The Declaration of Independence and The Constitution of the United States of America are two of the most recognizable (if inadequately studied) documents in the world.
Of equal importance, but very little studied, is the collection of essays written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay called The Federalist (often referred to as the Federalist Papers).
The reason The Federalist is so important is that it gave verbiage to the arguments in favor of adopting The Constitution as the founding document of the United States and it revealed the political and philosophical thinking of its framers as it related to the purpose, scope and sequence of The Constitution.
On this and subsequent Saturdays, I will endeavor to help you understand The Federalist and why it is important to us, both in our beginning as a nation and today.
It is precisely because we have not learned the principles laid out in The Federalist that we have such a sharp division in our country today.
To be sure, not everybody agreed with every doctrine set out in The Federalist. That is why there was considerable political division early on in our history. It is also why we have the philosophical descendants of the dissenters still arguing against The Constitution today.
As it turned out, the arguments put forth in The Federalist, and subsequently in The Constitution, won out, and The Constitution became the ultimate "law of the land."
There are 85 essays in The Federalist, and because the writers originally wanted to remain anonymous, the pseudonym, Plubius (short for Publius Valerius Publicola, the eloquent and noble Roman citizen who saved Roman republicanism)is used, instead of their names.
(By the way, that's republicanism with a small "r," indicating that The United States of America is a Constitutional Republic. It does not mean that we were all big "R" Republicans.)
As we go through the writing of Plubius, I will try to make its principles as simple as possible. I will attempt to express them in 4th or 5th grade English, so that even if you are not smarter than a 5th grader you will still be able to understand its meaning.
As the architect of The Federalist, Hamilton planned in September 1787 to produce 20–25 papers in defense of the Constitution that would be published in newspapers in New York. However, by the time The Federalist began publication on October 27, it had become evident that a more ambitious project would be necessary...thus the 85 essays.
Volume I of The Federalist was devoted to union and the necessity for more energetic government.
Volume II was devoted to the Constitution and its conformity “to the true principles of republican government.”
If you wish to get a head start, or to read ahead, this link will take you to the Library of Congress site where you can read the papers.
In the mean time, here is a summary of The Federalist
VOLUME I [NOS. 1–36]
1. The utility of the UNION to your political prosperity [Nos. 1–14].
2. The insufficiency of the present Confederation to preserve that Union [Nos. 15–22].
3. The necessity of a government at least equally energetic with the one proposed, to the attainment of this object. [Nos. 23–36].
VOLUME II [NOS. 37–85]
4. The conformity of the proposed Constitution to the true principles of republican government [Nos. 37–84].
Nos. 37–40 General form of the Constitution—its republican and federal/national character
Nos. 41–46 Sum or quantity of power vested in the government.
Nos. 47–51 Separation of powers.
Nos. 52–58 House of Representatives.
Nos. 59–61 Congressional regulation of elections.
Nos. 62–66 Senate.
Nos. 67–77 Executive.
Nos. 78–83 Judiciary.
No. 84 Responses to miscellaneous objections.
5. Its analogy to your own State constitution [No. 85].
6. The additional security which its adoption will afford to the preservation of that species of government, to liberty, and to property [No. 85].