A collection of eighty-five essays by Alexander Hamilton (1755–1804), James Madison (1751–1836), and John Jay (1745–1829) that explain the philosophy and defend the advantages of the U.S. Constitution.
The essays that constitute The Federalist Papers were published in various New York newspapers between October 27, 1787, and August 16, 1788, and appeared in book form in March and May 1788. They remain important statements of U.S. political and legal philosophy as well as a key source for understanding the U.S. Constitution.
The Federalist Papers originated in a contentious debate over ratification of the U.S. Constitution. After its completion by the Constitutional Convention on September 17, 1787, the Constitution required ratification by nine states before it could become effective. A group known as the Federalists favored passage of the Constitution, and the Anti-Federalists opposed it.
To secure its ratification in New York State, Federalists Hamilton, Madison, and Jay published the Federalist essays under the pseudonym Publius, a name taken from Publius Valerius Poplicola, a leading politician of the ancient Roman republic. Their purpose was to clarify and explain the provisions of the Constitution, expounding its benefits over the existing system of government under the Articles of Confederation.
To the People of the State of New York:
AFTER an unequivocal experience of the inefficiency of the subsisting federal government, you are called upon to deliberate on a new Constitution for the United States of America. The subject speaks its own importance; comprehending in its consequences nothing less than the existence of the UNION, the safety and welfare of the parts of which it is composed, the fate of an empire in many respects the most interesting in the world. It has been frequently remarked that it seems to have been reserved to the people of this country, by their conduct and example, to decide the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force. If there be any truth in the remark, the crisis at which we are arrived may with propriety be regarded as the era in which that decision is to be made; and a wrong election of the part we shall act may, in this view, deserve to be considered as the general misfortune of mankind.
Alexander Hamilton (January 11, 1755 or 1757 – July 12, 1804) was an American politician, statesman, writer, lawyer, and soldier. One of the United States' most prominent and brilliant early constitutional lawyers, he was an influential delegate to the United States Constitutional Convention and one of the principal authors of the Federalist Papers, which expounded and urged the ratification of the U.S. Constitution to skeptical New Yorkers. The Federalist Papers—and Hamilton's contributions to them—remain today a standard source on the original intent of the document.
James Madison (March 16, 1751 – June 28, 1836) was one of the principal framers of the U.S. Constitution, a Virginia representative to Congress, secretary of state in the administration of Thomas Jefferson, and fourth president of the United States. Sometimes called the Father of the Constitution, Madison played a leading role as an organizer, delegate, and chronicler of the 1787 Constitutional Convention. He was an influential advocate for the adoption of the Constitution by the states and the most forceful proponent of including a Bill of Rights in the new federal charter. Madison, with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay, authored the Federalist Papers (1788), a series of eighty-five essays on government that defended the proposed Constitution based on political theory, historical precedent, and specific factors relating to the newly independent United States.
John Jay (December 12, 1745 – May 17, 1829) was an American politician, statesman, revolutionary, diplomat, and jurist, best known as the first Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Considered one of the "Founding Fathers" of the United States, Jay served in the Continental Congress and was elected president of that body in 1778. During and after the American Revolution, he was the ambassador to Spain and France, helping to fashion American foreign policy and to secure favorable peace terms from the British and French. He co-wrote the Federalist Papers with Alexander Hamilton and James Madison.
Jay served on the U.S. Supreme Court as the first Chief Justice of the United States from 1789 to 1795. In 1794, he negotiated the Jay Treaty with the British.
A leader of the new Federalist Party, Jay was elected Governor of New York from 1795-1801. He was a leading opponent of slavery and the slave trade in New York. A deeply religious man, in later life he served as president of the American Bible Society.