madison repeats the claim of Federalist 9 that “the principle of representation” is the pivotal difference between the American model and those found in antiquity. He revisits the claim that the principle of representation was “unknown” to the ancients. 

β 11, 12, & 13. The extent to which the principle of representation was used in antiquity.

β 14. Thus, “it is clear that the principle of representation was neither unknown to the ancients nor wholly overlooked in their political institutions.” The unique feature of the American experiment is, that for the first time, we have “ the total exclusion of the people in their collective capacity , from any share” in the government,” rather than “ the total exclusion of the representatives of the people from the administration” of the government.”  Madison then concludes “that to insure this advantage its full effect, we must be careful not to separate it from the other advantage, of an extensive territory.” 

The Senate as a “Tyrannical Aristocracy”

β 15. The opposition will claim that the Senate will become, by “gradual usurpations,” an independent and  “tyrannical aristocracy.”

β 16.  One response to the Antifederalists is “that liberty may be endangered by the abuses of liberty as well as by the abuses of power.” 

β 17.  A second response is that the claim defies reason: for the alleged “tyrannical aristocracy” to take place, the Senate must “in the first place, corrupt itself,” and ultimately corrupt “the people at large.”  

β 18.  A third response: the claim defies experience of the state governments.

β 19.  A fourth response: even the British example fails to lead to “tyrannical aristocracy.”

β 20.  A fifth response: there are no examples from antiquity of  “tyrannical aristocracy.” 

β 21.  Finally, the House of Representatives will never allow this to happen.

Federalist 64

This is the first of three essays on 5) “the powers vested in the Senate.”  The essay covers the “advise and consent” clause concerning the treaty making power that the Senate shares with the President. Jay asks why is it better for national policy to involve the Senate and not the whole Congress?  “The Constitution has taken the utmost care” by the size of the Senate, the need for “secrecy and dispatch,” and the age and duration in office provisions that the Senators “shall be men of talents, and integrity.” Thus “the treaties they make will be as advantageous as…could be made.” 

Federalist 65

This is the second of three essays on 5) “the powers vested in the Senate” The remaining powers of the Senate involve the participation of the Senate “with the executive in the appointment to offices, and in their judicial character as a court for the trial of impeachments.” The former is covered in the executive essays; here, Hamilton explains “the judicial character of the Senate.” In short, this essay covers the impeachment-conviction power.  The Senate, and neither the House nor the Supreme Court, is the “tribunal sufficiently dignified” and “sufficiently independent” to render the sentence of “perpetual ostracism from the esteem and confidence and honors and emoluments of his country” for official “POLITICAL” misconduct.  

Federalist 66

This is the last of three essays on 5) “the powers vested in the Senate.”  This essay concludes the defense of locating of the “determining in all cases of impeachment” power alone in the Senate. This power does not 1) violate the doctrine of the separation of powers, 2) “give to the government a countenance too aristocratic,” or produce a conflict of interest with the Senate-Executive 3) appointment power, or 4) treaty making power. 

Federalist 67-77:  The Presidency

Federalist 67.

This is the first of eleven essays written by Hamilton defending the Presidency against the “unfairness” of the Antifederalist “representations.” This is the first of six essays in The Federalist that identify specific authors of Antifederalist writings. Here it is Cato V. 

“Scarcely any other part of the Constitution,” says Hamilton, has been “inveighed against with less candor or criticized with less judgment.”  The opposition portray the Presidency as a full-grown progeny of monarchy, and Cato claims that, under the Constitution, the President can fill temporary vacancies in the Senate.  This is utter nonsense, since this power is “expressly allotted to the executives of the individual States.”  Yet, this is typical of the “shameless” exercise of “their talent of misrepresentations,” and “an unequivocal proof of the unwarrantable arts which are practised to prevent a fair and impartial judgement of the real merits of the Constitution.”

Federalist 68

This is the second of eleven essays written by Hamilton defending the Presidency Presidency against the “unfairness” of the Antifederalist “representations.” This is the second of six essays in The Federalist that identify specific authors of Antifederalist writings. Here it is the Federal Farmer.

He remarks that the “mode of appointment” by the Electoral College “is almost the only part of the system, of any consequence, which has escaped without severe censure.”  He reminds the reader that “this process of election affords a moral certainty that the office of President” will be “filled by characters pre-eminent for ability and virtue.”  This is important since “the true test of a good government is its aptitude and tendency to produce a good administration.” And a good executive is central to a good administration.

Federalist 69

This is the third of eleven essays written by Hamilton defending the Presidency against the “unfairness” of the Antifederalist “representations.” This is third of six essays in The Federalist that identify specific authors of Antifederalist writings. Here it is Tamony. 

The “real character of the proposed executive” is revealed in terms of the organization and powers tests. The tests are 1) “single magistrate,” 2) “ four years; and is to be re-eligible,” 3) impeachment and removal from office, 4) “qualified negative of the Presidency,” 5) “occasional…commander-in-chief” power which “would amount to nothing more than the supreme command and direction” of the armed forces, 6) power to pardon, 7) power to “adjourn the legislature,” 8) with the “advice and consent of the Senate, to make treaties,” 9) power to “receive ambassadors and public ministers,” 10) “the power to nominate and appoint.”  Hamilton concludes that putting the Constitution to these tests, the Presidency is closer to the Governor of New York than to the Monarch of Great Britain. In fact, with the exception of the treaty-making power, “it would be difficult to determine whether that magistrate would in the aggregate, possess more or less power than the governor of New York.” 

Federalist 70

This is the fourth of eleven essays written by Hamilton defending the Presidency against the “unfairness” of the Antifederalist “representations.”  The essay opens with the Antifederalist concern “that a vigorous executive is inconsistent with the genius of republican government.” Hamilton’s response is that “energy in the executive is a leading character in the definition of good government.”  He explores two questions. A) What are the “ingredients which constitute energy in the executive?”  B) How far can these ingredients be combined with other ingredients which constitute safety in the republican sense? A) There are four ingredients of energy: I Unity, II Duration, III Adequate Provision for Support, and IV Competent Powers. B) There are two ingredients of republican safety: I “A due dependence on the people,” and II “A due responsibility.”

A) I Unity is “conducive to energy.”  “The dictates of reason and good sense,” demonstrate that unity in the executive better secures the goals of “decision, activity, secrecy, and dispatch.” A “plurality in the executive” also destroys “responsibility.”

Federalist 71

This is the fifth of eleven essays written by Hamilton defending the Presidency against the “unfairness” of the Antifederalist “representations.” It covers A) II Duration as it pertains to “the personal firmness of the executive.

β 1.  “It is a general principle of human nature that a man will be interested in what he possesses, in proportion to the firmness or precariousness of the tenure by which he holds it.”  The duration provision helps the President to be “interested” in resisting the “ill-humors” of society and a “predominant faction in the legislative body.”

β 2.  “The servile pliancy of the executive to a prevailing current in the community or in the legislature” is NOT “its best recommendation.”  The President must resist a “complaisance to every sudden breeze of passion” that might emerge in the society contrary to the true interests of the people, and, instead be “the guardians of those interests to withstand the temporary delusions in order to give them time and opportunity for more cool and sedate reflection.”  It is the duty of the executive to secure the “republican principle”:  “the deliberate sense of the community should govern.” 

 β 3.  “The executive should be in a situation to dare to act…with vigor and decision.”

β 4.  “The fundamental principles of good government” requires a fortification of the executive against the “almost irresistible” tendency in “governments purely republican” for the “legislative authority to absorb every other.” 

β 5- β7.  “It may be asked whether a duration of four years” is sufficient. It may not “completely answer the end proposed; but it would contribute towards it in a degree which would have a material influence upon the spirit and character of the government.” 

Federalist 72

This is the sixth of eleven essays written by Hamilton defending the Presidency against the “unfairness” of the Antifederalist “representations.” This essay concludes the coverage of A) II Duration pertaining to “the stability of the system of administration.” He lists five “pernicious” “ill effects” that will occur as a result of “exclusion.” 

β 1. “There is an intimate connection between the duration of the executive magistrate in office and the stability of the administration of government” which includes “foreign negotiations,” public finance, and “the directions of the operations of war.”  

β 2. “With a positive duration of considerable extent, I connect the circumstance of re-eligibility.” The former is vital for individual firmness; the latter for a “wise system of administration.”  

β 3.  “Exclusion” from office, or term limits, for the President is “pernicious.”

β 4.  “One ill effect of the exclusion would be a diminution in inducements to good behavior.” “The desire of reward is one of the strongest incentives of human conduct.   Even the love of fame, the ruling passion of the noblest minds” is not strong enough to motivate “the generality of men” toward “the positive merit of doing good.”  

β 5, 6, 7. “Another ill effect of the exclusion would be the temptation to sordid views, to peculation, and, in some instances, to usurpation.”  It is contrary “to the stability of government, to have half a dozen men who had credit enough to raise themselves to the seat of the supreme magistracy wandering among the people like discontented ghosts and sighing for a place which they were destined never more to possess.”

β 8.  “A third ill effect of the exclusion would be the depriving the community of the advantage of the experience gained by the Chief Magistrate in the exercise of his office.”  Remember, “experience is the parent of wisdom.” 

β 9.  “A fourth ill effect of the exclusion would be the banishing men from stations in which, in certain emergencies of the State, their presence might be of the greatest moment to the public interest or safety.”

