The Federalist (Ford)/Editor's Introduction
The constitution of the United States has been the subject of great and often inordinate eulogy, much as if it contained within itself some potency or charm, which gave to it especial, even magical, powers for the attaining of good government. As the Germans worship the concept of "the state" as something more and better than the people, so the constitution has been accepted as the spring of all our freedom and success. Yet a very limited study of history serves to prove that liberty and good government have been obtained by certain other nations possessing no such fundamental contract, and that still others, closely conforming their constitutions to ours, have only succeeded in establishing a model government in theory but a tyranny in fact. In short, a written constitution is nothing but ink and paper, except for what the people it nominally controls add to it. Over and over again our government has been saved from complete breakdown only by an absolute disregard of the constitution, and most of the very men who framed the compact would have refused to sign it, could they have foreseen its eventual development.
What then, it will be asked, is the use of a written constitution, when it can be so disregarded and so extended? If a government grows and changes with the nation it pretends to control, why seek to bind the people at all? Why attempt to limit the power of the newest law of Congress by the oldest law of the nation? In Great Britain the government is checked only by public opinion, and the latest act of parliament is the law of the land. Is not the latter more free than the former?
More free but less stable, we answer; more power to the majority and less privilege to the whole people. In this condition rests the great distinction of the constitution of the United States. History has often recorded the grant of rights or privileges to subjects by kings or by aristocracies or by minorities. But the federal compact was the first deliberate attempt and assent of a majority to tie its own hands; to give to the minority guarantees of fair and equal treatment, without which democratic government is well-nigh impossible, save when developed along the lines of socialism. Our state governments, in which few such guarantees have been successfully evolved, have again and again oppressed the minority; but, with hardly an exception, the national government has been true to its purposes. Where the state governments have been unchecked by the national; where they have had omnipotent powers, they have directly or indirectly robbed classes of their citizens for the benefit of other classes, and committed other wrongs in the name and by the will of the majority. Not long since New York state, one of the fairest and least prone to discrimination in the Union, by law has decreed that a minority of its citizens shall be made to contribute, by means of an inheritance tax, the larger part of the government revenues; so in Great Britain the majority have successfully, through a graded succession tax, placed undue burdens upon the minority; and in neither have the minority the slightest recourse, unless that of expatriation can be considered such. But in our national government the most distinct limitations have been fixed, and when recently, in the income tax of 1894, the majority endeavored to tax the minority, while exempting themselves, the law was annulled, because it was unconstitutional.
This guarantee to the minority in the federal constitution is one of the most remarkable examples of self-control in history, and constitutes its chief claim to preeminence. The explanation of its origin can only be obtained by a history of the years preceding its framing.
In the colonial period the law-making power in the provinces was placed in the hands of popular assemblies; the execution of those laws, or their negation, in the hands of colonial governors appointed by Great Britain, with a second veto by the king in council; and the construing of those laws was confided to judges, likewise for the most part named by the sovereign, with a final appeal from the local courts to the courts of the Privy Council. Thus the people were from early times accustomed to popular legislation, controlled first by a negative of their local executive and courts, and ultimately by a supreme national executive and courts. The laws of parliament overrode a colonial statute, the king's veto killed a law assented to by the king's governor; and the courts of the Privy Council reversed the decisions of the provincial courts.
The American Revolution destroyed this system and brought into existence in its stead government by popular committees or conventions; and as the cities were mostly loyal to the crown, and during the war were largely held by the British,—thus excluding their citizens from influence in these popular bodies,—the provisional governments were controlled by the landholding classes. Remembering with hatred the alien checks on the popular will which the king's negative and courts had so often, and sometimes with cruelty, imposed on the people, when these representative bodies came to frame new governments they practically lodged all powers in the legislative department,—hitherto the only one which had approximated to the people's will,—and made the executive and judicial branches its creatures.
