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Federalist Papers

Federalist, No. 78, And The Power Of The Judiciary, Further Readings

A collection of eighty-five essays by ALEXANDER HAMILTON (1755–1804), JAMES MADISON (1751–1836), and JOHN JAY (1745–1829) that explain the philosophy and defend the advantages of the U.S. Constitution.

The essays that constitute The Federalist Papers were published in various New York newspapers between October 27, 1787, and August 16, 1788, and appeared in book form in March and May 1788. They remain important statements of U.S. political and legal philosophy as well as a key source for understanding the U.S. Constitution.

The Federalist Papers originated in a contentious debate over ratification of the U.S. Constitution. After its completion by the Constitutional Convention on September 17, 1787, the Constitution required ratification by nine states before it could become effective. A group known as the Federalists favored passage of the Constitution, and the Anti-Federalists opposed it.

To secure its ratification in New York State, Federalists Hamilton, Madison, and Jay published the Federalist essays under the pseudonym Publius, a name taken from Publius Valerius Poplicola, a leading politician of the ancient Roman republic. Their purpose was to clarify and explain the provisions of the Constitution, expounding its benefits over the existing system of government under the ARTICLES OF CONFEDERATION.

Hamilton, a New Yorker who served as treasury secretary under President GEORGE WASHINGTON from 1789 to 1795, was the principal architect of The Federalist Papers. Hamilton conceived the idea for the book and enlisted the aid of Madison and Jay. He is thought to have written fifty-one of the essays: numbers 1, 6–9, 11–13, 15–17, 21–36, 59–61, and 65–85. Madison, who served two terms as the president of the United States, from 1809 to 1817, probably authored twenty-six of the papers: 10, 14, 37–58, and 62–63. Madison and Hamilton probably wrote papers 18–20 together. Jay, who sat as the first chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, from 1789 to 1795, wrote five essays: 2–5 and 64.

The essays presented a number of arguments with great importance for the founding of the U.S. government. They forcefully made the case for a strong union between the states (numbers 1–14); the ineffectiveness of the Articles of Confederation (15–22); the advantages of a strong, or "energetic," central government (23–36); and a republican government's ability to provide political stability as well as liberty (35–51). The later essays examined the roles of the three branches of government—the legislative (52–66), the executive (67–77), and the judicial (78–83)—as well as the issue of a bill of rights (84). The last essay consists of a closing summary (85). In making their arguments, the authors also discussed the benefits of FEDERALISM, under which the state and federal governments would each have a distinct sphere of power.

Several of the essays have been especially influential in U.S. political history and philosophy. The most famous, Federalist, no. 10, by Madison, concerns the dangers and remedies of factionalism for a republican government. Madison, seeking a "republican remedy for the diseases most incident to republican government," argued that a large republic of the kind envisioned by the Constitution will be less likely to fall victim to disputes between different factions than will a small republic. Here and in essay 51, Madison claimed that the diversity, or "plurality," of interests that exist in a large commercial republic will prevent any one faction from uniting to deprive the rights of a smaller faction.

The essays on the role of the federal judiciary have had a lasting influence on U.S. law. Essay 78 contains an important defense of the principle of JUDICIAL REVIEW, the power that allows the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down laws passed by Congress. In number 80, Hamilton argued for the establishment of a system of federal courts separate from state courts, an idea that was realized several years later.

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