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Clif's Book World

Adventures from reading books captured within short reviews.

The Federalist Papers - Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, John Jay, Charles R. Kessler, Clinton Rossiter The Federalist Papers are a series of 85 essays written in 1787 and 1788 to promote the ratification of the United States Constitution. I found it to be the equivalent of reading a 600 paged legal brief written by an 18th century lawyer. Actually, that's exactly what it is. I found these lectures helpful in describing the debates that took place at the time these papers were written. I was impressed at the extent and variety of the arguments of "The Federalist Papers" in defending the proposed Constitution. I guess I can be thankful to live in a country where so much effort and care was put into forming the government.

Here's my favorite quotation from The Federalist Papters:
"Had every Athenian citizen been a Socrates, every Athenian assembly would still have been a mob." — James Madison, Federalist No. 55

The following are copies of comments I made on our reading group's blog while reading The Federalist Papers. Posting them here without editing is easier that trying to write a review:

Federalist No. 84
Opposition to the Bill of Rights

Since the Bill of Rights is considered very important to most Americans today, it is interesting to note the reasons why they were not included in the original constitution. The Federalist Papers (specifically Federalist No. 84) are notable for their opposition to what later became the United States Bill of Rights.

The idea of adding a Bill of Rights to the Constitution was originally controversial because the Constitution, as written, did not specifically enumerate or protect the rights of the people, rather it listed the powers of the government and left all that remained to the states and the people.

Lectures about Federalist and Anti-Federalist debate:
Here's a link to information about twelve lectures about the Federalist Papers: http://t.co/RO9YN7K6

Federalist No. 10
Causes of factions and republican versus democratic government

Some things I found of interest about No. 10 is that it mentions some to the causes of factions between citizens and discusses the differences between a democracy and a republic.

I found the following quotation regarding disparity of wealth of particular interest in light of recent statistics showing that the disparity has become greater in recent years:

”But the most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property.”

Regarding democratic government, the following quotation is of interest:

”The other point of difference is, the greater number of citizens and extent of territory which may be brought within the compass of republican than of democratic government; and it is this circumstance principally which renders factious combinations less to be dreaded in the former than in the latter.”

Note that “former” is referring to “republican” and “latter” is referring to "democratic" government.

Free E-Text
The Library of Congress provides the Federalist Papers free as on-line e-text based on archives from Project Gutenberg ">http://thomas.loc.gov/home/histdox/fedpapers.html

Message from: Christopher Nov 12, 2011 10:13am
I don't quite know what this amounts to:
"as on-line e-text based on archives from Project Gutenberg."
"Based on" seems to me to mean something like "created with the original as a starting point but different from the original." It seems to suggest that the Thomas version is different from the Gutenberg version. Is this the case? If so, what is the relationship of the Thomas text to the "original" Gutenberg text on which it is "based"?

My Reply:
If you go to the following link you will find a discussion of the fact that there are "many available versions of the papers."
I take this to mean that since multiple sources vary that some judgement is used by the compilers on what is made available for public downloading. Thus what the Library of Congress provides is what the scholars at Project Gutenberg have decided to make available. They have used the term "based on" to describe its source, and to explain why others may have a slightly different version.

Questions and Answers about The Federalist Papers
Here's A LINK to some interesting questions and answers about The Federalist Papers.

Dates of When States Adopted the Constitution
Here's A LINK to a listing of the dates that various states ratified the Constitution.

Eleven of the thirteen States approved The Constitution by the summer of 1788. It's interesting to note that North Carolina did not enter the Union until Nov. 21, 1789 or a year later after the new government was well on its way. The first N.C. convention (July, 1788) refused, by a vote of 184 to 84, to ratify the Constitution because of the lack of a Bill of Rights and in the fear that the strong National government would in time overbear State authority.

Rhode Island, which did not send delegates to the Constitutional Convention, was last of all by approving it on May 29, 1790, two years after the first eleven. By that time the new U.S.A. government began to deal with it as a foreign country and subjected it to taxes on its exports.

How about the Anti-Federalist?
In case you'd like the see the other side of the debate, the following is a link to a collection of the Anti-Federalist Papers:
It's interesting to note that many of the very dire predictions made by the Anti-federalists have proven correct, although some took longer than others for their realization. On the other hand, if the Constitution had not been adopted the dire predicted consequences made by the Federalists would have probably been proven correct.

Why were pseudonyms used?
Here's LINK TO A LIST of pseudonyms used in the American constitutional debates. I can find no rational explanation why everybody (both Federalists and Anti-Federalists) used pseudonyms. Apparently it was simply established practice in the 18th and 19th centuries for political articles to be signed with pseudonyms. Since our book group has read "Plutarch's Lives," we are already familiar with Publius Valerius Publicola after which the Pseudonym "Plublius" was taken by Hamilton, Madison and Jay.

Did the Federalists believe that the States had the right to secede?
A little-known fact of the Constitution is that two of the largest states -- Virginia and New York -- made the right to withdraw from the union explicit in their acceptance of the Constitution. -Source-

Also, Alexander Hamilton in paper 28 appeals to what he calls in his words “that original right of self defense which is paramount to all positive forms of government and against the usurpation of the national rulers may be exerted by the states.” And then in paper 60 Hamilton refers to, “an immediate revolt of the great body of the people headed and directed by the state governments,” as the means of checking the central government.

And in civil war or revolutionary language with a similar meaning is found in Madison’s later restatement of his claim that the states have a checking power over the national government. As Madison puts it in paper 46, “Ambitious encroachments of the federal government on the authority of the state governments would not excite the opposition of a single state or of a few states only, they would be signals of general alarm. Every government would espouse the common cause. A correspondence would be opened, plans of resistance would be concerted,” he says.

The Madisonian Republic
The following is a link to an edited excerpt from Lecture 7 “The Madisonian Republic” by Thomas L. Pangle, published as part of the series, “Great Debate: Advocates and Opponents of the American Constitution,” published by The Teaching Company.

Argument over Representation
The following is a link to an edited excerpt from Lecture 8 “The Argument over Representation” by Thomas L. Pangle, published as part of the series, “Great Debate: Advocates and Opponents of the American Constitution,” published by The Teaching Company.