Unchecked by the balance usually supplied by manufacturing or commercial interests, the landholding classes, by their legislatures, in turn unchecked by coordinate departments, ran riot. Paper money and tender laws robbed the creditor, regrating and anti-monopoly acts ruined the trader. When the weak state courts, true to the principles of justice, sought to protect the minority, the legislatures suspended their sitting, or turned the judges out of office. The general government, called into existence by the articles of confederation, which had been modeled on the Batavian and Helvetic constitutions, was but a legislative dependent of the state legislatures, with scarcely a shadow of executive or judicial power, and was therefore equally impotent to protect. For the moment a faction of agriculturists reigned supreme, and to the honest and thoughtful, democracy seemed to be digging its own grave, through the apparent inability of the majority to control itself.
Fortunately injustice to, and robbery of, fellow-citizens, eventually injure the wrong-doer as well as the wronged. A time came when the claims of the creditors had been liquidated and the goods of the traders had been confiscated, and the former refused further loans and the latter laid in no new stocks. The capitalist and the merchant were alike ruined or driven from business, and it was the landholder, unable to sell, to buy, or to borrow, who was the eventual sufferer. Such was his plight that he could not in many cases sell even enough of his products to get the money to pay his annual taxes, and this condition very quickly brought home to his own instruments of wrong-doing, the legislatures, the evils they had tried to fasten on the minority. Taxes were unpaid, and, except where the conditions were factitious, the state treasuries became empty. Finally, in an attempt to collect the taxes in Massachusetts, a formidable revolt of tax-payers against the state government was precipitated. Everywhere the state legislatures had become objects of contempt in just so far as they had sinned against classes of citizens, and the people were threatened with a breakdown of all government, by the misuse of majority power. It has been the fashion of historians to blame the Congress of the Confederation with the ills of 1781-1789, but that was an honest, and, when possible, a hard-working body, and the real culprit was not the impotent shadow of national government, possessing almost no powers for good and therefore scarcely any powers for evil, but the all-powerful state legislatures, which proved again and again, as Jefferson asserted, that "one hundred and seventy-three despots would surely be as oppressive as one."
The revolt of Shays, and the less aggressive but universal discontent against the state governments were protests too loud spoken not to warn the legislatures of their own peril, and in a frightened, half-hearted way, they one by one gave their consent to the assembling of a convention to plan such changes in the articles of confederation as should at least give to the state governments a national protection from their own citizens. Accordingly, in June, 1787, a body of the most earnest and experienced men gathered in Philadelphia and set about the task of framing a new national government.
Not a few of the members of the federal convention had been sufferers by the injustice of state laws, and they were prepared to apply the knife deeply to the malady of the body politic. Indeed, those who had but a few years before started out as strong democrats had re-acted. Dread of the people and dread of democratic government were felt by all those who did not draw the distinction between popular control and majority control, between limited and unlimited governments.
From this fear of populace and of state governments, qualified by the necessity of framing a government which should be based on both, came certain clauses of the constitution the convention framed, which made it the instrument it is. The legislature or Congress was split into two bodies, that each might act as a check on the other, and strong executive and judicial departments were created, armed against the legislative by the once hated royal powers of appointment, veto, and annulment, that they might maintain their independence of the lawmaking branch, and even limit its power. Having split the Congress, the lower branch was given to the people, while the upper was given to the state legislatures, thus opposing a barrier to the will of the state governments in the House and to the will of the people in the Senate. Not daring to trust either people or legislatures to choose a president, a select body of citizens was created, to whom the choice of that official was assigned, thus making a second defense from the populace or state legislatures. To the President was given the appointment of the judiciary, thus removing that department, by a second selection, three degrees from popular choice or influence. Roger Sherman's plea to the convention that "the people should have as little to do as may be about the government" seemed fulfilled.