β 10. “ A fifth ill effect” is that “by necessitating a change of men, in the first office of the nation, it would necessitate a mutability of measures.” 

β 11. These “disadvantages” are worse under a “scheme of perpetual exclusion.” 

β 12, 13.  “What are the advantages promised to counterbalance these disadvantages?…1 st , greater independence in the magistrate; 2 nd , greater security to the people.” 

β 14.  The disadvantages of exclusion outweigh the advantages.

Federalist 73

This is the seventh of eleven essays written by Hamilton defending the Presidency against the “unfairness” of the Antifederalist “representations.” This is the fourth of six essays in The Federalist that identify specific authors of Antifederalist writings. Here it is Abraham Yates. This essay covers the third and fourth, and the last, of the “ingredients”: A) III:  Adequate Provision for Support, and A) IV:  Competent Powers.  The essay focuses on A) IV.  Attention is given to A) IV a, the veto power. 

Hamilton defends the “qualified negative of the President” as 1) “a shield to the executive,” to protect its “constitutional rights,” and as 2) an “additional security against the enaction of improper laws.” Sometimes, instead of adhering to the principle of “due deliberation,” the Congress passes laws through “haste, inadvertence, or design.” Thus the   “public good” is “evidently and palpably sacrificed.” The presidential veto, moreover, “will often have a silent and unperceived, though forcible, operation.” 

Federalist 74

This is the eighth of eleven essays written by Hamilton defending the Presidency against the “unfairness” of the Antifederalist “representations.” This essay continues the coverage of A) IV.  Attention is given to A) IV b, the commander-in-chief clause, and A) IV c, the power to pardon and reprieve clause. Concerning the former, Hamilton observes “the direction of war most peculiarly demands those qualities which distinguish the exercise of power by a single hand.”  As to the latter, the Congress may not always be in session; “there are often critical moments when a well-timed offer of pardon…may restore tranquillity to the commonwealth; and which, if suffered to pass unimproved, it may never be possible afterwards to recall.”

Federalist 75

This is the ninth of eleven essays written by Hamilton defending the Presidency against the “unfairness” of the Antifederalist “representations.” This essay continues the coverage of A) IV.  Attention is given to A) IV d, the treaty making power.  Hamilton claims that this “is one of the best digested and most unexceptional parts of the plan.”  Human nature demonstrates the wisdom of 1) joining the Senate and the President in the “possession of the power,” and 2) excluding the “fluctuating,” and “multitudinous,” House. Furthermore, it is republican to have 2/3 of the Senators present concur, rather than require the concurrence of 2/3 of the whole Senate.    

Federalist 76

This is the tenth of eleven essays written by Hamilton defending the Presidency against the “unfairness” of the Antifederalist “representations.” This essay continues the coverage of A) IV.  Attention is given to A) IV e, the appointing power. He argues that the mode proposed advances the premise that “the true test of a good government is its aptitude and tendency to produce a good administration.” The critical question is why require “the co-operation of the Senate” in what is traditionally viewed as an exclusively executive function?  “Their concurrence would have a powerful, though in general, a silent operation.  It would be an excellent check upon a spirit of favoritism in the President.” Furthermore, “it would be an efficacious source of stability in the administration.” 

Won’t the Senate simply “rubber stamp” Presidential nominations? “This supposition of universal venality in human nature is little less an error in political reasoning than the supposition of universal rectitude. The institution of delegated power implies that there is a portion of virtue and honor among mankind, which may be a reasonable foundation of confidence.” We should “view human nature as it is, without either flattering its virtues or exaggerating its vices.”  The Senate will live up to its assigned duty.

Federalist 77

This is the last of eleven essays written by Hamilton defending the Presidency against the “unfairness” of the Antifederalist “representations.” This essay concludes the coverage of A) IV, the issue of energy, and turns, finally, but in only a concluding paragraph, to B) how these ingredients can be combined with others that are safe in the republican sense? 

A) Hamilton claims that an added advantage “to the stability of the administration,” is that the consent of the Senate “would be necessary to remove as well as to appoint.” He approves of “this union of the Senate with the President” in the nomination, appointment, and removal process. He endorses the exclusion of the House from the process:  “A body so fluctuating and at the same time so numerous can never be deemed proper for the exercise of that power. Its unfitness will appear manifest to all when it is recollected that in half a century it may consist of three or four hundred persons.” 

B) In Federalist 70, Hamilton introduced B) and stated that there were “two ingredients of republican safety”: I “A due dependence on the people,” and II “A due responsibility.”  Here he says, “The answer to this question has been anticipated in the investigation of its other characteristics.”  

Federalist 78-82:  The Judiciary

Federalist 78.

This is the first of five essays written by Hamilton on the Judiciary. In this essay, we also find the fifth of six essays in The Federalist that identify specific authors of Antifederalist writings. Here it is the “ Protest of the Minority of the Convention of Pennsylvania, Martin’s speech, etc .” 

β 1. “We proceed now to an examination of the judiciary department.” 

β 2.  The coverage of the judiciary is in two parts: A) “the manner of constituting it” and B) “its extent.”

β 3.  There are three A) “objects.”  “1 st .  The mode of appointing the judges. 2 nd . The tenure by which they are to hold their places.  3 rd . The partition of the judicial authority between different courts and their relations to each other.” [See Federalist 81.]

β 4. A) 1 st .  See Federalist 76 and 77. 

β 5. A) 2 nd .  “As to tenure by which the judges are to hold their places: this chiefly concerns [1] their duration in office, [II] the provisions for their support, [III] the precaution for their responsibility.”  The remainder of the essay covers the case for [I] their duration in office. {Article III, Section 1.}

β 6. “The standard of good behavior…is certainly one of the most valuable of the modern improvements in the practice of government.”  It helps the judiciary to resist “legislative encroachment.” β 7-β 17 makes the case for “permanent tenure” to resist the encroachment of the legislature.

β 7. The judiciary “will always be the least dangerous to the political rights of the Constitution….It may truly be said to have neither FORCE nor WILL but merely judgment.”

β 8.  The judiciary is “the weakest of the three departments of power,” and its “natural feebleness” needs fortification.  

β 9.  “The complete independence of the courts of justice is peculiarly essential in a limited Constitution.  By a limited Constitution, I understand one which contains certain specified exceptions to the legislative authority.”  It is the “duty” of the courts, “to declare all acts contrary to the manifest tenor of the constitution void.”  

β 10.  The opposition thinks that this “doctrine would imply a superiority of the judiciary to the legislative power.”  

β 11.  But “every act of a delegated authority, contrary to the tenor of the commission under which it is exercised, is void.”

β 12.  The courts are an “intermediate body between the people and the legislature” to keep the latter within their proper sphere. The legislature cannot be “the constitutional judges of their own powers.” The Constitution is the fundamental law and it belongs to the courts to “ascertain its meaning” and to secure “the intention of the people” over “the intention of their agents” whenever there is “an irreconcilable variance between the two.”  “The interpretation of the laws is the proper and peculiar province of the courts.” Since the Constitution is the “fundamental law,” it therefore belongs to the Supreme Courts “to ascertain its meaning.” 

β 13.  This does not “suppose a superiority of the judicial to the legislative power.”

β 14.  “In determining between two contradictory laws…it is the province of the courts to liquidate and fix their meaning and operation.  So far as they can, by any fair construction” they ought to “be reconciled to each other.” When “impracticable, it becomes a matter of necessity to give effect to one in exclusion of the other.”

β 15.  “Whenever a particular statute contravenes the Constitution, it will be the duty of the judicial tribunals to adhere to the latter and disregard the former.”

β 16.  “It can be of no weight to say that the courts, on the pretense of a repugnancy, may substitute their own pleasure for the constitutional intentions of the legislature…. The courts must declare the sense of the law,” and not “be disposed to exercise WILL instead of JUDGMENT.”

β 17. “The permanent tenure of judicial offices” is critical if the courts are to be “the bulwarks of a limited Constitution against legislative encroachments.”

β 18. “Permanent tenure” can help to resist the “ill humors” that may momentarily “lay hold” of the people to violate the Constitution.  “As faithful guardians of the Constitution,” the courts must restore the norm of “more deliberate reflection.”

β 19. “Permanent tenure” can also help to resist legislative efforts to injure “the private rights of particular classes of citizens, by unjust and partial laws.”

β 20. “Permanent tenure” is needed so that courts provide “inflexible adherence to the rights of the Constitution, and of individuals.”

β 21. “Permanent tenure” is needed to attract individuals with the “requisite integrity,” and the “requisite knowledge” to handle the “variety of controversies which grow out of the folly and wickedness of mankind.”  But “to avoid an arbitrary discretion in the courts, it is indispensable that they should be bound down by strict rules and precedents which serve to define and point out their duty in every particular case that comes before them.”

β 22. “Good behavior” for justices has the added benefit of securing “good government.”

Federalist 79

This is the second of five essays written by Hamilton on the Judiciary.  This essay continues A) 2 nd .  “As to tenure by which the judges are to hold their places,” and covers: “[II] the provisions for their support,” and [III] the precaution for their responsibility.” {Article III, Section 1.}

With respect to [II] we should remember “that in the general course of human nature, a power over a man’s subsistence amounts to a power over his will .” A “fixed provision for their support” enhances judicial independence. And to be impeached “for malconduct” is the constitutional “precaution” for securing “their responsibility.” He rejects the call for a mandatory retirement age. 

