The Federalist Papers are a series of political articles written by James Madison, John Jay, and Alexander Hamilton. The articles, published in 1787 and 1788, were written to gain popular support for the newly proposed United States Constitution. They would establish the tenets of what would become the political philosophy of Federalism in the United States.
The Federalist Papers would come to be known as the most important political treatise in United States history. The essays, which would become a series of 85 articles, were published in seven months between 27 October 1787 and 28 May 1788. They were written by the authors collectively under the pen name “Publius,” a representation that they were writing for the public.
The authors were prominent in the arena of revolutionary American politics. James Madison, the most well-known, had been the principal author of the Constitution and would late become the fourth U.S. President. Alexander Hamilton would later become the first U.S. Secretary of the Treasury. John Jay, who authored five of the Federalist Papers essays, was a former president of the Continental Congress and would later serve as the first Chief Justice of the United States.
These papers were written to advocate ratification of the Constitution. The authors pushed for the people of the state of New York to elect delegates to the upcoming state convention who would vote to ratify. The Federalist Papers serve as an explanation of the document that would come to be the Constitution. They would both justify the omission of a bill of rights and serve as an interpreter for other provisions included in the Constitution.
The authors of the Federalist Papers outlined a basic form of American Federalism. They urged Americans to accept the Constitution and form of government which were born unto choice and reason unlike the governments of many other countries across the world. The Federalists advocated a divided Federal government, a system of checks and balances, a division between Federal, state, and local governments, and a system for judicial review. James Madison argued for the ability of the republic to strive in such a large territory. He argued that the differences in opinion throughout the republic would help birth the liberty all Americans wanted.
The Federalist Papers were, though, received by many as incomplete and pretentious. Many Americans were skeptical of the opposition of a bill of rights. Some would see the papers as nothing but a large public relations campaign. Despite these detractors, the papers have outlived their writers and have survived as an important political document into the 21st century. The Federalist Papers are still used by lawyers, judges, and jurors in interpretation of Constitutional laws.