But the minimizing of popular control was only half the restraint that the convention had to create. The powers of the state legislatures, as the tools of the majority, must be also curtailed, or they would encroach on the general government as they had on their own. The laws of the nation were made, as the parliament laws once were, superior to state laws. Power after power was swept from the states: they could keep no troops or navy; they could not coin money, emit bills of credit, or pass tender laws; they could not enact bills of attainder, ex post facto laws, or laws impairing the obligation of contract. Such were the chief limitations, but many minor ones swelled the list. The dread of the legislative branch was so strong that Congress itself, balanced and checked though it was to be, was restrained from certain legislation. The misuse of power by the state legislatures had ended, as it always does, in loss of power.
To ask a majority to limit their law-making ability, both in their state and national legislatures, so that they could no longer abuse the minority, and to ask them to part with the direct delegation of three-fourths of the general government, was a daring proposition. The state officials, as the creatures of the legislatures, were naturally opposed to it; while nothing but the previous abuses from which the country was still suffering would ever have made it possible that the constitution would have been accepted by the majority; and even those were insufficient to make the people take the new constitution readily. Much argument and many devices were needed in most of the states to obtain its ratification. To aid in its adoption The Federalist was written, and of that nine-months' campaign it was a distinct factor.
How far the government thus drafted and thus commented upon has fulfilled the intention of the men who framed it in the federal convention and the predictions of the men who analyzed it in The Federalist, could be reviewed at much length, but only a few results need be touched upon.
There can be no question that the national government has given to the minority a greater protection than it has enjoyed anywhere else in the world, save in those countries where the minority is a specially privileged aristocracy and the right of suffrage is limited. So absolute have property rights been held by the Supreme Court, that it even, by the Dred Scott decision, in effect made the whole country a land of slavery, because the slave was property, and the rights of property were sacred. Once only, by the third legal-tender decision, has the court markedly failed in the chief purpose for which it was created, and this failure is the more extraordinary, for none knew better than the judges that it was to prevent just such outrages as fiat money that the national government was created, and that the very words "legal tender," except as applied to intrinsic money for commercial and legal convenience, are a lie and a fraud, through which someone is to be robbed. To allege that the "right to make notes of the government a legal tender" has been deemed "one of the powers of sovereignty in other civilized nations, "which were the grounds on which the decision was based, was to place our national government on a par with those which have notoriously been planned for the benefiting of some at the expense of others, and to destroy the very pledge of justice that the majority gave to the minority in 1788. The pride of this country has been that elsewhere the majority or the minority, depending on the degree of power enjoyed by each, has abused the other, but that here they were equal before the law.
In its secondary function, of protecting the minority from the state legislatures, the general government, wherever it possessed jurisdiction, has been equally successful. By the eleventh amendment the power of citizens to sue a state in the national courts was forbidden, and this has allowed state governments to repudiate and in other ways rob, as of old, but wherever the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court has reached, it has honestly and fearlessly protected the minority from the majority. This has at moments produced intense feeling against the national judiciary by the states, and between 1818 and 1832 a long series of legal conflicts took place, leading to many protests by the state legislatures. But though the state governments successfully resisted in a few cases the mandate of the court, the advantage was only temporary, and to-day no state dares to resist, however much it may question, a decision. Turning from the question of how far the main purpose of the national government has been achieved, we meet the question of how far the constitution has fulfilled the intention of its framers, as regards the government it established.
The object of the framers was to create three separate and distinct departments, so balanced as to powers and force that they should be safe from each other. Time has shown that they succeeded. In 1801-03 the legislative and executive branches united in an attack on the judiciary, removing judges appointed for life, and even suspending the sitting of the Supreme Court, but without permanent results, and the judiciary maintained its power and independence. During the Civil War the President by his assumption of "war powers" reduced the power of Congress materially, but when the necessity was passed, it was found that the legislative branch had lost no real prerogative. In 1867 Congress savagely attacked the President, but the Executive influence and strength suffered no diminution.