Federalist 80

This is the third of five essays written by Hamilton on the Judiciary.  He turns to B) “the proper extent of the federal judiciary.”  He examines, first, the five “proper objects” of the judicial authority. He then turns to an examination of the cases and controversies covered by the judicial power {Article III, section 2} and especially it extension “to all cases, in law and equity, a) arising under the (sic) Constitution and b) the laws of the United States .”  As a “sample” of a), as distinguished from b), Hamilton includes “all the restrictions upon the authority of the State legislatures.” {See Article I, Section 9.} Thus the federal courts ought to “overrule” state laws that are “in manifest contradiction of the articles of Union.”  What are “equity causes” that “can grow out” of a) and b)?  “There is hardly a subject of litigation,” that does not involve “ fraud, accident, trust , or hardship .” And if “inconveniences” should emerge in the implementation of the various judicial powers, “the national legislature will have ample authority to make such exceptions and to prescribe such regulations as will be calculated to obviate or remove these inconveniences.”  

Federalist 81

This is the fourth of five essays written by Hamilton on the Judiciary.  In Federalist 78, we learned that three A) “objects” to the coverage of the judiciary. Here, he turns to A) 3 rd . “The partition of the judicial authority between different courts and their relations to each other.” {Article III, Sections 1 and 2.} 

He examines the claim that the Supreme Court will become the supreme branch because it has the power “to construe the laws according to the spirit of the Constitution.” There is “not a syllable in the plan under consideration, which directly empowers the national courts to construe the laws according to the spirit of the constitution.”  It is true, however, that “the general theory of a limited Constitution” requires the courts to over turn a law in “evident opposition” to the Constitution.  But it is a “phantom” to expect judicial supremacy: judicial “misconstructions and contraventions of the will of the legislature may now and then happen, but they can never be so extensive as to amount to an inconvenience, or in any sensible degree to affect the order of the political system.” A second “phantom” is that the Congressional power to constitute “inferior courts” is intended to abolish state and local courts. And there is a third “phantom,” that the clause, “the Supreme court shall have appellate jurisdiction, both as to law and fact, with such exceptions, and under such regulations, as the Congress shall make,” is not an attempt to abolish the trial by jury at the state level.  Hamilton observes that the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court “is confined to two classes of cases.”  

Federalist 82

This is the last of five essays written by Hamilton on the Judiciary. He continues A) 3 rd . “The partition of the judicial authority between different courts and their relations to each other.” Here, he discusses exclusive and concurrent jurisdictions between the general and state governments and invites the reader to consult Federalist 32.  In the process, he reiterates Madison’s remarks about “liquidation” in Federalist 37: It’s “time only that can mature and perfect so compound a system, can liquidate the meaning of all the parts, and can adjust them to each other in a harmonious and consistent WHOLE.”  

Federalist 83-84: Five Miscellaneous Republican Issues

Federalist 83.

1) Hamilton discusses the objection that “has met with most success”:  “ the want of a constitutional provision for the trial by jury in civil cases.”  This is the longest essay in The Federalist and the last of six essays in The Federalist that identify specific authors of Antifederalist writings.  Here, it is the “absolutely senseless” Report of the Pennsylvania Minority and the propositions of the Massachusetts Convention on trial by jury.  

The issue turns on how to interpret silence.  The Constitution provides for “the trial by jury in criminal cases,” but “is silent in respect to civil.” It is “absurd,” says Hamilton, to interpret “this silence” as “an implied prohibition of trial by jury in regard to the latter.”  There is a “material diversity” from state to state concerning trial by jury in civil cases for “the plan of the convention” to have imposed one uniform standard on all the states. Besides, the opposition grossly exaggerates “the inseparable connection between the existence of liberty and the trial by jury in civil cases.”  

Federalist 84

This second longest essay in The Federalist contains twenty-four paragraphs. Hamilton begins with a discussion of 2) “the most considerable” of the “remaining objections”:  “the plan of the convention contains no bill of rights.” This is contained in β 1- β 12.  He then turns in β 13-β 15 to 3) the location of the seat of government. An “extraordinary” objection is 4) “the want of some provision respecting the debts due to the United States.” This is covered in β 16. He turns, finally, in β 17- β 24, to the claim that 5) “the adoption of the proposed government would occasion a considerable increase of expense.”  

β 1, 2. “The most considerable of these remaining objections is that 2) the plan of the convention contains no bill of rights.” True, New York doesn’t have a “prefixed” bill of rights, but the opposition claim that the New York Constitution contains the “substance” of a bill of rights “in the body of it” and “adopts” the British “common and statute law.”  

β 3. “The Constitution proposed by the convention contains…a number of such provisions.” 

β 4.  He lists eight rights located “in the body” of the U. S.  Constitution: a) The post impeachment-conviction provision of Article I, Section 3; b) four rights from Article I, Section 9—the privilege of habeas corpus, no bill of attainder, no ex-post facto laws, and “no title of nobility;”–and c) three rights from Article III, Sections 2–the provision for trial by jury in criminal cases and the two parts of the treason clause. 

β 5. These are “of equal importance with any which are to be listed found in the constitution of this State.”  Blackstone, for example, thinks “the habeas corpus act” is “the BULWARK of the British Constitution.”

β 6. The prohibition on titles of nobility “may truly be denominated the cornerstone of republican government.”

β 7. The claim that the New York Constitution “adopts, in their full extent, the common and statute law of Great Britain” is simply false.  “They are expressly made subject ‘to such alterations and provisions as the legislature shall from time to time make concerning the same.’”

β 8.  “Bills of Rights are, in their origin, stipulations between kings and their subjects.” The “We the people” clause in the Preamble to the Constitution “is a better recognition of popular rights than volumes of those aphorisms which make the principle figure in several of our State bills of rights and which would sound much better in a treatise of ethics than in a constitution of government.” 

β 9, 10. “Bills of Rights…are not only unnecessary in the proposed Constitution but would even be dangerous.”  

β 11. A declaration protecting liberty of the press is “impracticable.”  We must seek its security “on public opinion, and on the general spirit of the government.” 

β 12. “The Constitution is itself, in every rational sense, and to every useful purpose, A BILL OF RIGHTS.” It meets two vital objects of a bill of rights: it 1) declares and specifies “the political privileges of the citizens in the structure and administration of the government,” and 2) defines “certain immunities and modes of proceeding, which are relative to personal and private concerns.”

β 13-15.  Hamilton answers objection 3) that the citizens will lack the “proper knowledge” to judge the conduct of a government so far removed from the people. This will be “overbalanced by the effects of the vigilance of the State governments” on the conduct of  “persons employed in every department of the national administration.”  Moreover, “the public papers will be expeditious messengers of intelligence to the most remote inhabitants of the Union.”

β 16. An “extraordinary” objection is 4) “the want of some provision respecting the debts due to the United States.” This, says Hamilton, is simply “inflammatory.”

β 17- β 24.  He turns, finally, to the claim that 5) “the adoption of the proposed government would occasion a considerable increase of expense.” But look what we gain from the increase:  a new and improved system of government; “it is certain that a government less expensive would be incompetent to the purposes of the Union.”  One observer suggests that “the dreaded augmentation of expense” will spring from “the multiplication of offices under the new government.” This is ridiculous since there are few new offices.  True, the judges will be an added expense, but this will be of no “material consequence.” And this will “counterbalance” the decline in the expenses of a) Congress since “a great part” of their business “will be transacted by the President,” and b) the State legislatures since “the Congress under the proposed government will do all the business of United States themselves, without the interference of the State legislatures.”  But won’t there be an increase in the expense of running the House with an augmentation in the number of representatives? “No.” Currently, there are “sixty-five persons, and probably at no future period by above a fourth or a fifth of that number.”   

Part VII 

Federalist 85: analogy to state governments and added security to republicanism.

Hamilton informs his readers that “that there would appear still to remain for discussion two points {outlined in Federalist 1}: ‘the analogy of the proposed government to your own State constitution.’ And ‘the additional security which its adoption will afford to republican government, to liberty, and to property.’`’ These topics have been “exhausted” in previous essays. “I never expect to see a perfect work from imperfect man.” Surely the plan of the convention is more perfect than what we have under the Articles? Let’s not call for another convention.  Furthermore, isn’t it better to “obtain subsequent amendments than previous amendments to the Constitution?”  Remember, “seven out of the thirteen States” have already ratified the plan of the convention.  

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Federalist Party

By: History.com Editors

Updated: June 21, 2023 | Original: November 9, 2009

circa 1795: The 1st President of the United States, George Washington (1732 - 1799) in consultation with members of his first cabinet; Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson (seated), later the 3rd President and Secretary of the Treasury and co-author of the Federalist Papers, Alexander Hamilton.

The Federalist Party originated in opposition to the Democratic-Republican Party in America during President George Washington’s first administration. Known for their support of a strong national government, the Federalists emphasized commercial and diplomatic harmony with Britain following the signing of the 1794 Jay Treaty. The party split over negotiations with France during President John Adams’s administration, though it remained a political force until its members passed into the Democratic and the Whig parties in the 1820s. Despite its dissolution, the party made a lasting impact by laying the foundations of a national economy, creating a national judicial system and formulating principles of foreign policy.

Early Years

The Federalist Party was one of the first two political parties in the United States. It originated, as did the opposing Democratic-Republican Party, within the executive and congressional branches of government during George Washington ’s first administration (1789-1793), and it dominated the government until the defeat of President John Adams for reelection in 1800.

