From Academic Kids
The Federalist Papers are a series of 85 articles about the United States Constitution, first published serially in New York City newspapers (the Independent Journal, the New-York Packet and the Daily Advertiser) between October 27, 1787 and May 28, 1788. A compilation, called The Federalist, was published in 1788.
The articles were intended to explain the new Constitution to the residents of New York state and persuade them to ratify it. The articles were written under the pseudonym "Publius" by James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay. Madison is generally credited as the father of the Constitution and became the fourth President of the United States. Hamilton was an influential delegate at the Constitutional Convention, and later the first Secretary of the Treasury. John Jay would become the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Hamilton penned the majority, Madison made several significant contributions to the series, Jay wrote but a handful. The authorship for 73 of the papers is fairly certain. But there are 12 of them that are in dispute, with no definitive way to say who wrote them, though all 12 were generally considered to be written by either Madison or Hamilton. Adding to the difficulty, Hamilton claimed authorship of some of them well after they were written. Statistical analysis has been undertaken a number of times to try to decide based on word frequencies and writing styles, and nearly all of the statistical studies show that all 12 papers were written by Madison. (Fung, 2003)
The Federalist Papers serve as a primary source for interpretation of the Constitution. They also outline the philosophy and motivation of the proposed system of government, as it was presented by Madison, Hamilton, and Jay. The authors of the Federalist Papers were not above using the opportunity to provide their own "spin" on certain provisions of the constitution to (i) influence the vote on ratification and (ii) influence future interpretations of the provisions in question.
The Federalist papers are remarkable for their opposition to what later became the United States Bill of Rights. The idea of adding a bill of rights to the constitution was originally controversial. The idea was that the constitution, as written did not specifically enumerate or protect the rights of the people, and as such needed an addition to ensure such protection. However, many Americans at the time opposed the bill of rights: If such a bill were created, many people feared that this would later be interpreted as a list of the only rights that people had. Hamilton wrote:
- It has been several times truly remarked, that bills of rights are in their origin, stipulations between kings and their subjects, abridgments of prerogative in favor of privilege, reservations of rights not surrendered to the prince. Such was Magna Carta, obtained by the Barons, sword in hand, from king John....It is evident, therefore, that according to their primitive signification, they have no application to constitutions professedly founded upon the power of the people, and executed by their immediate representatives and servants. Here, in strictness, the people surrender nothing, and as they retain every thing, they have no need of particular reservations. "We the people of the United States, to secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this constitution for the United States of America." Here is a better recognition of popular rights than volumes of those aphorisms which make the principal figure in several of our state bills of rights, and which would sound much better in a treatise of ethics than in a constitution of government....
- I go further, and affirm that bills of rights, in the sense and in the extent in which they are contended for, are not only unnecessary in the proposed constitution, but would even be dangerous. They would contain various exceptions to powers which are not granted; and on this very account, would afford a colorable pretext to claim more than were granted. For why declare that things shall not be done which there is no power to do? Why for instance, should it be said, that the liberty of the press shall not be restrained, when no power is given by which restrictions may be imposed? I will not contend that such a provision would confer a regulating power; but it is evident that it would furnish, to men disposed to usurp, a plausible pretense for claiming that power.
- (Alexander Hamilton, Federalist, no. 84, 575-581, 28 May 1788)
Supporters of the bill of rights argued that a list of rights would and should not be interpreted as exhaustive; i.e. that these rights were examples of important rights that people had, but that people had other rights as well. People in this school of thought were confident that the judiciary would interpret these rights in an expansive fashion.
- Fung, Glenn, The disputed federalist papers: SVM feature selection via concave minimization, New York City, ACM Press, 2003. (9 pg pdf file (http://www.cs.wisc.edu/~gfung/federalist.pdf))
- Dietze, Gottfried. The Federalist: A Classic on Federalism and Free Government, Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1960.
- Epstein, David F. The Political Theory of the Federalist, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1984.
- Gray, Leslie, and Wynell Burroughs. "Teaching With Documents: Ratification of the Constitution," Social Education, 51 (1987): 322-324.
- Patrick, John J., and Clair W. Keller. Lessons on the Federalist Papers: Supplements to High School Courses in American History, Government and Civics, Bloomington, IN: Organization of American Historians in association with ERIC/ChESS, 1987. ED 280 764.
- Schechter, Stephen L. Teaching about American Federal Democracy, Philadelphia: Center for the Study of Federalism at Temple University, 1984. ED 248 161.
- Yarbrough, Jean. "The Federalist". This Constitution: A Bicentennial Chronicle, 16 (1987): 4-9. SO 018 489.
- Webster, Mary E. The Federalist Papers: In Modern Language Indexed for Today's Political Issues. Bellevue, WA.: Merril Press, 1999.
- Wills, Gary. The Federalist Papers: By Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay, New York: Bantam Book, 1982.
- Speaker of the House: The Federalist Papers (http://speaker.house.gov/library/texts/federalist/default.asp)
- Teaching the Federalist Papers (http://www.ericdigests.org/pre-928/papers.htm) teaching the federalist papers
- The Avalon Project at Yale Law School: The Federalist Papers (http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/federal/fed.htm)
- Federalist Papers on the Bill of Rights (http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/documents/bill_of_rightss7.html)