By the division of the Congress into two chambers, so that both a majority of the people and a majority of the states should be necessary for legislation, it was hoped that both the people and the state governments would be protected from national encroachment, and this end has been realized. Its secondary purpose of acting as a check on hasty and unnecessary law-making has likewise been fulfilled. At moments the diverse composition of the two bodies has resulted in material disagreements, which have produced angry controversies. For the time these have put one of the branches out of public favor, and usually this has been the Senate—which was inevitable, since its very purpose was to check the will of the majority of the people. Eventually, however, accord has always been obtained, and in looking back over a hundred years of Congressional legislation the disagreements are found to have had very little influence on our history.
Both Houses of Congress have made continual tempts to rob the President of the power of appointment, and whenever that official has been the "favorite son" of political machines, or has sought to influence the action of Congress on legislation, they have to an extent succeeded; so far indeed as to lead members of Congress to this day to assert the right of selecting local officials; but whenever the President has been a man of strength, he has refused to recognize this claim. Such action has usually produced antipathy in Congress to the President, and the Senate has sometimes, in irritation, negatived Presidential nominees, but otherwise the legislative department is helpless, and every President who has selected his own officials has added distinctly to his popularity with the people, if not with the politicians. Fortunately the steady extension of the civil-service laws promises shortly to remove this bone of contention.
Though the fathers' fear of a coalition of the small states in the Senate has not been realized, something akin to it has developed by the rapid admission of new states. As a result, by "holding-up" or "dickering" over legislation, the senators of this coalition of small states, though representing an inconsiderable minority of the whole people, have succeeded in placing laws on the statue books that were not for the best interests of the country. This evil is purely temporary, and will pass with the growth of population in the new states.
A second defect in the Senate, due to the fact that it is a delegated body, and therefore not directly responsible to the people, has been its tendency to extravagance, and in this body all class legislation, whether bounties, pensions, protective duties, internal improvements, or railroad grants, finds its warmest advocates, if not its paid attorneys. This has produced a constantly recurring discussion as to whether it would not be best to make it a directly elective body by the people of each state.
The method of choosing the President has proved hopelessly inoperative. The wish of the framers was that the electoral college should select a president for the people, but the people would none of it, and have always insisted upon voting for a president and not for a proxy. The result has been that the president, being the only part of the government for whom the whole people vote, has absorbed by far the greater part of governmental popularity, and is to-day, in most people's minds, the dominant figure in the national government. Certainly the past goes to show that popular choice has on the whole been safer than selected choice could ever have been, for the Presidents chosen by the people have been successful, while those brought forward by politicians have been failures. Another illuminating fact is that the Vice President is always the choice of the politicians, the people taking little interest in the selection of that official; and his almost invariable failure is equally well known.
As the method of choosing the President has proved wholly inoperative, so too it has proved markedly inefficient. Twice it has broken down to an extent that has threatened the safety of the government, and twice it has placed in office men not fairly elected, thus defeating the will of the people. The Electoral College has lost its object, and only endangers the country in every Presidential election. An amendment to the constitution, doing away with it, and making the President elected by the people, is the most necessary revision the compact needs.
The President has not, as even the convention feared he might, endeavored to make himself king or dictator; he has not even made any marked attempt to perpetuate himself in office. In moments of necessity he has overridden the constitution and usurped such powers as he deemed necessary, but never with the object of personal aggrandizement or injury of the people. Nor can there be any question that the Presidents who have so acted, have done it with reluctance, and were the first to end the exercise of such extra-constitutional sway, when the conditions allowed. If American democracy had done nothing else, it would have proved its right to fame by the fact that it has chosen twenty Presidents, not one of whom has attempted to subvert the government or to override the will of the people in any essential point. This is the more remarkable as five of these Presidents were chosen because of conspicuous military service.
