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a series of 77 essays written to promote the ratification of the Constitution by New York State
Written by Alexander Hamilton, John Jay and James Madison between October 1787 and May 1788, the essays were published under the pen name "Publius," primarily in the New York Packet and the Independent Journal. They were reprinted in other New York newspapers, as well as in the newspapers of other cities across the young nation. A bound edition, with revisions and eight additional essays, was published in 1788 by printers J. and A. McLean. An edition published by printer Jacob Gideon in 1818 was the first to identify each essay by its author's name.
In lobbying for adoption of the Constitution, the essays explain specific provisions of the Constitution in detail and why those provisions are preferable over those contained in the Articles of Confederation, the document that was at that time "holding" the union together. The authors discussed the potential dangers that might arise from undue foreign influence as well as disagreements between the individual states. They argued that a strong central authority was essential. And, they touted the system of "checks and balances" built into the Constitution, whereby the power of the nation would be balanced between the legislative, judicial, and executive branches.
Although the essays had little immediate impact on the debate to ratify the Constitution, they are widely considered a classic work of political theory. And, because both Hamilton and Madison were members of the Constitutional Convention, The Federalist is often cited today by those attempting to interpret the intentions of the men who drafted the Constitution.
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This page was last updated on 10/27/2018.