James Madison

Start Free Trial


Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

The authors of The Federalist, who used the pseudonym Publius, based on Greek biographer Plutarch’s account of the Roman politician Publius Valerius Publicola, provided a critical exposition of the Constitution immediately after it was written in eighty-five essays originally published serially in a newspaper and later in book form. The Federalist played a crucial role in the struggle to ratify the Constitution, especially in the vital swing state of New York, and it provided a good argument that the governance problems that the United States experienced under the Articles of Confederation were too severe to be remedied by patchwork alterations by 1787. Although the more limited Annapolis Convention of 1786 had only recommended revisions to the articles after examining the political situation, propertied, informed individuals sought more drastic change. Therefore, in 1787, a Constitutional Convention was called in Philadelphia with the stated goal of salvaging the Articles of Confederation, and it produced an entirely new document, creating a strong central government and allowing it to act directly on individuals, which the Confederation government never had the authority to do.

Both Hamilton and Madison, convention delegates, defended a work they had participated in writing from charges of usurpation of power. For more than two centuries, The Federalist has commanded respect as an outstanding work of U.S. political theory and been cited by lawyers seeking to interpret the Constitution.


Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Adair, Douglass. Fame and the Founding Fathers: Essays. Edited by Trevor Colbourn. Indianapolis, Ind.: Liberty Fund, 1998. An important series of essays, worthy of a thorough reading.

Alley, Robert S., ed. James Madison on Religious Liberty. Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1989. A collection of essays on Madison’s intellectual and political legacy of American religious freedom. In addition to historical and analytical papers, the book includes excerpts from Madison’s own writings on religion.

Banning, Lance. The Sacred Fire of Liberty: James Madison and the Founding of the Federal Republic. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1995. An award-winning intellectual biography.

Blackmun, Harry A. “John Jay and The Federalist Papers.” Pace Law Review (Spring, 1988): 237-248. Blackmun presented this speech at the Peter Jay family home on the occasion of the bicentennial of The Federalist. He discussed John Jay’s contributions to The Federalist and the flaws in the 1787 Constitution’s treatment of African Americans, American Indians, and women.

Carey, George W. “The Federalist”: Design for a Constitutional Republic. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994. An examination of The Federalist.

Epstein, David F. The Political Theory of The Federalist. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984. Epstein holds that the authors of The Federalist envisioned a new government that could accommodate both its most and its least pretentious citizens as well as make use of factions. Epstein devotes a chapter to essay 10, in which James Madison treated factions and also shows how the partisanship of the people, spirited election contests, and the exclusion of citizens in the aggregate help create a workable framework for republican government.

Furtwangler, Albert. The Authority of Publius: A Reading of “The Federalist Papers.” Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1984. Furtwangler’s work provides a more critical and less reverential approach to the analysis of The Federalist. The author sees The Federalist as a piece of high-quality journalism that should be studied not with uncritical reverence but with an examination of the contradictions between different essays.

Koch, Adrienne. Jefferson and Madison: The Great Collaboration. 1950. Reprint. Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 1986. An important study of the relationship between Madison and Jefferson.

Leibiger, Stuart Eric. Founding Friendship: George Washington, James Madison, and the Creation...

(This entire section contains 777 words.)

See This Study Guide Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this study guide. You'll also get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

of the American Republic. Charlotte: University Press of Virginia, 2001. A study of the friendship and mutual political and intellectual influence between Washington and Madison. An illuminating look at Madison’s biography through the 1790’s.

McCoy, Drew R. The Last of the Fathers: James Madison and the Republican Legacy. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991. A biography that focuses on Madison’s later years. Especially illuminating on Madison’s views on slavery.

Millican, Edward. One United People: The Federalist Papers and the National Idea. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1990. Millican’s text stresses nationalism as the key factor motivating the authors of The Federalist. He connects Alexander Hamilton’s support of a strong, centralized government with the views of Franklin D. Roosevelt and New Deal liberals. Millican contends that both the political left and the political right fell short of Publius’s sound brand of nationalism in the 1980’s.

Rakove, Jack N. James Madison and the Creation of the American Republic. 2d ed. New York: Longman, 2001. A well-regarded political biography.

Read, James. Power Versus Liberty: Madison, Hamilton, Wilson, Jefferson. Charlotte: University Press of Virginia, 2000. The chapter on Madison argues that he was a much more consistent political thinker than many previous scholars have believed. A very readable study.

Rives, William C. History of the Life and Times of James Madison. 3 vols. 1859-1870. Reprint. Freeport, N.Y.: Books for Libraries Press, 1970. This old-fashioned biography does not go beyond 1797 but is important because Rives was a family friend and had access to both Madison’s and Jefferson’s papers before their dispersal.

Sheldon, Garrett Ward. The Political Philosophy of James Madison. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002. A study of Madison’s political thought.

White, Morton. Philosophy, “The Federalist,” and the Constitution. New York: Oxford University Press, 1987. White analyzes the philosophical assumptions that guided Hamilton, Madison, and Jay in their writings as Publius. White finds that Publius was both a pragmatist and an ideologist who was sometimes troubled by conflicting beliefs such as the need to retain slavery in order to preserve the Union in the context of the realities of 1787. In conclusion, White holds that The Federalist was a philosophical hybrid of “Lockean rationalism” in morals and “Humeian empiricism” in politics.

Wills, Garry. Explaining America: “The Federalist.” Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1981. Wills, a convert from National Review conservatism to moderate liberalism, offers a unique perspective on the ideology of The Federalist. He illustrates Scottish philosopher David Hume’s influence on Hamilton and Madison as authors of The Federalist.


Critical Essays