But the distinguishing feature of the American government has been the judicial department. At moments its judges have cast impartiality behind them, and descended into the political arena. At other times the Supreme Court has shown indecision or instability. It has been "packed" to secure a particular verdict, and has rendered the desired opinion. It has put itself so out of accord with public sentiment that its decrees were successfully overriden or disregarded by the Congress, by the President, by the state executives and courts, or by the people. It has been temporarily the most hated feature of our government, and a recurring popular cry has called for its curtailment or alteration. But in the main it has admirably fulfilled its purposes. So far from grasping power, it has constantly sought to differentiate federal jurisdiction from that of the states, and though its influence is widening, it is because the necessities of national development require it. Because it is the one ultimate court in the world which is allowed to annul as well as to expound a law, it stands as the greatest protector of the minority now known; and because this power has in the main given justice as well as legality to its decisions, the court has won an enviable reputation for fairness, and consequently a respect nowhere else obtained. No matter how unpopular its decisions may be, they are submitted to without question. "We shall abide by the decision," said Lincoln, even in the heat of the Dred Scott excitement, "but we will try to reverse it."
The greatest test of the success of the framers is to be found, however, in the general rather than in the governmental history of the constitutional period. Within that time our territory has been more than tripled, and our states have been mutiplied by over three. Our population has grown from three to seventy million, and we have received foreigners in such numbers that some of these nationalities now exceed the whole number of Americans at the time the Constitution was framed. We have fought a war with the most powerful nation of Europe, and conducted within our own borders the longest great war since the Napoleonic epoch. Yet today our people are as free as they ever were, our government as efficient, and though the constitution has many times been overridden or disregarded, with scarcely an exception the ending of the crisis that led to such action has been followed by a contraction of powers to constitutional limits. After a hundred years of testing the national government stands to-day as the only one which has existed for a century without changes that were in effect revolutionary, and it is the only one able to enforce its laws on seventy millions of people without creating within itself a spirit of resistance and revolt.
Yet the federal constitution would have failed, as every government must fail, but for the faculty of self-government inherent in the people it nominally governs. Of what use would constitutional guarantees to the minority be, if the majority chose to disregard them? Of what use would a supreme court be, if its decisions were not acquiesced in? The constititution is alterable, the Supreme Court or the limitations can be amended at the will of the people. The constitution has been overridden, the people have disobeyed the laws. The success of our national government is due, not to its principles or structure; it is due to the fact that it gives to the majority the right of governing the land provided their laws shall be equal in operation, and that with this degree of power the majority has been content. It is, therefore, but one expression of what is the cardinal element of good government: a self-controlled people, given to excess in neither law-making nor in law-breaking.
On September 17, 1787, the federal convention, after nearly four months of anxious work, completed the framing of the compact since known as the constitution of the United States, and forwarded it to the Continental Congress, accompanying the instrument with the request that the proposed plan of government might be submitted to conventions of the people in the various states, for their discussion and ratification or rejection. The result of this recommendation was almost to turn the country at large into a vast debating society, and for nine months public speakers, pamphleteers, and newspapers declaimed and argued. Probably in no other time or country have the principles of government ever been so universally and elaborately discussed.
Even before the convention had made the result of its labors public, it was notorious that a large and powerful party in the state of New York was prepared to oppose whatever that body should submit. In the instructions of that state to her delegates to the federal convention, an attempt had been made to insert a restriction that any alterations made in the articles of confederation "should be not repugnant to, or inconsistent with, the constitution of this state," a motion lost by but one vote, and the instructions actually adopted only modified this limitation to the extent that the New York delegates were restricted to "the sole and express purpose of revising the articles of confederation." When therefore the convention, discarding the old government, set about the framing of a new one, two of New York's three delegates, Robert Yates and John Lansing, Jr., withdrew from the convention on the grounds that the body had wholly exceeded its power, and united in an open letter of protest to the Governor of the state, George Clinton; and though the third, Alexander Hamilton, refused to be bound by their action, and eventually signed the constitution, his act unquestionably transcended his powers.