Thereafter, the party unsuccessfully contested the presidency through 1816 and remained a political force in some states until the 1820s. Its members then passed into both the Democratic and the Whig parties.

Federalist Party Leaders

Although Washington disdained factions and disclaimed party adherence, he is generally taken to have been, by policy and inclination, a Federalist, and thus its greatest figure.

Influential public leaders who accepted the Federalist label included John Adams, Alexander Hamilton , John Jay , Rufus King , John Marshall , Timothy Pickering and Charles Cotesworth Pinckney . All had agitated for a new and more effective constitution in 1787 and supported the publication of the influential Federalist Papers .

Yet, because many members of the Democratic-Republican Party of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison had also championed the Constitution, the Federalist Party cannot be considered the lineal descendant of the pro-Constitution, or ‘federalist,’ grouping of the 1780s. Instead, like its opposition, the party emerged in the 1790s under new conditions and around new issues.

The party drew its early support from those who—for ideological and other reasons—wished to strengthen national instead of state power. Until its defeat in the presidential election of 1800, its style was elitist, and its leaders scorned democracy, widespread suffrage, and open elections.

Its backing centered in the commercial Northeast, whose economy and public order had been threatened by the failings of the Confederation government before 1788. Although the party enjoyed considerable influence in Virginia , North Carolina and the area around Charleston, South Carolina , it failed to attract plantation owners and yeoman farmers in the South and West. Its inability to broaden its geographic and social appeal eventually did it in.

Hamilton and the Bank of the United States

Originally a coalition of like-minded men, the party became publicly well-defined only in 1795. After Washington’s inauguration in 1789, Congress and members of the president’s cabinet debated proposals of Alexander Hamilton (first secretary of the treasury) that the national government assume the debts of the states, repay the national debt at par rather than at its depressed market value, and charter a national bank, the Bank of the United States .

Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson and Congressman James Madison rallied opposition to Hamilton’s plan. Yet not until Congress debated the ratification and implementation of the Jay Treaty with Great Britain did two political parties clearly emerge, with the Federalists under Hamilton’s leadership.

Federalist policies thenceforth emphasized commercial and diplomatic harmony with Britain, domestic order and stability and a strong national government under powerful executive and judicial branches. Washington’s Farewell Address of 1796, prepared with Hamilton’s assistance, can be read as a classic text of partisan Federalism as well as a great state paper.

John Adams, Washington’s vice president, succeeded the first president as an avowed Federalist, thus becoming the first person to attain the chief magistracy under partisan colors. Inaugurated in 1797, Adams tried to maintain his predecessor’s cabinet and policies. He engaged the nation in an undeclared naval war with France, and after the Federalists gained control of both houses of Congress in the 1798 election, backed the infamous and Federalist-inspired Alien and Sedition Acts .

In addition to a widespread public outcry against those laws, which restricted freedom of speech and freedom of the press , Adams met with mounting attacks, especially from the Hamiltonian faction of his own party, against his military priorities. When Adams, as much to deflect mounting Democratic-Republican opposition as to end a war, opened diplomatic negotiations with France in 1799 and reorganized the cabinet under his own control, the Hamiltonians broke with him.

Although his actions strengthened the Federalist position in the presidential election of 1800, they were not enough to gain his reelection. His party irreparably split. Adams, on his way to retirement, was nevertheless able to conclude peace with France and to secure the appointment of moderate Federalist John Marshall as chief justice of the Supreme Court . Long after the Federalist Party was dead, Marshall enshrined its principles in constitutional law.

Regional Factions

In the minority, Federalists, at last, accepted the necessity of creating a system of organized, disciplined state party organizations and adopting democratic electoral tactics. Because their greatest strength lay in Massachusetts , Connecticut and Delaware , the Federalists also assumed the aspects of a regional minority.

Ignoring ideological consistency and a traditional commitment to strong national power, they opposed Jefferson’s popular Louisiana Purchase of 1803 as too costly—and too threatening to northern influence in government. Largely as a result, the party continued to lose power at the national level. It carried only Connecticut, Delaware and parts of Maryland against Jefferson in 1804.

That defeat, the party’s increasing regional isolation and Hamilton’s untimely death at the hands of Aaron Burr that same year threatened the party’s very existence. Yet strong, widespread opposition to Jefferson’s ill-conceived Embargo of 1807 revived it.

In the 1808 presidential election against Madison, the Federalist candidate, Charles C. Pinckney, carried Delaware, parts of Maryland and North Carolina, and all of New England except Vermont . The declaration of war against Great Britain in 1812 brought New York , New Jersey , and more of Maryland into the Federalist fold, although these states were not enough to gain the party the presidency.

But Federalist obstruction of the war effort seriously undercut its newfound popularity, and the Hartford Convention of 1814 won for it, however unjustly, the stigma of secession and treason. The party under Rufus King carried only Connecticut, Massachusetts and Delaware in the election of 1816.

Decline of the Federalist Party

Although it lingered on in these states, the party never regained its national following, and by the end of the War of 1812 , it was dead. Its inability to accommodate early enough a rising, popular democratic spirit, often strongest in towns and cities, was its undoing.

Its emphasis upon banking, commerce and national institutions, although fitting for the young nation, nevertheless made it unpopular among the majority of Americans who, as people of the soil, remained wary of government influence.

Yet the Federalist Party's contributions to the nation were extensive. Its principles gave structure to the new government. Its leaders laid the foundations of a national economy, created and staffed a national judicial system and enunciated enduring principles of American foreign policy.

The Federalist and the Republican Party. PBS: American Experience . Federalists. The First Amendment Encyclopedia. Middle Tennessee State University . Timeline of the Federalist Party. Michigan State University .

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The Federalist Papers (1787-1789)

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July 4, 1776: U.S. declares independence from Great Britain Thomas Jefferson's Declaration of Independence is published to the world, marking the official start of the American Revolution.

November 15, 1777: Congress completes the Articles of Confederation The final version of the Articles of Confederation is adopted by Congress and submitted to the states for ratification.

March 1, 1781: Establishment of the U.S. Government Maryland ratifies the Articles of Confederation, formally establishing a confederacy as the first government of the United States.

September 3, 1783: Signing of Treaty of Paris The Treaty of Paris officially ends the American Revolution and establishes the terms of peace between the United States and Great Britain.

March 25, 1785: Meeting of Mount Vernon Conference Representatives of Maryland and Virginia meet at George Washington's plantation to resolve conflicts over the navigation of the Potomac and Pocomoke Rivers.

September 11, 1786: Meeting of the Annapolis Convention New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Virginia, meet to discuss uniform trade regulations, but agree to appeal to all states to meet again to discuss broader reforms.

January 25, 1787: Shays' Rebellion Daniel Shays and other armed farmers from western Massachusetts attempt to conquer an arsenal of weapons in Springfield, MA in response to taxes levied by the Massachusetts Legislature.

May 25, 1787: First meeting of the Constitutional Convention Delegates from all states except Rhode Island meet in Philadelphia for the purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation. They end up drafting a new document, the U.S. Constitution , instead

September 17, 1787: Delegates sign U.S. Constitution All delegates to the Constitutional Convention, except 3, sign the U.S. Constitution.

September 19, 1787: First publication of the U.S. Constitution The Pennsylvania Packet prints the first public copy of the Constitution.

September 28, 1787: Congress formally submits Constitution to the states Congress sends a copy of the U.S. Constitution to the state legislatures with instructions about ratification.

October 27, 1787: First Federalist propaganda published in New York City Federalist No. 1 published anonymously under the name Publius in The Independent Journal.

January 1, 1788: J. & A. McLean announce plans to publish The Federalist. McLean publishers announce plans to compile a published volume of the first thirty-six Federalist essays.

March 2, 1788: The Federalist, A Collection of Essays is published The first 36 Federalist essays are published in a single volume with its preface written and corrections made by the author, later revealed to be Alexander Hamilton.

April 2, 1788: Federalist No. 77 published in The Independent Journal. Federalist Essay No. 77 is the final essay to be published in the New York serial newspapers. The remaining essays are published in a second compilation volume.

May 28, 1788: The Federalist, Volume Second is published Federalist essays numbered 37 to 77 are published, with an additional 8 new essays that had not yet been printed in a New York newspaper.

June 14, 1788: The final eight Federalist essays appear in the newspapers Between June and August, the final eight essays, originally published as part of the McLean Volume Second, are printed in The Independent Journal and The New York Packet.

July 2, 1788: official ratification of the U.S. Constitution With New Hampshire's ratification, the U.S. Constitution becomes formally accepted and a committee is appointed to plan the transition to the new government.

July 26, 1788: New York is the eleventh state to ratify New York ratifies the U.S. Constitution by a vote of 30-27 with recommended amendments.

March 4, 1789: Effective Date of the U.S. Constitution The new U.S. Government under the U.S. Constitution formally goes into effect.

March 1, 1792: Ratification of Bill of Rights Thomas Jefferson announces the ratification of the Bill of Rights, and they go into effect.

January 13, 1802: George Hopkins announces his publication of a second edition of The Federalist George Hopkins not only announces his forthcoming publication of the Federalist, but also reveals Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay as the anonymous authors of the essays.

December 8, 1802: The Hopkins edition of The Federalist is published The Hopkins edition is published and thought to contain the final revisions approved by Hamilton.

August 1818: Jacob Gideon published the third edition of The Federalist Jacob Gideon published a version of The Federalist, undertaken with approval by James Madison and including the first publication of Madison's corrections and his listing of authors.

