The Federalist Papers


Alexander Hamilton begins by asking his readers to consider a new Constitution because they have experienced the inefficiencies in the present form of government. He proclaims that his countrymen are in a unique position to decide whether or not - "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." He goes further and states that a mistake on their part would be unfortunate for the future of mankind.

He then goes on to show that many people will oppose the Constitution for a variety of reasons, especially if they benefit from the current form of government - "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".

Hamilton, however, states he is not going to address the motives of those who oppose the Constitution - "It is not, however, my design to dwell upon observations of this nature. I am well aware that it would be disingenuous to resolve indiscriminately the opposition of any set of men (merely because their situations might subject them to suspicion) into interested or ambitious views. 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 made its appearance, or may hereafter make its appearance, will spring from -the honest errors of minds led astray by preconceived jealousies and fears" - rather, his intent is to make arguments that are for the Constitution.

He then goes on to say that he expects there to be vigorous and at times bitter debate - "A torrent of angry and malignant passions will be let loose. To judge from the conduct of the opposite parties, we shall be led to conclude that they will mutually hope to evince the justness of their opinions, and to increase the number of their converts by the loudness of their declamations and the bitterness of their invectives. An enlightened zeal for the energy and efficiency of government will be stigmatized as the offspring of a temper fond of despotic power and hostile to the principles of liberty".

He addresses people questioning his willingness to listen to their arguments because he has already made up his mind to support the Constitution - "Yes, my countrymen, I own to you that, after having given it an attentive consideration, I am clearly of opinion it is your interest to adopt it. I am convinced that this is the safest course for your liberty, your dignity, and your happiness. I affect not reserves which I do not feel. I frankly acknowledge to you my convictions, and I will freely lay before you the reasons on which they are founded. My arguments will be open to all, and may be judged of by all. They shall at least be offered in a spirit which will not disgrace the cause of truth".

Finally, he outlines the specific issues that he will address in the Federalist Papers, namely:

  • The utility of the UNION to your political prosperity
  • The insufficiency of the present Confederation to preserve that Union
  • The necessity of a government at least equally energetic with the one proposed, to the attainment of this object
  • The conformity of the proposed Constitution to the true principles of republican government
  • Its analogy to your own state constitution
  • The additional security which its adoption will afford to the preservation of that species of government, to liberty, and to property.
Hamilton then writes that it might seem unnecessary to plead for a strong Union, but "the fact is, that we already hear it whispered in the private circles of those who oppose the new Constitution, that the thirteen States are of too great extent for any general system, and that we must of necessity resort to separate confederacies of distinct portions of the whole".

He then concludes the first of the Federalist Papers by saying that the ultimate question is whether the people adopt the Constitution or whether they dissolve the Confederation and devolve into separate countries.

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