Federalist Papers
Federalist Papers

Following the Constitutional Convention in 1787, a national debate began concerning whether or not to ratify the proposed United States Constitution. Newspapers across the Nation published essays and letters on both sides—for and against ratification. The most famous of these writings became known as the Federalist Papers.

The Federalist Papers were a series of eighty-five essays written by Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison under the pen name “Publius.” The essays were published primarily in the Independent Journal and the New York Packet and their purpose was to urge New York delegates to ratify the proposed United States Constitution. In 1788, the es­says were published in a bound volume.

The essays explain particular provisions of the United States Constitution in specific detail.

Alexander Hamilton and James Madison were both members of the Constitutional Convention and for this reason the Federalist Papers offer an exciting look into the intentions of those drafting the United States Constitution. Today, the Federalist Papers are considered to be one of the most important historical documents on the founding principles of the United States’ form of government.

Alexander Hamilton and James Madison
Alexander Hamilton and James Madison

Notable Excerpts

No. 2 (John Jay)

To all general purposes we have uniform­ly been one people; each individual citizen everywhere enjoying the same national rights, privileges, and protection.


No. 22 (Alexander Hamilton)

The fabric of American empire ought to rest on the solid basis of the consent of the people. The streams of national power ought to flow from that pure, original fountain of all legitimate authority.


No. 41 (James Madison)

Every man who loves peace, every man who loves his country, every man who loves liberty, ought to have it ever before his eyes, that he may cherish in his heart a due attachment to the Union of America, and be able to set a due value on the means of preserving it.


No. 46 (James Madison)

[T]he ultimate authority…resides in the people alone.


No. 51 (Alexander Hamilton or James Madison)

But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.