The Federalist Papers are a set of 85 essays written by James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay, published in 1787 and 1788. These papers were written in defense of, and promoting, the new American Constitution.
At this time in history, America’s leaders knew that their current system of government, the Articles of Confederation, were not able to sustain their new and fragile country. The Articles were considerably flawed; the state governments held all of the power, and the central government held very little power.
This was the time when the first two political factions arose – the Federalists being in favor of the Constitution, and the Anti-Federalists who weren’t exactly in favor of the Constitution.
In 1787, when the first Constitutional Convention was called to convene in Philadelphia, the majority of the delegates believed that they were there to revise the Articles and fix the problems that were present in the country.
However, from the onset of the convention, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and others went with the sole idea of creating a new government, rather than fixing the existing one.
Following the submission of the new Constitution to the states for ratification, opponents of the new government began to voice their opinions in the New York Press. These articles would become to be known as “The Anti-Federalist Papers”.
In response, Alexander Hamilton decided to write an extensive defense and explanation of the Constitution for the people of New York. He later recruited John Jay, James Madison, and “Publius” to help him write his essays.
People who believe that the Constitution is a living document tend to argue that, “The Federalist papers were written to support the ratification of the Constitution only and are biased papers that don’t explain the intent behind the Constitution.”
However, this could not be more wrong. The entire purpose behind the essays was to support the ratification of the new Constitution as well as explain each part of the Constitution and why it was written the way it was.
Moreover, Hamilton and Madison, who wrote the majority of the papers, were in attendance at the Constitutional Convention; and they were among the thirty-nine signers. Because they were there and participated in the debates, they would have a more working knowledge of the intent behind each part of the new document.
Therefore, when explaining the Constitution in the papers, they were able to give first-hand knowledge behind the intent and creation of the Constitution.
This can be seen with the Second Amendment, for example. Those who are against the Second Amendment say that it only grants the right to bear arms to a militia (or in modern times, our military.) However, both Hamilton and Jefferson explain that the Second Amendment protects our individual right to bear arms and that without that right, the people are subordinates of a tyrannical government.
In current times, our government continues to grow and become bloated well beyond its needs. Many people believe that our government’s hands and power extends well beyond that which is allotted to it in the Constitution.
And it’s true.
Our government is becoming more and more progressive every day. With this “progress” comes programs and policies that go against everything that the Constitution stands for.
In addition, the majority of people in our country are not well educated on the Constitution, such as what it says and why it says what it does. This is probably where the largest problem lies. If people don’t know the law that protects them, how are they going to be able to identify when the government oversteps those bounds?
The simple answer is that they won’t know. Without working knowledge of the Constitution, a common person will become a subordinate of the government.
This is why we need a modern set of Federalist Papers. More than two hundred years ago, they were written to support the ratification of the new document as well as explain to the people the intent behind it.
Well, with the extreme lack of Constitutional knowledge, we need a new set that explains, in modern terms, what the Constitution means and why it is important that, instead of continuously “progressing” away from the Constitution, we need to find our roots and mold our government and policies back towards the Constitution and something that would make our Founding Fathers proud.
The Federalist Papers arguably had a profound impact on the ratification of the Constitution. We are in need of a profound awakening; and without one, we may be on track to single-handedly destroy the “more perfect union” that was created for us so many generations ago.
Photo credit: Rob Dumas (Creative Commons)