The Federalist Papers
The Federalist Papers were a series of eighty-five essays urging the citizens of New York to ratify the new United States Constitution. Written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay, the essays originally appeared anonymously in New York newspapers in 1787 and 1788 under the pen name "Publius." The Federalist Papers are considered one of the most important sources for interpreting and understanding the original intent of the Constitution.
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A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774-1875
This collection contains congressional publications from 1774 to 1875, including debates, bills, laws, and journals.
- Elliot's Debates is a five-volume collection compiled by Jonathan Elliot in the mid-nineteenth century. The volumes remain the best source for materials about the national government's transitional period between the closing of the Constitutional Convention in September 1787 and the opening of the First Federal Congress in March 1789.
- Farrand's Records gathered the documentary records of the Constitutional Convention into four volumes, three of which are included in this online collection, containing the materials necessary to study the workings of the Constitutional Convention. The notes taken at that time by James Madison, and later revised by him, form the largest single block of material other than the official proceedings. The three volumes also include notes and letters by many other participants, as well as the various constitutional plans proposed during the convention.
- The Making of the U.S. Constitution is a special presentation that provides a brief history of the making of the Constitution followed by the text of the Constitution itself.
Documents from the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention, 1774 to 1789
This collection contains 277 documents relating to the work of Congress and the drafting and ratification of the Constitution.
George Washington Papers
The complete George Washington Papers collection from the Manuscript Division at the Library of Congress consists of approximately 65,000 documents.
The Washington Papers include the following references to the Federalist Papers:
- George Washington to Alexander Hamilton, November 10, 1787, "I thank you for the Pamphlet and for the Gazette contained in your letter of the 30th Ult. For the remaining numbers of Publius, I shall acknowledge myself obliged, as I am persuaded the subject will be well handled by the Author."
- George Washington to Alexander Hamilton, August 28, 1788, "As the perusal of the political papers under the signature of Publius has afforded me great satisfaction, I shall certainly consider them as claiming a most distinguished place in my Library."
Search Washington's papers using the word "Publius" to locate additional documents related to the Federalist Papers.
James Madison Papers, 1723 to 1859
James Madison (1751-1836) is one of 23 presidents whose papers are held in the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress. The Madison Papers consist of approximately 12,000 items.
- James Madison to Thomas Jefferson, August 10, 1788. Partly in Cipher, "I believe I never have yet mentioned to you that publication. It was undertaken last fall by Jay, Hamilton, and myself. The proposal came from the two former. The execution was thrown, by the sickness of Jay, mostly on the two others. Though carried on in concert, the writers are not mutually answerable for all the ideas of each other, there being seldom time for even a perusal of the pieces by any but the writer before they were wanted at the press, and sometimes hardly by the writer himself."
- James Madison to Jacob Gideon, Jr., January 28, 1818, "I send you a Copy of the 1st. Edition of the “Federalist,” with the names of the writers prefixed to their respective numbers."
Search the Madison papers using terms such as "Publius" or "Federalist" to locate additional documents related to this topic.
Thomas Jefferson Papers, 1606 to 1827
The complete Thomas Jefferson Papers from the Manuscript Division at the Library of Congress consists of approximately 27,000 documents.
- Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, November 18, 1788, Sent with Two Plans for Funding Foreign Debt, "With respect to the Federalist, the three authors had been named to me. I read it with care, pleasure & improvement, and was satisfied there was nothing in it by one of those hands, & not a great deal by a second. It does the highest honor to the third, as being, in my opinion, the best commentary on the principles of government which ever was written." [transcription]
Words and Deeds in American History: Selected Documents Celebrating the Manuscript Division's First 100 Years
In honor of the Manuscript Division's centennial, its staff has selected for online display approximately ninety representative documents spanning from the fifteenth century to the mid-twentieth century.
American Treasures of the Library of Congress - The Federalist
James Madison's Federalist no. 10 is one of the most important and enduring statements of American political theory. Its reasoned statement explains what an expanding nation might do if it accepted the basic premise of majority rule, a balanced government of three separate branches, and a commitment to balance all the diverse interests through a system of checks and balances.
Creating the United States
This online exhibition offers insights into how the nation’s founding documents were forged and the role that imagination and vision played in the unprecedented creative act of forming a self–governing country. The exhibition includes a section on Creating the United States Constitution that contains images from Thomas Jefferson's copy of the Federalist Papers.
Includes Thomas Jefferson's annotated copy of the Federalist Papers.
The federalist: a collection of essays, written in favour of the new Constitution, as agreed upon by the Federal convention, September 17, 1787, in two volumes. New-York: Printed and sold by J. and A. M'Lean ..., 1788.
December 12, 1745
John Jay, one of the nation's founding fathers, was born on December 12, 1745, to a prominent and wealthy family in the Province of New York.
March 16, 1751
James Madison, "Father of the Constitution" and fourth president of the United States, was born on March 16, 1751.
September 17, 1787
Members of the Constitutional Convention signed the final draft of the Constitution on September 17, 1787.
October 27, 1787
Known as the Federalist Papers, the first in a series of eighty-five essays by "Publius," the pen name of Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay, appeared in the New York Independent Journal on October 27, 1787.
December 15, 1791
The new United States of America adopted the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution, confirming the fundamental rights of its citizens on December 15, 1791.
July 11, 1804
On July 11, 1804, political antagonists and personal enemies Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr met on the heights of Weehawken, New Jersey to settle their longstanding differences with a duel. The participants fired their pistols in close succession. Burr's shot met its target immediately, fatally wounding Hamilton and leading to his death the following day. Burr escaped unharmed.
