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.
Library of Congress Web Site | External Web Sites | Selected Bibliography
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]
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Federalist No. 10(Federalist Number 10) is an essay by James Madison and the tenth of the Federalist Papers, a series arguing for the ratification of the United States Constitution. It was published on November 22, 1787, under the pseudonym Publius, the name under which all the Federalist Papers were published. The essay is the most famous of the Federalist Papers, along with Federalist No. 51, also by James Madison, and is among the most highly regarded of all American political writings.
No. 10 addresses the question of how to guard against "factions," groups of citizens with interests contrary to the rights of others or the interests of the whole community. In today's discourse, the term special interest often carries the same connotation. Madison argued that a strong, large republic would be a better guard against those dangers than smaller republics—for instance, the individual states. It is believed that James Madison took ideas from Thomas Hobbes in regards to a strong controlling government. Opponents of the Constitution offered counterarguments to his position, which were substantially derived from the commentary of Montesquieu on this subject.
Federalist No. 10 continues a theme begun in Federalist No. 9; it is titled, "The Same Subject Continued: The Utility of the Union as a Safeguard Against Domestic Faction and Insurrection." The whole series is cited by scholars and jurists as an authoritative interpretation and explication of the meaning of the Constitution. Jurists have frequently read No. 10 to mean that the Founding Fathers did not intend the United States government to be partisan.
By September 17, 1787, the Philadelphia Convention had submitted the Constitution to the states for ratification. Anti-Federalist writers began to publish essays and letters arguing against ratification, and Alexander Hamilton recruited James Madison and John Jay to write a series of pro-ratification letters in response. Like most of the Anti-Federalist essays and the vast majority of the Federalist Papers, No. 10 first appeared in popular newspapers. It was first printed in the Daily Advertiser; in this it was remarkable among the essays of Publius, as almost all of them first appeared in one of two other papers, the Independent Journal and the New-York Packet. Federalist No. 37, also by Madison, was the only other essay to appear first in the Advertiser.
Considering the importance later ascribed to the essay, it was reprinted only on a limited scale. On November 23, it appeared in the Packet and the next day in the Independent Journal. Outside New York City, it made four appearances in early 1788: January 2, in the Pennsylvania Gazette, January 10, in the Hudson Valley Weekly, January 15, in the Lansingburgh Northern Centinel, and January 17, in the Albany Gazette. Though this number of reprintings was typical for the Federalist, many other essays, both Federalist and Anti-Federalist, saw much wider distribution.
On January 1, 1788, the publishing company J.&A. McLean announced that they would publish the first 36 of the essays in a single volume. This volume, titled The Federalist, was released on March 2, 1788. Two later editions are of note. The first was by George Hopkins in 1802; in this edition Hopkins revealed that Madison, Hamilton, and Jay were in fact the authors of the series. In 1818, James Gideon published a third edition containing corrections by Madison, who by that time had completed his two terms as President of the United States.
The question of faction
Federalist No. 10 continues the discussion of the question broached in Hamilton's Federalist No. 9. Hamilton there addressed the destructive role of faction in breaking apart the republic. The question Madison answers, then, is how to eliminate the negative effects of faction. He defines a faction as "a number of citizens, whether amounting to a minority or majority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adverse to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community." He identifies the most serious source of faction to be the diversity of opinion in political life which leads to dispute over fundamental issues such as what regime or religion should be preferred. However, he thinks "the most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property. Those who hold and those who are without property have ever formed distinct interests in society." He saw direct democracy as a danger to individual rights and advocated a representative democracy (also called a republic) in order to protect what he viewed as individual liberty from majority rule, or from the effects of such inequality within society. He says, "A pure democracy can admit no cure for the mischiefs of faction. A common passion or interest will be felt by a majority, and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party. Hence it is, that democracies have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have, in general, been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths."
Like the anti-Federalists who opposed him, Madison was substantially influenced by the work of Montesquieu, though Madison and Montesquieu disagreed on the question addressed in this essay. He also relied heavily on the philosophers of the Scottish Enlightenment, especially David Hume, whose influence is most clear in Madison's discussion of the types of faction and in his argument for an extended republic.
Madison takes the position that there are two ways to limit the damage caused by faction: Removing the causes of faction or controlling its effects. He contends that there are two ways to remove the causes that provoke the development of factions. One, the elimination of liberty, he rejects as unacceptable. The other, creating a society homogeneous in opinion and interest, he sees as impractical because the causes of faction, among them variant economic interests, are inherent in a free society. Madison concludes that the damage caused by faction can be limited only by controlling its effects.