July 1804: Death of Alexander Hamilton Alexander Hamilton dies as a result of a duel with Aaron Burr.

March 4, 1809: James Madison sworn in as President James Madison, now a solid member of the Jeffersonian Republicans, is sworn in as the fourth President of the United States.

Popular pages: The Federalist Papers (1787-1789)

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The first amendment, constitution 101 resources, 3.5 primary source: federalist no. 10 and federalist no. 55.

This activity is part of  Module 3: Road to the Convention  from the Constitution 101 Curriculum.  

Federalist No. 10 View the document on the National Constitution Center’s website here .

After the Constitutional Convention adjourned in September 1787, heated debate on the merits of the Constitution followed. Each state was required to vote on the ratification of the document. A series of articles signed by “Publius” appeared in New York newspapers. These Federalist Papers supported the Constitution and continued to appear through the summer of 1788. Alexander Hamilton organized them, and he and Madison wrote most of the series of 85 articles, with John Jay contributing five. These essays were read and debated, especially in New York, which included many critics of the Constitution. The Federalist Papers have since taken on immense significance, as they have come to be seen as an important early exposition on the Constitution’s meaning. In Federalist 10, Madison explores how the Constitution combats the problem of faction.

A good government will counteract the dangers of faction. Among the numerous advantages promised by a well-constructed Union, none deserves to be more accurately developed than its tendency to break and control the violence of faction. The friend of popular governments never finds himself so much alarmed for their character and fate, as when he contemplates their propensity to this dangerous vice.

Our state constitutions improved on those that came before them, but they still have problems; they are unstable; and they often value factional interests over the common good. The valuable improvements made by the American constitutions on the popular models, both ancient and modern, cannot certainly be too much admired; but it would be an unwarranted partiality, to contend that they have as effectually obviated the danger on this side, as was wished and expected. Complaints are everywhere heard from our most considerate and virtuous citizens, equally the friends of public and private faith, and of public and personal liberty, that our governments are too unstable; that the public good is disregarded in the conflicts of rival parties; and that measures are too often decided, not according to the rules of justice, and the rights of the minor party, but by the superior force of an interested and overbearing majority. These must be chiefly, if not wholly, effects of the unsteadiness and injustice, with which a factious spirit has tainted our public administrations.

Factions are driven by passion and self-interest, not reason and the common good. By a faction, I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adverse to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.

But there are ways to tame the dangers of faction. There are two methods of curing the mischiefs of faction. The one, by removing its causes; the other, by controlling its effects. There are again two methods of removing the causes of faction. The one, by destroying the liberty which is essential to its existence; the other, by giving to every citizen the same opinions, the same passions, and the same interests.

One way is to take away everyone’s liberty; this is a bad idea. It could never be more truly said, than of the first remedy, that it is worse than the disease. Liberty is to faction what air is to fire, an aliment without which it instantly expires. But it would not be a less folly to abolish liberty, which is essential to political life because it nourishes faction, than it would be to wish the annihilation of air, which is essential to animal life, because it imparts to fire its destructive agency.

Another way is to give everyone the same opinions, passions, and interests; this isn’t possible in a free and diverse republic. The second expedient is as impracticable, as the first would be unwise. As long as the reason of man continues fallible, and he is at liberty to exercise it, different opinions will be formed. As long as the connection subsists between his reason and his self­love, his opinions and his passions will have a reciprocal influence on each other; and the former will be objects to which the latter will attach themselves. The diversity in the faculties of men, from which the rights of property originate, is not less an insuperable obstacle to an uniformity of interests. The protection of those faculties is the first object of government. From the protection of different and unequal faculties of acquiring property, the possession of different degrees and kinds of property immediately results; and from the influence of these on the sentiments and views of the respective proprietors, ensues a division of the society into different interests and parties.

Factions are natural, and they form easily; the most common cause is the unequal division of property. The latent causes of faction are thus sown in the nature of man; … and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each other, than to co-operate for their common good. So strong is this propensity of mankind, to fall into mutual animosities, that where no substantial occasion presents itself, the most frivolous and fanciful distinctions have been sufficient to kindle their unfriendly passions and excite their most violent conflicts. But the most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property. Those, who hold, and those who are without property, have ever formed distinct interests in society. Those who are creditors, and those who are debtors, fall into a like discrimination. A landed interest, a manufacturing interest, a mercantile interest, a moneyed interest, with many lesser interests, grow up of necessity in civilized nations, and divide them into different classes, actuated by different sentiments and views. The regulation of these various and interfering interests forms the principal task of modern legislation and involves the spirit of the party and faction in the necessary and ordinary operations of government.

We can’t rely on great leaders; we won’t always have them. It is vain to say, that enlightened statesmen will be able to adjust these clashing interests and render them all subservient to the public good. Enlightened statesmen will not always be at the helm.

We can’t eliminate the causes of faction; so, we must figure out how to control them. The inference to which we are brought is, that the causes of faction cannot be removed; and that relief is only to be sought in the means of controlling its effects.

Majority rule solves the problem of minority factions; we can vote abusive minority factions out of power; but this doesn’t solve the problem of a majority faction abusing the minority; we need to come up with a new solution to this vexing problem. If a faction consists of less than a majority, relief is supplied by the republican principle, which enables the majority to defeat its sinister views, by regular vote. It may clog the administration; it may convulse the society; but it will be unable to execute and mask its violence under the forms of the constitution. When a majority is included in a faction, the form of popular government, on the other hand, enables it to sacrifice to its ruling passion or interest, both the public good and the rights of other citizens. To secure the public good, and private rights, against the danger of such a faction, and at the same time to preserve the spirit and the form of popular government, is the greatest object to which our inquiries are directed. …

There are a couple of ways to address this problem. By what means is the object attainable? Evidently by one of two only. Either the existence of the same passion or interest in a majority, at the same time must be prevented; or the majority, having such coexistent passion or interest, must be rendered, by their number and local situation, unable to concert and carry into effect schemes of oppression.

Direct democracy isn’t the answer. From this view of the subject, it may be concluded, that a pure democracy, by which I mean a society consisting of a small number of citizens, who assemble and administer the government in person, can admit of no cure from the mischiefs of faction.

But representative government offers a promising path; to address the problem of faction, we need to elect representatives, and we need a large (not small) republic. A republic, by which I mean a government in which the scheme of representation takes place, opens a different prospect, and promises the cure for which we are seeking. Let us examine the points in which it varies from pure democracy, and we shall comprehend both the nature of the cure and the efficacy which it must derive from the union. The two great points of difference, between a democracy and a republic, are, first, the delegation of the government, in the latter, to a small number of citizens elected by the rest; secondly, the greater number of citizens, and the greater sphere of country, over which the latter may be extended.

Representative government promotes a process of deliberation led by virtuous leaders; this process improves public opinion and helps to ensure that we end up with a government that serves the common good, not the immediate passions of the people or the self-interests of powerful factions; finally, contrary to the views of famous political thinkers like Montesquieu, it is helpful that we have a large republic rather than a small one. The effect of the first difference is, on the one hand, to refine and enlarge the public views, by passing them through the medium of a chosen body of citizens, whose wisdom may best discern the true interest of their country, and whose patriotism and love of justice, will be least likely to sacrifice it to temporary or partial considerations. Under such a regulation, it may well happen, that the public voice, pronounced by the representatives of the people, will be more consonant to the public good, than if pronounced by the people themselves, convened for the purpose.... The question resulting is, whether small or extensive republics are most favorable to the election of proper guardians of the public weal; and it is clearly decided in favor of the latter by two obvious considerations.

There are a larger number of quality candidates in a large republic. In the first place, it is to be remarked, that however small the republic may be, the representatives must be raised to a certain number, in order to guard against the cabals of a few; and that however large it may be, they must be limited to a certain number, in order to guard against the confusion of a multitude. Hence, the number of representatives in the two cases not being in proportion to that of the constituents, and being proportionately greatest in the small republic, it follows that if the proportion of fit characters be not less in the large than in the small republic, the former will present a greater probability of a fit choice.

And in a large republic, the people are more likely to choose virtuous leaders than demagogues. In the next place, as each representative will be chosen by a greater number of citizens in the large than in the small republic, it will be more difficult for unworthy candidates to practice with success the vicious arts, by which elections are too often carried; and the suffrages of the people being more free, will be more likely to center in men who possess the most attractive merit, and the most diffusive and established characters.

Because a large republic covers more territory and contains a greater number of factions, it is more difficult for a majority faction to form and abuse power. 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. .. Extend the sphere, and you will take in a greater variety of parties and interests; you make it less probable that a majority of the whole will have a common motive to invade the rights of other citizens; or if such common motive exists, it will be more difficult for all who feel it to discover their own strength, and to act in unison with each other.

Large republics are better at controlling faction than small republics. Hence, it clearly appears, that the same advantage, which a republic has over a democracy, in controlling the effects of faction, is enjoyed by a large over a small republic - enjoyed by the union over the states composing it.

We have found a republican solution to the problem of faction. In the extent and proper structure of the union, therefore, we behold a republican remedy for the diseases most incident to republican government.

Federalist No. 55 View the document on the National Constitution Center’s website here .