The Federalist Papers, The Avalon Project at Yale Law School
The Founders' Constitution, University of Chicago Press and the Liberty Fund
Our Documents, Federalist Papers, No. 10 & No. 51, National Archives and Records Administration
Adair, Douglass. "The Authorship of the Disputed Federalist Papers." William & Mary Quarterly 1, no. 2 (April 1944): 97-122.
-----. "The Authorship of the Disputed Federalist Papers: Part II." William & Mary Quarterly 1, no. 3 (July 1944): 235-264.
Cooke, Jacob E., ed. The Federalist. Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press, 1961. [Catalog Record] [Full Text]
Dietze, Gottfried. The Federalist: A Classic on Federalism and Free Government. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999. [Catalog Record]
Duvall, Edward D. The Federalist Companion: A Guide to Understanding the Federalist Papers. Gilbert, Ariz.: Fremont Valley Books, 2011. [Catalog Record]
Morris, Richard B. Witnesses at the Creation: Hamilton, Madison, Jay, and the Constitution. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1985. [Catalog Record]
Rossiter, Clinton L., ed. The Federalist Papers: Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, John Jay. New York: Mentor, 1999. [Catalog Record]
Taylor, Quentin P., ed. The Essential Federalist: A New Reading of the Federalist Papers. Madison, Wis.: Madison House, 1998. [Catalog Record]
Ball, Lea. The Federalist--Anti-Federalist Debate over States' Rights: A Primary Source Investigation. New York: Rosen Central Primary Source, 2005. [Catalog Record]
The Federalist Papers, a group of 85 essays promoting the ratification of the Constitution, appeared in New York newspapers in 1787 and 1788. Taken together, the essays form a powerful defense of the new theory of government that for a time hung in the balance.
The Constitutional Convention produced its final draft of the Constitution and submitted it to the 13 Colonies for approval in September, 1787. The Constitution itself stipulated that in order to become law, the new framework of government had to gain the approval of nine of the 13 Colonies. New York, as a colony with one of the largest populations, had considerable influence. Some states quickly ratified the Constitution; other states were more deliberate in their consideration.
Federalists like Alexander Hamilton and John Jay saw a need for promotion of the Constitution in New York, especially after newspapers there printed anonymous letters arguing against the Constitution's ratification. A few New York newspapers published a letter from "Cato," on September 27, 1787, and a letter from "Brutus" three weeks later. Other letters from "Cato" and "Brutus" followed in the next several months. The authors of the letters are generally thought to have been George Clinton ("Cato") and Robert Yates ("Brutus"). Both "identities" took their names from famous Romans, both opponents of Julius Caesar.
In response, Hamilton and Jay, along with James Madison (who, unlike Hamilton and Jay, was from Virginia, not New York), chose the name "Publius," after a Roman aristocrat who led the overthrow of the Roman monarchy in 509 B.C.
Delaware became the first state to ratify the Constitution, on December 7, 1787. Pennsylvania and New Jersey followed later that month. Georgia and Connecticut ratified in January, 1788. Massachusetts followed the following month, with Maryland (April) and South Carolina (May) also ratifying later that year. When New Hampshire ratified, on June 21, 1788, the Constitution was declared in effect. Virginia voted for ratification in June, and New York did the same the following month. North Carolina, in 1789, and Rhode Island, in 1790, became the last of the 13 Colonies to vote for ratification.
At the time of the publication of The Federalist No. 1, on October 27, 1787, no states had voted for ratification. Hamilton and other Federalists wanted New York to voice its approval because the colony had one of the largest populations in the 13 Colonies. So issues of The Federalist began appearing, along with more of the "Cato" and "Brutus" letters. For the better part of the next year, more essays of The Federalist, each one arguing in favor of the Constitution and some its components or ideas. Hamilton wrote nearly two-thirds of the 85 essays. Jay wrote just a few, writing four of the first five but then falling ill and writing just one more. Madison wrote the rest, including several in collaboration with Hamilton.
The Federalist appeared regularly, as many as four times a week, for the better part of the next year in three newspapers, the Daily Advertiser, the Independent Journal, and the New-York Packet. In all, 77 of the 85 were published in newspapers; the others were published in a two-volume book form, in late 1788. The essays were also published in other colonies, in both newspapers and book form. (A French edition was published in 1792.)
Each essay began the same way, "To the People of the State of New York," and ended the same way, signed "Publius." The identity of "Publius" was not a complete secret. Many in New York and elsewhere knew that Hamilton, Jay, and Madison were behind the efforts of The Federalist. An 1802 book version named the authors for the first time. At times through the years since the essays first appeared and throughout the publication of subsequent editions, disputes over authorship have arisen. Historians have generally agreed on all of Jay's essays and most of the others. Both Hamilton and Madison claimed authorship of a few, and some scholars still disagree on the extent to which either or both contributed to specific essays.
The essays that make up The Federalist (as it was called until the 20th Century, when scholars beginning adding the word "Papers") generally had one central theme each, although some themes carried over into multiple essays. In the first essay, Hamilton laid out the six topics that would be covered:
1. "The utility of the UNION to your political prosperity"
2. "The insufficiency of the present Confederation to preserve that Union"
3. "The necessity of a government at least equally energetic with the one proposed to the attainment of this object"
4. "The conformity of the proposed constitution to the true principles of republican government"
5. "Its analogy to your own state constitution"
6. "The additional security which its adoption will afford to the preservation of that species of government, to liberty and to prosperity"
Essays 2–14 covered the first topic. Essays 15–22 covered the second topic. The third topic featured in essays 23–36. Numbers 37–84 covered the fourth topic. It was left to the final essay to cover the final two topics.