Madison notes that the principle of popular sovereignty should prevent minority factions from gaining power. Majority factions are then the problem, and he offers two ways to check them: prevent the "existence of the same passion or interest in a majority at the same time," or alternately render a majority faction unable to act. From this point Madison concludes that a small democracy cannot avoid majority faction, because small size means that common passions are likely to form among a majority of the people, and democracy means that the majority can enforce its will.
A republic, Madison writes, is different from a democracy because its government is placed in the hands of delegates, and as a result of this, it can be extended over a larger area. Regarding the first difference, Madison contends that a large republic will elect better delegates than a small one. In a large republic, the number of citizens per representative will be greater, and each chosen representative will be the best from a larger sample of people, resulting in better government. Also, the fact that each representative is chosen from a larger constituency means that "vicious arts" of electioneering will be less effective.
The fact that a republic can encompass larger areas and populations is a strength of that form of government. Madison believes that larger societies will have a greater variety of diverse parties and interest groups, which in competition will be less likely to yield a majority faction. This is a general application of the checks and balances principle, which is central to the American constitutional system. In conclusion, Madison emphasizes that the greater size of the Union will allow for more effective governments than were the states to remain more independent.
Though Madison argued for a large and diverse republic, the writers of the Federalist Papers recognized the need for a balance. They wanted a republic diverse enough to prevent faction but with enough commonality to maintain cohesion. In Federalist No. 2, John Jay counted as a blessing that America possessed "one united people—a people descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same language, professing the same religion." Madison himself addresses a limitation of his conclusion that large constituencies will provide better representatives. He notes that if constituencies are too large, the representatives will be "too little acquainted with all their local circumstances and lesser interests." He says that this problem is partly solved by federalism. No matter how large the constituencies of federal representatives, local matters will be looked after by state and local officials with naturally smaller constituencies.
The Anti-Federalists vigorously contested the notion that a republic of diverse interests could survive. The author Cato (another pseudonym, most likely that of George Clinton) summarized the Anti-Federalist position in the article Cato no. 3:
Whoever seriously considers the immense extent of territory comprehended within the limits of the United States, together with the variety of its climates, productions, and commerce, the difference of extent, and number of inhabitants in all; the dissimilitude of interest, morals, and policies, in almost every one, will receive it as an intuitive truth, that a consolidated republican form of government therein, can never form a perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to you and your posterity, for to these objects it must be directed: this unkindred legislature therefore, composed of interests opposite and dissimilar in their nature, will in its exercise, emphatically be, like a house divided against itself.
Generally, it was their position that republics about the size of the individual states could survive, but that a republic on the size of the Union would fail. A particular point in support of this was that most of the states were focused on one industry—commerce and shipping in the northern states and plantation farming in the southern ones. The Anti-Federalist belief that the wide disparity in the economic interests of the various states would lead to controversy was perhaps realized in the American Civil War, which some scholars attribute to this disparity. Madison himself, in a letter to Thomas Jefferson, noted that differing economic interests had created dispute, even when the Constitution was being written. At the convention, he particularly identified the distinction between the northern and southern states as a "line of discrimination" that formed "the real difference of interests."
The discussion of the ideal size for the republic was not limited to the options of individual states or encompassing union. In a letter to Richard Price, Benjamin Rush noted that "Some of our enlightened men who begin to despair of a more complete union of the States in Congress have secretly proposed an Eastern, Middle, and Southern Confederacy, to be united by an alliance offensive and defensive." However, compromise ideas like this gained little traction.
In making their arguments, the Anti-Federalists appealed to both historical and theoretic evidence. On the theoretical side, they leaned heavily on the work of Charles de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu. The Anti-Federalists Brutus and Cato both quoted Montesquieu on the issue of the ideal size of a republic, citing his statement in The Spirit of the Laws that:
It is natural to a republic to have only a small territory, otherwise it cannot long subsist. In a large republic there are men of large fortunes, and consequently of less moderation; there are trusts too great to be placed in any single subject; he has interest of his own; he soon begins to think that he may be happy, great and glorious, by oppressing his fellow citizens; and that he may raise himself to grandeur on the ruins of his country. In a large republic, the public good is sacrificed to a thousand views; it is subordinate to exceptions, and depends on accidents. In a small one, the interest of the public is easier perceived, better understood, and more within the reach of every citizen; abuses are of less extent, and of course are less protected.