On February 15, 1788, James Madison published Federalist No. 55—titled “The Total Number of the House of Representatives.” Following Shays’ Rebellion in Massachusetts, Madison and his allies pushed for a new Constitution that might address the dangers of excessive democracy, including mob violence. In Federalist No. 55, Madison addressed a range of important issues, including the proper size of the House of Representatives, the role of representation in a republican government, and the importance of civic republican virtue. Madison warned, “In all very numerous assemblies, of whatever character composed, passion never fails to wrest the sceptre from reason. Had every Athenian citizen been a Socrates, every Athenian assembly would still have been a mob.” Madison had in mind a specific episode in ancient history—the push by the demagogue Cleon to mislead the massive Athenian Assembly (filled with 6,000 people) into starting the Peloponnesian War. With the new Constitution, the framers sought to create a new government strong enough to achieve common purpose and curb mob violence, but also restrained enough that it would not threaten individual rights.

Critics fear that the U.S. House of Representatives is too small to represent the interests of a large country; instead, there’s a danger that it will be filled with a small governing elite distant from the people. The number of which the House of Representatives is to consist, forms another and a very interesting point of view, under which this branch of the federal legislature may be contemplated. Scarce any article, indeed, in the whole Constitution seems to be rendered more worthy of attention, by the weight of character and the apparent force of argument with which it has been assailed. The charges exhibited against it are, first, that so small a number of representatives will be an unsafe depositary of the public interests; secondly, that they will not possess a proper knowledge of the local circumstances of their numerous constituents; thirdly, that they will be taken from that class of citizens which will sympathize least with the feelings of the mass of the people, and be most likely to aim at a permanent elevation of the few on the depression of the many; fourthly, that defective as the number will be in the first instance, it will be more and more disproportionate, by the increase of the people, and the obstacles which will prevent a correspondent increase of the representatives. 

There is no right answer to how large a legislative body should be in order to govern well; this is a difficult issue, and the states themselves disagree over it. In general it may be remarked on this subject, that no political problem is less susceptible of a precise solution than that which relates to the number most convenient for a representative legislature; nor is there any point on which the policy of the several States is more at variance, whether we compare their legislative assemblies directly with each other, or consider the proportions which they respectively bear to the number of their constituents. . . .

There are also serious dangers when a legislative body is too large; this may undermine deliberation and heighten the passions; in the end, the goal is to try to avoid a body that is either too small or too large. Another general remark to be made is, that the ratio between the representatives and the people ought not to be the same where the latter are very numerous as where they are very few. Were the representatives in Virginia to be regulated by the standard in Rhode Island, they would, at this time, amount to between four and five hundred; and twenty or thirty years hence, to a thousand. On the other hand, the ratio of Pennsylvania, if applied to the State of Delaware, would reduce the representative assembly of the latter to seven or eight members. Nothing can be more fallacious than to found our political calculations on arithmetical principles. Sixty or seventy men may be more properly trusted with a given degree of power than six or seven. But it does not follow that six or seven hundred would be proportionably a better depositary. And if we carry on the supposition to six or seven thousand, the whole reasoning ought to be reversed. The truth is, that in all cases a certain number at least seems to be necessary to secure the benefits of free consultation and discussion, and to guard against too easy a combination for improper purposes; as, on the other hand, the number ought at most to be kept within a certain limit, in order to avoid the confusion and intemperance of a multitude. In all very numerous assemblies, of whatever character composed, passion never fails to wrest the sceptre from reason. Had every Athenian citizen been a Socrates, every Athenian assembly would still have been a mob. . . .

Elections are an important check on abuses by elected officials. The true question to be decided then is, whether the smallness of the number, as a temporary regulation, be dangerous to the public liberty? Whether sixty-five members for a few years, and a hundred or two hundred for a few more, be a safe depositary for a limited and well-guarded power of legislating for the United States? I must own that I could not give a negative answer to this question, without first obliterating every impression which I have received with regard to the present genius of the people of America, the spirit which actuates the State legislatures, and the principles which are incorporated with the political character of every class of citizens I am unable to conceive that the people of America, in their present temper, or under any circumstances which can speedily happen, will choose, and every second year repeat the choice of, sixty-five or a hundred men who would be disposed to form and pursue a scheme of tyranny or treachery. . . .

The critics of the Constitution are too pessimistic; the American people have enough virtue to make our new republic work. The improbability of such a mercenary and perfidious combination of the several members of government, standing on as different foundations as republican principles will well admit, and at the same time accountable to the society over which they are placed, ought alone to quiet this apprehension. But, fortunately, the Constitution has provided a still further safeguard. The members of the Congress are rendered ineligible to any civil offices that may be created, or of which the emoluments may be increased, during the term of their election. No offices therefore can be dealt out to the existing members but such as may become vacant by ordinary casualties: and to suppose that these would be sufficient to purchase the guardians of the people, selected by the people themselves, is to renounce every rule by which events ought to be calculated, and to substitute an indiscriminate and unbounded jealousy, with which all reasoning must be vain. The sincere friends of liberty, who give themselves up to the extravagancies of this passion, are not aware of the injury they do their own cause. As there is a degree of depravity in mankind which requires a certain degree of circumspection and distrust, so there are other qualities in human nature which justify a certain portion of esteem and confidence. Republican government presupposes the existence of these qualities in a higher degree than any other form. Were the pictures which have been drawn by the political jealousy of some among us faithful likenesses of the human character, the inference would be, that there is not sufficient virtue among men for self-government; and that nothing less than the chains of despotism can restrain them from destroying and devouring one another.

*Bold sentences give the big idea of the excerpt and are not a part of the primary source. 

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Federalist Papers

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In order to help convince their fellow Americans of their view that the Constitution would not threaten freedom, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay teamed up in 1788 to write a series of essays in defense of the Constitution. The essays, which appeared in newspapers addressed to the people of the state of New York, are known as the Federalist Papers. They are regarded as one of the most authoritative sources on the meaning of the Constitution, including constitutional principles such as checks and balances, federalism, and separation of powers.

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Federalist 10

Written by James Madison, this essay defended the form of republican government proposed by the Constitution. Critics of the Constitution argued that the proposed federal government was too large and would be unresponsive to the people.

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federalist era essay

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federalist era essay

Federalist Papers No. 39 (1788)

Federalist No. 39, written by James Madison, is an explanation the character of the new republican system of government created under the Constitution. Madison explains why the United States government is partly national in character (meaning a government over a consolidation of all the states and the whole of the American people) as well as partly federal (a government over several sovereign states.)

federalist era essay

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Federalist 51

In this Federalist Paper, James Madison explains and defends the checks and balances system in the Constitution. Each branch of government is framed so that its power checks the power of the other two branches; additionally, each branch of government is dependent on the people, who are the source of legitimate authority.

federalist era essay

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In this Federalist Paper, Alexander Hamilton argues for a strong executive leader, as provided for by the Constitution, as opposed to the weak executive under the Articles of Confederation. He asserts, “energy in the executive is the leading character in the definition of good government.

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By alexander hamilton , james madison , john jay, the federalist papers summary and analysis of essay 10.

Madison begins perhaps the most famous essay of The Federalist Papers by stating that one of the strongest arguments in favor of the Constitution is the fact that it establishes a government capable of controlling the violence and damage caused by factions. Madison defines factions as groups of people who gather together to protect and promote their special economic interests and political opinions. Although these factions are at odds with each other, they frequently work against the public interest and infringe upon the rights of others.

Both supporters and opponents of the plan are concerned with the political instability produced by rival factions. The state governments have not succeeded in solving this problem; in fact, the situation is so problematic that people are disillusioned with all politicians and blame the government for their problems. Consequently, any form of popular government that can deal successfully with this problem has a great deal to recommend it.

Given the nature of man, factions are inevitable. As long as men hold different opinions, have different amounts of wealth, and own different amounts of property, they will continue to fraternize with those people who are most similar to them. Both serious and trivial reasons account for the formation of factions, but the most important source of faction is the unequal distribution of property. Men of greater ability and talent tend to possess more property than those of lesser ability, and since the first object of government is to protect and encourage ability, it follows that the rights of property owners must be protected. Property is divided unequally, and, in addition, there are many different kinds of property. Men have different interests depending upon the kind of property they own. For example, the interests of landowners differ from those of business owners. Governments must not only protect the conflicting interests of property owners but also must successfully regulate the conflicts between those with and without property.

To Madison, there are only two ways to control a faction: to remove its causes and to control its effects. There are only two ways to remove the causes of a faction: destroy liberty or give every citizen the same opinions, passions, and interests. Destroying liberty is a "cure worse then the disease itself," and the second is impracticable. The causes of factions are thus part of the nature of man, so we must accept their existence and deal with their effects. The government created by the Constitution controls the damage caused by such factions.

The framers established a representative form of government: a government in which the many elect the few who govern. Pure or direct democracies (countries in which all the citizens participate directly in making the laws) cannot possibly control factious conflicts. This is because the strongest and largest faction dominates and there is no way to protect weak factions against the actions of an obnoxious individual or a strong majority. Direct democracies cannot effectively protect personal and property rights and have always been characterized by conflict.

If the new plan of government is adopted, Madison hopes that the men elected to office will be wise and good men,­ the best of America. Theoretically, those who govern should be the least likely to sacrifice the public good for temporary conditions, but the opposite could happen. Men who are members of particular factions or who have prejudices or evil motives might manage, by intrigue or corruption, to win elections and then betray the interests of the people. However, the possibility of this happening in a large country, such as the United States, is greatly reduced. The likelihood that public offices will be held by qualified men is greater in large countries because there will be more representatives chosen by a greater number of citizens. This makes it more difficult for the candidates to deceive the people. Representative government is needed in large countries, not to protect the people from the tyranny of the few, but rather to guard against the rule of the mob.

