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The Federalist

Cover of The Federalist

The Federalist

A Commentary on the Constitution of the United States
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The series of essays that comprise The Federalist constitutes one of the key texts of the American Revolution and the democratic system created in the wake of independence. Written in 1787 and 1788 by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay to promote the ratification of the proposed Constitution, these papers stand as perhaps the most eloquent testimonial to democracy that exists. They describe the ideas behind the American system of government: the separation of powers; the organization of Congress; the respective positions of the executive, legislative, and judiciary; and much more. The Federalist remains essential reading for anyone interested in politics and government, and indeed for anyone seeking a foundational statement about democracy and America.

This new edition of The Federalist is edited by Robert Scigliano, a professor in the political science department at Boston College. His substantive Introduction sheds clarifying new light on the historical context and meaning of The Federalist. Scigliano also provides a fresh and definitive analysis of the disputed authorship of several sections of this crucial work.

From the Hardcover edition.

The series of essays that comprise The Federalist constitutes one of the key texts of the American Revolution and the democratic system created in the wake of independence. Written in 1787 and 1788 by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay to promote the ratification of the proposed Constitution, these papers stand as perhaps the most eloquent testimonial to democracy that exists. They describe the ideas behind the American system of government: the separation of powers; the organization of Congress; the respective positions of the executive, legislative, and judiciary; and much more. The Federalist remains essential reading for anyone interested in politics and government, and indeed for anyone seeking a foundational statement about democracy and America.

This new edition of The Federalist is edited by Robert Scigliano, a professor in the political science department at Boston College. His substantive Introduction sheds clarifying new light on the historical context and meaning of The Federalist. Scigliano also provides a fresh and definitive analysis of the disputed authorship of several sections of this crucial work.

From the Hardcover edition.

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  • Chapter One

    Hamilton October 27, 1787

    To the People of the State of New York:

    After a full experience of the insufficiency of the existing federal government, you are invited to deliberate upon 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, to decide by their conduct and example, 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 period when 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.

    This idea by adding the inducements of philanthropy to those of patriotism, will heighten the solicitude which all considerate and good men must feel for the event. Happy will it be if our choice should be decided by a judicious estimate of our true interests, uninfluenced and unbiased by considerations foreign to the public good. But this is a thing more ardently to be wished for than seriously to be expected. The plan offered to our deliberations affects too many particular interests, innovates upon too many local institutions, not to involve in its discussion a variety of objects extraneous to its merits, and of views, passions and prejudices little favorable to the discovery of truth.

    Among the most formidable of the obstacles which the new Constitution will have to encounter may readily be distinguished the obvious interest of a certain class of men in every State to resist all changes which may hazard a diminution of the power, emolument, and consequence of the offices they hold under the State establishments; and the perverted ambition of another class of men, who will either hope to aggrandize themselves by the confusions of their country, or will flatter themselves with fairer prospects of elevation from the subdivision of the empire into several partial confederacies than from its union under one government.

    It is not, however, my design to dwell upon observations of this nature. I am aware that it would be disingenuous to resolve indiscriminately the opposition of any set of men into interested or ambitious views merely because their situations might subject them to suspicion. Candor will oblige us to admit that even such men may be actuated by upright intentions; and it cannot be doubted that much of the opposition which has already shown itself or may hereafter make its appearance, will spring from sources, blameless at least, if not respectable--the honest errors of minds led astray by preconceived jealousies and fears. So numerous indeed and so powerful are the causes which serve to give a false bias to the judgment, that we, upon many occasions, see wise and good men on the wrong as well as on the right side of questions of the first magnitude to society. This circumstance, if duly attended to, would always furnish a lesson of moderation to those who are engaged in any controversy however well persuaded of being in the right. And a further reason for caution, in this respect, might be drawn from the reflection that we are not always sure that those who advocate the truth are actuated by purer...

About the Author-
  • Robert Scigliano is a professor in the political science department at Boston College and a leading authority on the Constitution.

Reviews-
  • Thomas Jefferson

    "The best commentary on the principles of government which was ever written."

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    Random House Publishing Group
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