Brutus points out that the Greek and Roman states envisioned by many Americans as model republics (as evidenced by the choice of many authors on both sides of the debate to take Roman monikers) were small. Brutus also points out that the expansion of these republics resulted in a transition from free government to tyranny.
Modern analysis and reaction
In the first century of the American republic, No. 10 was not regarded as among the more important numbers of The Federalist. For instance, in Democracy in AmericaAlexis de Tocqueville refers specifically to more than fifty of the essays, but No. 10 is not among them. Today, however, No. 10 is regarded as a seminal work of American democracy. In "The People's Vote," a popular survey conducted by the National Archives and Records Administration, National History Day, and U.S. News and World Report, No. 10 (along with Federalist No. 51, also by Madison) was chosen as the 20th most influential document in United States history.
Douglass Adair attributes the increased interest in the tenth number to Charles A. Beard's book An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution, published in 1913. Adair also contends that Beard's selective focus on the issue of class struggle, and his political progressivism, has colored modern scholarship on the essay. According to Adair, Beard reads No. 10 as evidence for his belief in "the Constitution as an instrument of class exploitation." Adair's own view is that Federalist No. 10 should be read as "eighteenth century political theory directed to an eighteenth century problem; and … one of the great creative achievements of that intellectual movement that later ages have christened 'Jeffersonian democracy.'"
Garry Wills is a noted critic of Madison's argument in Federalist No. 10. In his book Explaining America, he adopts the position of Robert Dahl in arguing that Madison's framework does not necessarily enhance the protections of minorities or ensure the common good. Instead, Wills claims: "Minorities can make use of dispersed and staggered governmental machinery to clog, delay, slow down, hamper, and obstruct the majority. But these weapons for delay are given to the minority irrespective of its factious or nonfactious character; and they can be used against the majority irrespective of its factious or nonfactious character. What Madison prevents is not faction, but action. What he protects is not the common good but delay as such."
Federalist No. 10 is the classic citation for the belief that the Founding Fathers and the constitutional framers did not intend American politics to be partisan. For instance, United States Supreme Court justice John Paul Stevens cites the paper for the statement, "Parties ranked high on the list of evils that the Constitution was designed to check." Discussing a California provision that forbids candidates from running as independents within one year of holding a partisan affiliation, Justice Byron White made apparent the Court's belief that Madison spoke for the framers of the Constitution: "California apparently believes with the Founding Fathers that splintered parties and unrestrained factionalism may do significant damage to the fabric of government."
Madison's argument that restraining liberty to limit faction is an unacceptable solution has been used by opponents of campaign finance limits. Justice Clarence Thomas, for example, invoked Federalist No. 10 in a dissent against a ruling supporting limits on campaign contributions, writing: "The Framers preferred a political system that harnessed such faction for good, preserving liberty while also ensuring good government. Rather than adopting the repressive 'cure' for faction that the majority today endorses, the Framers armed individual citizens with a remedy." It has also been used by those that seek fairer and equitable ballot access law, such as Richard Winger of Ballot Access News.
- Adair, Douglass. Fame and the Founding Fathers. Norton, 1974. ISBN 9780393054996
- Epstein, David F. The Political Theory of The Federalist. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984. ISBN 9780226212999
- Findlaw. Storer v. Brown, 415 U.S. 724 (1974). Retrieved April 30, 2008.
- Findlaw. Nixon v. Shrink Missouri Government PAC, 528 U.S. 377 (2000). Retrieved May 1, 2008.Retrieved May 1, 2008.
- Findlaw. California Democratic Party v. Jones, 530 U.S. 567 (2000). Retrieved May 1, 2008.
- Hamilton, Alexander, James Madison, and John Jay. The Federalist. Edited by Jacob E. Cooke. Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press, 1961.
- Storing, Herbert J., ed. The Complete Anti-Federalist. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981. ISBN 9780226775661
- Wills, Garry. Explaining America: The Federalist. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1981. ISBN 9780385146890
All links retrieved April 4, 2017.
- Online text of Brutus, no. 1, at The Founders' Constitution, hosted by the University of Chicago.
- Online text of Cato, no. 3, The Founders' Constitution.
|Federalist Papers | List of Federalist Papers|
|Authors:Alexander Hamilton | James Madison | John Jay|
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|Related topics: Anti-Federalist Papers | United States Constitution|
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George Clinton, widely believed to be the Anti-Federalist Cato