In large republics, factions will be numerous, but they will be weaker than in small, direct democracies where it is easier for factions to consolidate their strength. In this country, leaders of factions may be able to influence state governments to support unsound economic and political policies ­as the states, far from being abolished, retain much of their sovereignty. If the framers had abolished the state governments, then opponents of the proposed government would have had a legitimate objection.

The immediate object of the constitution is to bring the present thirteen states into a secure union. Almost every state, old and new, will have one boundary next to territory owned by a foreign nation. The states farthest from the center of the country will be most endangered by these foreign countries; they may find it inconvenient to send representatives long distances to the capital, but in terms of safety and protection, they stand to gain the most from a strong national government.

Madison concludes that he presents these previous arguments because he is confident that many will not listen to those "prophets of gloom" who say that the proposed government is unworkable. For this founding father, it seems incredible that these gloomy voices suggest abandoning the idea of coming together in strength—after all, the states still have common interests. Madison concludes that "according to the degree of pleasure and pride we feel in being Republicans, ought to be our zeal in cherishing the spirit and supporting the character of Federalists."

James Madison carried to the Convention a plan that was the exact opposite of Hamilton's. In fact, the theory he advocated at Philadelphia and in his essays was developed as a republican substitute for the New Yorker's "high toned" scheme of state. Madison was convinced that the class struggle would be ameliorated in America by establishing a limited federal government that would make functional use of the vast size of the country and the existence of the states as active political organisms. He argued in his "Notes on Confederacy," in his Convention speeches, and again in Federalist 10 that if an extended republic were set up including a multiplicity of economic, geographic, social, religious, and sectional interests, then these interests, by checking each other, would prevent American society from being divided into the clashing armies of the rich and the poor. Thus, if no interstate proletariat could become organized on purely economic lines, the property of the rich would be safe even though the mass of the people held political power. Madison's solution for the class struggle was not to set up an absolute state to regiment society from above; he was never willing to sacrifice liberty to gain security. Rather, he wished to multiply the deposits of political power in the state itself to break down the dichotomy of rich and poor, thereby guaranteeing both liberty and security. This, as he stated in Federalist 10, would provide a "republican remedy for the diseases most incident to republican government."

It is also interesting to note that James Madison was the most creative and philosophical disciple of the Scottish school of science and politics in attendance at the Philadelphia Convention. His effectiveness as an advocate of a new constitution, and of the particular Constitution that was drawn up in Philadelphia in 1787, was based in a large part on his personal experience in public life and his personal knowledge of the conditions of American in 1787. But Madison's greatness as a statesman also rests in part on his ability to set his limited personal experience within the context of the experience of men in other ages and times, thus giving extra insight to his political formulations.

His most amazing political prophecy, contained within the pages of Federalist 10, was that the size of the United States and its variety of interests constituted a guarantee of stability and justice under the new Constitution. When Madison made this prophecy, the accepted opinion among all sophisticated politicians was exactly the opposite. It was David Hume's speculations on the "Idea of a Perfect Commonwealth," first published in 1752, that most stimulated James Madison's' thought on factions. In this essay, Hume decried any attempt to substitute a political utopia for "the common botched and inaccurate governments" which seemed to serve imperfect men so well. Nevertheless, he argued, the idea of a perfect commonwealth "is surely the most worthy curiosity of any the wit of man can possibly devise. And who knows, if this controversy were fixed by the universal consent of the wise and learned, but, in some future age, an opportunity might be afforded of reducing the theory to practice, either by a dissolution of some old government, or by the combination of men to form a new one, in some distant part of the world. " At the end of Hume's essay was a discussion that was of interest to Madison. The Scot casually demolished the Montesquieu small-republic theory; and it was this part of the essay, contained in a single page, that was to serve Madison in new-modeling a "botched" Confederation "in a distant part of the world." Hume said that "in a large government, which is modeled with masterly skill, there is compass and room enough to refine the democracy, from the lower people, who may be admitted into the first elections or first concoction of the commonwealth, to the higher magistrate, who direct all the movements. At the same time, the parts are so distant and remote, that it is very difficult, either by intrigue, prejudice, or passion, to hurry them into any measure against the public interest." Hume's analysis here had turned the small-territory republic theory upside down: if a free state could once be established in a large area, it would be stable and safe from the effects of faction. Madison had found the answer to Montesquieu. He had also found in embryonic form his own theory of the extended federal republic.

In Hume's essay lay the germ for Madison's theory of the extended republic. It is interesting to see how he took these scattered and incomplete fragments and built them into an intellectual and theoretical structure of his own. Madison's first full statement of this hypothesis appeared in his "Notes on the Confederacy" written in April 1787, eight months before the final version of it was published as the tenth Federalist. Starting with the proposition that "in republican Government, the majority, however, composed, ultimately give the law," Madison then asks what is to restrain an interested majority from unjust violations of the minority's rights? Three motives might be claimed to meliorate the selfishness of the majority: first, "prudent regard for their own good, as involved in the general . . . good" second, "respect for character" and finally, religious scruples. After examining each in its turn Madison concludes that they are but a frail bulwark against a ruthless party.

When one examines these two papers in which Hume and Madison summed up the eighteenth century's most profound thought on political parties, it becomes increasingly clear that the young American used the earlier work in preparing a survey on factions through the ages to introduce his own discussion of faction in America. Hume's work was admirably adapted to this purpose. It was philosophical and scientific in the best tradition of the Enlightenment. The facile domination of faction had been a commonplace in English politics for a hundred years, as Whig and Tory vociferously sought to fasten the label on each other. But the Scot, very little interested as a partisan and very much so as a social scientist, treated the subject therefore in psychological, intellectual, and socioeconomic terms. Throughout all history, he discovered, mankind has been divided into factions based either on personal loyalty to some leader or upon some "sentiment or interest" common to the group as a unit. This latter type he called a "Real" as distinguished from the "personal" faction. Finally, he subdivided the "real factions" into parties based on "interest, upon principle," or upon affection."

Hume spent well over five pages dissecting these three types; but Madison, while determined to be inclusive, had not the space to go into such minute analysis. Besides, he was more intent now on developing the cure than on describing the malady. He therefore consolidated Hume's two-page treatment of "personal" factions and his long discussion of parties based on "principle and affection" into a single sentence. The tenth Federalist reads" "A zeal for different opinions concerning religion, concerning government, and many other points, as well of speculation as of practice; an attachment to different leaders ambitiously contending for pre-eminence and power; or to persons of other descriptions whose fortunes have been interesting to the human passions, have, in turn, divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex ad oppress each other than to co-operate for their common good." It is hard to conceive of a more perfect example of the concentration of idea and meaning than Madison achieved in this famous sentence.

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The Federalist Papers Questions and Answers

The Question and Answer section for The Federalist Papers is a great resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.

How Madison viewed human nature?

Madison saw depravity in human nature, but he saw virtue as well. His view of human nature may have owed more to John Locke than to John Calvin. In any case, as Saul K. Padover asserted more than a half-century ago, Madison often appeared to steer...

How arguable and provable is the author of cato 4 claim

What specific claim are you referring to?

Federalist #10

According to Madison, there are only two ways to remove the causes of a faction: destroy liberty or give every citizen the same opinions, passions, and interests. As a result, he notes that destroying liberty is a "cure worse then the disease...

Study Guide for The Federalist Papers

The Federalist Papers study guide contains a biography of Alexander Hamilton, John Jay and James Madison, literature essays, a complete e-text, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis.

  • About The Federalist Papers
  • The Federalist Papers Summary
  • The Federalist Papers Video
  • Character List

Essays for The Federalist Papers

The Federalist Papers essays are academic essays for citation. These papers were written primarily by students and provide critical analysis of The Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton, John Jay and James Madison.

  • A Close Reading of James Madison's The Federalist No. 51 and its Relevancy Within the Sphere of Modern Political Thought
  • Lock, Hobbes, and the Federalist Papers
  • Comparison of Federalist Paper 78 and Brutus XI
  • The Paradox of the Republic: A Close Reading of Federalist 10
  • Manipulation of Individual Citizen Motivations in the Federalist Papers

Lesson Plan for The Federalist Papers

  • About the Author
  • Study Objectives
  • Common Core Standards
  • Introduction to The Federalist Papers
  • Relationship to Other Books
  • Bringing in Technology
  • Notes to the Teacher
  • Related Links
  • The Federalist Papers Bibliography

E-Text of The Federalist Papers

The Federalist Papers e-text contains the full text of The Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton, John Jay and James Madison.

  • FEDERALIST. Nos. 1-5
  • FEDERALIST. Nos. 6-10
  • FEDERALIST. Nos. 11-15
  • FEDERALIST. Nos. 16-20
  • FEDERALIST. Nos. 21-25

Wikipedia Entries for The Federalist Papers

  • Introduction
  • Structure and content
  • Judicial use
  • Complete list

federalist era essay

American History Central

Federalists and Anti-Federalists

The Federalist and Anti-Federalist factions developed during the Constitutional Convention of 1787.

Alexander Hamilton, Portrait

Alexander Hamilton was a prominent leader of the Federalist faction. Image Source: Wikipedia.

