Context

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 428

Alexander Hamilton, an influential New York lawyer and convention delegate, conceived The Federalist as a series of newspaper essays to defend the work of the Constitutional Convention that met in Philadelphia in 1787. He recruited James Madison, a notable Virginia delegate to the Convention, and John Jay, a respected diplomat and former New York jurist, as coauthors. All three men believed that New York’s ratification of the Constitution was crucial in setting up an effective central government, and The Federalist was designed first to influence events in New York and then to make a nationwide impression. The impact of The Federalist helped make New York the eleventh state to ratify the new Constitution on July 26, 1788.

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The first essay, written by Hamilton and outlining the projected plans for a series of articles defending the Constitution, appeared on October 27, 1787. The series concluded with the eighty-fifth essay, which was published on August 16, 1788. The first thirty-six essays were collected in March, 1788, and a volume containing essays thirty-seven to eighty-five appeared later that year. All three authors used the pseudonym Publius. The ratification of the Constitution was not seen as a foregone conclusion in 1787-1788 because many respected Americans became anti-Federalists out of fear of an overly strong federal government, and The Federalist was an effective propaganda piece that helped sway public opinion during a crucial period.

Despite multiple authorship, The Federalist retained an impressive degree of internal unity. More than two hundred years later, The Federalist is still considered one of the United States’ best contributions to world political philosophy, and conservative contemporary lawyers tend to cite it to defend their constitutional interpretations.

In the first essay, Hamilton described the scope of The Federalist. He stated that later essays would examine the usefulness of the Union, the inadequacy of the Articles of Confederation to preserve the Union, and the necessity of an “energetic,” or strong, central government. The work would also attempt to prove that the proposed federal Constitution did not violate republican ideals and was analogous to existing state constitutions and that the adoption of the Constitution would preserve liberty, property, and existing forms of government. Most contemporary and later observers have agreed that The Federalist was a credible attempt to achieve these goals by men learned in history, law, political theory, and philosophy as these disciplines were understood in late eighteenth century terms by British Americans nurtured on the traditions of classical antiquity. The authors were pragmatic optimists who were well aware of human failings but optimistic that the American people could create a government worthy of emulation by others.

The Value of the Union

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 330

In the second essay, Jay set out to prove the value of the newly independent states remaining united, which had not been questioned until just before the writing of The Federalist. He argued that Americans logically constituted one people by ancestry, religion, manners, and customs as well as the possession of common governmental principles, and Americans had worked together to secure their independence in the recent Revolutionary War against Great Britain. He also stressed that the American people had recognized the importance of remaining united in the most difficult periods of the Revolutionary War conflict. In addition, Jay declared that the dissolution of the Union would end America’s greatness.

Having established or attempted to establish the value of the Union, The Federalist turned to the flaws of the Articles of Confederation for the effective...

(The entire section contains 2402 words.)

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