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#1 - General Introduction

Federalist Papers (version 2)

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Summary

“The Federalist Papers” are a collection of 85 linked essays that explain the construction of the U.S. government and why it was built that way. The Papers are regarded as the best pipeline into understanding the U.S. Constitution and the founding principles of the government it would establish.

I have endeavored here to present these essays, not as articles in a newspaper, but as you might have experienced them if you had sat in a comfortable tavern with a tankard in hand, and listened while these ardent men ranged in front of a friendly fireplace as they attempted to convince you of their arguments.

Following the Revolutionary War, the newly-independent United States of America were organized under the Articles of Confederation. This well-intentioned document was faulty to the purpose, and the new nation rapidly found itself in dire financial distress.

Consequently, in 1787 a Constitutional Convention was called to produce a new blueprint for the government. After completion, that plan was sent to the States in September of that year for ratification, but it immediately came under fire for the powers it granted to the central government.

In New York, views on either side were heated. To persuade the public to support the Constitution for ratification, Alexander Hamilton (who had been a delegate to the Convention) and John Jay (who had helped negotiate the treaty with Great Britain that ended the War), began a series of anonymous essays to educate the citizenry in how the government would be arranged, and why those choices had been made. Later, when Jay was rendered unable to continue by an attack of rheumatism, Virginian James Madison (another Convention delegate who was in New York, serving in the Confederation Congress) was recruited to fill in.

Each wrote essays that were signed “Publius,” the name of a general who had helped to found Rome, to conceal their identities, which might have led to difficulties as Hamilton and Madison had been inside the deliberations at the Convention. These essays were published serially in New York newspapers, eventually reaching the total of 85. (Summary by Mark Smith)

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