Federalists and Anti-Federalists Summary

The Federalists and Anti-Federalists were two factions that emerged in American politics during the Philadelphia Convention of 1787 . The original purpose of the Convention was to discuss problems with the government under the Articles of Confederation and find reasonable solutions. Instead of updating the Articles, the delegates replaced the Articles with something entirely new — the Constitution of the United States. Despite the development of the Constitution, there was disagreement. The people who favored the Constitution became known as Federalists. Those who disagreed, or even opposed it, were called Anti-Federalists. Anti-Federalists argued the Constitution failed to provide details regarding basic civil rights — a Bill of Rights — while Federalists argued the Constitution provided significant protection for individual rights. After the Constitution was adopted by the Convention, it was sent to the individual states for ratification. The ensuing debate between the Federalists and Anti-Federalists that followed remains of the great debates in American history, and eventually led to the ratification of the United States Constitution.

Constitutional Convention, Signing the Constitution, Christy

Quick Facts About Federalists

  • The name “Federalists” was adopted by people who supported the ratification of the new United States Constitution.
  • Federalists favored a strong central government and believed the Constitution provided adequate protection for individual rights.
  • The group was primarily made up of large property owners, merchants, and businessmen, along with the clergy, and others who favored consistent law and order throughout the states.
  • Prominent Federalists were James Madison , Alexander Hamilton , and John Jay .
  • During the debate on the Constitution, the Federalists published a series of articles known as the “Federalists Papers” that argued for the passage of the Constitution.
  • The Federalists eventually formed the Federalist Party in 1791 .

Quick Facts About Anti-Federalists

  • Anti-Federalists had concerns about a central government that had too much power.
  • They favored the system of government under the Articles of Confederation but were adamant the Constitution needed a defined Bill of Rights.
  • The Anti-Federalists were typically small farmers, landowners, independent shopkeepers, and laborers.
  • Prominent Anti-Federalists were Patrick Henry , Melancton Smith, Robert Yates, George Clinton , Samuel Bryan, and Richard Henry Lee .
  • The Anti-Federalists delivered speeches and wrote pamphlets that explained their positions on the Constitution. The pamphlets are collectively known as the “Anti-Federalist Papers.”
  • The Anti-Federalists formed the Democratic-Republican Party in 1792 .

Significance of Federalists and Anti-Federalists

The Federalists and Anti-Federalists are important to the history of the United States because their differences over the United States Constitution led to its ratification and the adoption of the Bill of Rights — the first 10 Amendments .

Learn More About Federalists and Anti-Federalists on American History Central

  • Federalist No. 1
  • Federalist No. 2
  • Federalist No. 3
  • Alexander Hamilton’s Speech to the New York Convention
  • Articles of Confederation
  • Presidency of George Washington — Study Guide
  • Written by Randal Rust


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  1. The Federalist Papers Appendix 4

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  1. The Federalist Papers (article)

    The Federalist was originally planned to be a series of essays for publication in New York City newspapers, but ultimately expanded into a collection of 85 essays, which were published as two volumes in March and May 1788. They did not become known as "The Federalist Papers" until the 20th century. The essays were aimed at convincing opponents of the US Constitution to ratify it so that it ...

  2. Federalist Papers: Summary, Authors & Impact

    The Federalist Papers are a collection of essays written in the 1780s in support of the proposed U.S. Constitution and the strong federal government it advocated. In October 1787, the first in a ...

  3. Federalist papers

    The Federalist. The Federalist (1788), a book-form publication of 77 of the 85 Federalist essays. Federalist papers, series of 85 essays on the proposed new Constitution of the United States and on the nature of republican government, published between 1787 and 1788 by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay in an effort to persuade New ...

  4. Federalist Party

    The Federalist papers (formally The Federalist), as the combined essays are called, were written to combat Anti-Federalism and to persuade the public of the necessity of the Constitution.The Federalist papers stressed the need for an adequate central government and argued that the republican form of government easily could be adapted to the ...

  5. The Federalist Papers

    The Federalist Papers is a collection of 85 articles and essays written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay under the collective pseudonym "Publius" to promote the ratification of the Constitution of the United States.The collection was commonly known as The Federalist until the name The Federalist Papers emerged in the twentieth century. ...

  6. Full Text of The Federalist Papers

    Full Text of The Federalist Papers - Federalist Papers: Primary ...

  7. Federalist Papers: Primary Documents in American History

    The Federalist, commonly referred to as the Federalist Papers, is a series of 85 essays written by Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison between October 1787 and May 1788.The essays were published anonymously, under the pen name "Publius," in various New York state newspapers of the time. The Federalist Papers were written and published to urge New Yorkers to ratify the proposed ...

  8. The Federalist Papers: An Essay-by-summary

    This is the eighth of eleven essays written by Hamilton defending the Presidency against the "unfairness" of the Antifederalist "representations.". This essay continues the coverage of A) IV. Attention is given to A) IV b, the commander-in-chief clause, and A) IV c, the power to pardon and reprieve clause.

  9. Introduction

    Introduction - Federalist Papers: Primary Documents in American History ...

  10. Federalist Party: Leaders, Beliefs & Definition

    The Federalist Party was an early U.S. political party that fought for a strong federal government. Supporters included John Adams, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay.

  11. Federalist 1 (1787)

    On October 27, 1787, Alexander Hamilton published the opening essay of The Federalist Papers—Federalist 1.The Federalist Papers were a series of 85 essays printed in newspapers to persuade the American people (and especially Hamilton's fellow New Yorkers) to support ratification of the new Constitution. These essays were written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay—with all ...

  12. PDF The US Constitution: Federalists v. Anti-Federalists

    between October 1787 and August 1788. In the spring of 1788, a collection of the essays was published as The Federalist, and in the twentieth century the essays became known as The Federalist Papers. Jurists and scholars continue to read The Federalist Papers today to understand the intentions behind different clauses of the Constitution.

  13. Federalist No. 1

    Federalist No. 1, titled "General Introduction", is an essay by Alexander Hamilton.It is the first essay of The Federalist Papers, and it serves as a general outline of the ideas that the writers wished to explore regarding the proposed constitution of the United States.The essay was first published in The Independent Journal on October 27, 1787, under the pseudonym Publius, the name under ...

  14. The Federalist Papers (1787-1789): Timeline

    January 1, 1788: J. & A. McLean announce plans to publish The Federalist. McLean publishers announce plans to compile a published volume of the first thirty-six Federalist essays. March 2, 1788: The Federalist, A Collection of Essays is published The first 36 Federalist essays are published in a single volume with its preface written and ...

  15. 3.5 Primary Source: Federalist No. 10 and Federalist No. 55

    These Federalist Papers supported the Constitution and continued to appear through the summer of 1788. Alexander Hamilton organized them, and he and Madison wrote most of the series of 85 articles, with John Jay contributing five. These essays were read and debated, especially in New York, which included many critics of the Constitution.

  16. Federalist Party, Summary, Facts, Significance, APUSH

    Federalist Party Facts. The Federalist Party started in 1791 and ended in 1824. The party was led by Alexander Hamilton, who was one of the authors of the Federalist Papers, a series of essays that advocated for the ratification of the U.S. Constitution. The Federalist Party supported a strong central government, a strong executive branch, and ...

  17. Federalist Papers: Primary Documents in American History

    The Federalist Papers were a series of eighty-five essays urging the citizens of New York to ratify the new United States Constitution. Written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay, the essays originally appeared anonymously in New York newspapers in 1787 and 1788 under the pen name "Publius." The Federalist Papers are considered ...

  18. The Federalist Era

    The Federalist Era lasted roughly from 1789 to 1801, when the Federalist Party dominated and shaped American politics. This era saw the adoption of the U.S. Constitution and the growth of a strong centralized government. The period also was characterized by foreign tensions and conflict with France and England, as well as by internal opposition ...

  19. Federalist Era

    The Federalist Era in American history ran from 1788 to 1800, a time when the Federalist Party and its predecessors were dominant in American politics. During this period, Federalists generally controlled Congress and enjoyed the support of President George Washington and President John Adams. The era saw the creation of a new, stronger federal ...

  20. Federalist Papers

    The essays, which appeared in newspapers addressed to the people of the state of New York, are known as the Federalist Papers. They are regarded as one of the most authoritative sources on the meaning of the Constitution, including constitutional principles such as checks and balances, federalism, and separation of powers. Founding Principle.

  21. The Federalist Papers Essay 10 Summary and Analysis

    The Federalist Papers essays are academic essays for citation. These papers were written primarily by students and provide critical analysis of The Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton, John Jay and James Madison. A Close Reading of James Madison's The Federalist No. 51 and its Relevancy Within the Sphere of Modern Political Thought.

  22. Federalism

    federalism, mode of political organization that unites separate states or other polities within an overarching political system in a way that allows each to maintain its own integrity. Federal systems do this by requiring that basic policies be made and implemented through negotiation in some form, so that all the members can share in making ...

  23. Federalists and Anti-Federalists, Summary, Facts, Significance

    Prominent Federalists were James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay. During the debate on the Constitution, the Federalists published a series of articles known as the "Federalists Papers" that argued for the passage of the Constitution. The Federalists eventually formed the Federalist Party in 1791. Quick Facts About Anti-Federalists

  24. McConnell Built Today's Supreme Court. Will He Come to Regret It?

    An entire era of jurisprudence seems likely to be the product of McConnell's political jiu jitsu. But that era's jurisprudence might go in directions McConnell never anticipated. When the ...