Lines were therefore already drawn, when on September 27, 1787, the constitution was published in the New York press, and how well prepared were the opposition (or "Anti-federalists " as their opponents promptly named them), is proved by the fact that, on the very day of its publication, there appeared in the New York Journal, the organ of the "state machine," a letter signed "Cato," sharply and ably attacking the proposed government, written, as was very quickly known, by no less man than Governor George Clinton himself. From that time, till the meeting of the Assembly in January, 1788, gave other occupation, Clinton continued the attack in a series of letters over the same pseudonym. More dangerous still was another series, under the pen-name of "Brutus," begun a little later than those of Cato and far exceeding them in both ability and number, which were notoriously written by Robert Yates, judge of the state supreme court, and one of the delegates who had withdrawn from the federal convention. These two writers were re-enforced by a host of minor scribblers.
Hamilton was too warmly in favor of a strong national government, was too powerfully committed to the proposed constitution, and held too ready a pen, to allow these attacks to go unanswered. But three days after the publication of the first letter of "Cato," a reply to it, under the signature of "Cæsar," appeared in the papers, keenly personal in character, and virtually warning the "Anti-federalists," that they could "take" the "proffered constitution," or run the risk of seeing a government forced upon them by an army. Furthermore, "Cato" was told that, "in his future marches," he would very probably be followed by "Cæsar." The want of political tact thus shown, typical indeed of Hamilton through all his life, was eagerly seized upon by " Cato," and in his second letter he cleverly animadverted on these imperious and ill-advised warnings, and closed by telling "Cæsar," in turn, that no notice would be taken to what he might in the future write. To this "Cæsar," replied in a second letter, in which, as if he had not done harm enough, he went to the lengths of writing that "I am not much attached to the majesty of the multitude," and therefore "waive all pretentions (founded on such conduct), to their countenance." But even the author seems to have felt that he had begun his appeal to the people amiss, for at the end he gave notice that "Cæsar" would not reply further to "Cato."
This did not mean, however, that Hamilton resigned the field to his adversaries, but merely that he intended to change his ground. "Since my last," he wrote a correspondent (presumably Washington), "the chief of the state party has declared his opposition to the government proposed, both in private conversation and in print. That you may judge of the reason and fairness of his views I send you the two essays, with a reply by 'Cæsar.' On further consideration it was concluded to abandon this personal form, and to take up the principles of the whole subject. These will be sent you as published, and might with advantage be republished in your gazettes." Nor was it only his friends who knew of this change of plan, for the organ of the Anti-federalists promptly announced that, "a writer in the state of New York, under the signature of 'Cæsar,' came forward against the patriotic 'Cato,' and endeavored to frighten, him from starting any objections, and threatened that 'Cato' would be followed by 'Cæsar,' in all his marches; but we find that as soon as ever 'Cato' came freely to discuss the merit of the constitution, 'Cæsar' retreated and disappeared; and since that a publication under the signature of 'Publius' has appeared in that state."
To write such a treatise on the "principles of the whole subject," was a task of no little labor, but to write it in the few months before the assembling of the New York state convention (if not before the elections for members of that body), and so that it might at once begin the work of counteracting the influence of "Cato" and "Brutus," involved a rapidity of composition to which Hamilton himself was unequal. He therefore sought the assistance of two others in the undertaking and secured the aid, first of John Jay, then Secretary of Foreign Affairs, and second of James Madison, a member of the Continental Congress from Virginia, who had recently distinguished himself in the federal convention by his able elucidations of the general theory of government; a form of study in which Virginians had already made themselves famous. To Jay was assigned the discussion of government in its relation to foreign affairs, and to Madison was apportioned the historical and theoretical part, with an analysis of the general powers of the new government; Hamilton taking himself the examination of the defects of the confederation, and the exposition of the proposed constitution in detail, for both of which he was peculiarly fitted.
