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.
Federalist Papers No. 10 (1787)
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.
Federalist Papers No. 39 (1776)
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 Papers No. 51 (1788)
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 Papers No. 70 (1788)
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.
A proponent of a strong national government with an “energetic executive,” he is sometimes described as the godfather of modern big government.
No other Founder had as much influence in crafting, ratifying, and interpreting the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights as he did. A skilled political tactician, Madison proved instrumental in determining the form of the early American republic.
John Jay epitomized the selfless leader of the American Revolution. Born to a prominent New York family, John Jay gained notoriety as a lawyer in his home state.