The Federalist Papers (1787-1788)
After the Constitution was completed during the summer of 1787, the work of ratifying it (or approving it) began. As the Constitution itself required, 3/4ths of the states would have to approve the new Constitution before it would go into effect for those ratifying states.
The Constitution granted the national government more power than under the Articles of Confederation. Many Americans were concerned that the national government with its new powers, as well as the new division of power between the central and state governments, would threaten liberty.
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.
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.
A proponent of a strong national government with an “energetic executive,” he is sometimes described as the godfather of modern big government.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Would you have been a Federalist or an Anti-Federalist?
Federalist or Anti-Federalist? Over the next few months we will explore through a series of eLessons the debate over ratification of the United States Constitution as discussed in the Federalist and Anti-Federalist papers. We look forward to exploring this important debate with you! One of the great debates in American history was over the ratification […]