The Federalist Papers

The Federalist Papers consist of eighty-five letters written to newspapers in the late 1780s urging ratification of the U.S Constitution. With the Constitution needing approval from nine of thirteen states, the press was flooded with letters about the controversial document.

Statesmen like Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay weighed in with a series of essays under the pseudonym “Publius,” addressing the objections of opponents, who feared a tyrannical central government that would supersede states’ rights and encroach on individual liberties. These essayists argued that the proposed system would preserve the Union and empower the federal government to act firmly in the national interest. Conflicting economic and political interests would be reconciled through a representative Congress, whose legislation would be subject to presidential veto and judicial review.

They believed that this system of checks and balances and the Constitution’s clear definition of the powers of the federal government—few, limited, and defined, as Madison put it—would protect states’ rights and individual rights. The articles, written in the spirit of propaganda and logical argument, probably had little influence on public opinion of the day.

Source: The Federalist Papers
© 2017, A&E Television Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Back to top