Even thus divided, it was a difficult task to produce the weekly tale of essays alternately published in the Independent Journal and the Daily Advertiser; and the mere magnitude of the labor can best be understood when it is noted that "Brutus," the ablest writer in the opposition, wrote only sixteen letters, while eighty-five appeared over the name of Publius, the periods of publication being almost identical.
The last letter of "Cæsar" was published on October 17, and on October 27 The Federalist, No. i," addressed to the "The People of the State of New York," over the pen-name of "Publius," was printed in the Independent Journal. This announced itself as the initial number of a series of essays on the proposed constitution, and briefly outlined the intended scope of the work. In eighty-five letters, published in the succeeding seven months, this task was completed.
The marked excellence of the letters of "Publius" attracted instant attention, and led to the republication of the earlier numbers in the larger part of the American press, even the New York Journal, the organ of the Anti-federalists, being finally forced to print them for a time. The demand indeed was sufficient to produce the prompt advertisement of a collection of the series in book form, and it was published while the constitution was still a matter of debate.
That The Federalist produced any marked influence at the time in leading to the acceptance of the new government is questionable, for it was a moment of passion, rather than of reason, and the followers of Clinton were too bound by selfish interests to let abstract reasoning really influence them. A good Federalist could only say of the work of "Publius" that "he is certainly a judicious and ingenious writer, though not well calculated for the common people." As for the Anti-federalists, they made no pretense of regarding the arguments. " 'The Federalist,' as he terms himself," wrote one, "or 'Publius,' puts me in mind of some of the gentlemen of the long robe when hard pressed, in a bad cause, with a rich client. They frequently say a good deal which does not apply; but yet if it will not convince the judge and jury, may perhaps, help to make them forget some part of the evidence—embarrass their opponents, and make the audience stare."
The New York elections for delegates to the state convention well proved that "Publius" had written in vain, for only one-third of the men chosen were Federalists—making the contest one of the most crushing defeats ever experienced by the Anti-Clinton party. Nor were the members of the convention when met, any more open to persuasion than the people had been. "I steal this moment," wrote one, "while the Convention is in Committee and the little Great Man employed in repeating over Parts of Publius" to write; and another, when an Anti-federalist was charged with having "compiled" his speech from the New York papers, replied that "if so, he had as much credit with me as Mr. Hamilton had, for retailing in Convention, Publius."
But if the masses were held to the democratic party in the state by the arguments of "Cato" and "Brutus" and were deaf to the reasoning of "Publius," there was a limit to what they could be made to accept. That the federal compact robbed them of power, and was a "gilded trap," leading to consolidation and to eventual tyranny, they had strong reasons for believing, but when the state machine, triumphant in shaping public opinion to this extent, went one point further, and advanced the idea of separation from the Union, which indeed was the logical outcome of a rejection of the constitution, it was not followed by the rank and file. In the history of the United States disunion has been often talked and sometimes attempted by political leaders, but not once have the masses accepted it. The only serious endeavor to break up the country which has ever occurred was in a section where those who should have been the controlling citizens were chiefly slaves, unable to make their influence a power; and even there, in the mountain regions, where the plain American resembled his more northern countryman, disunion never prospered. From 1774, if not earlier, the leaders have upheld or denounced a united country, according to their selfish or sectional views, but the unspeaking masses have felt, what it took statesmen years to learn, that there was but one people and one nation, be the states thirteen or thirty. In 1788 the majority might vote against a frame of government; they could not be brought to vote against the Union.
But another and more concrete difficulty existed to obstruct the plans of the Clintonian leaders. The Anti-federalists were a landholding and therefore an up-state party, while New York City and its immediate vicinity were controlled by the commercial and mechanic classes, so strongly federal in their feeling that at this very election for the convention, though the opposers of the constitution had won overwhelmingly elsewhere, yet in New York City the Federalists drove the Anti-federalists from some of the polls by force, and even where this was not done the vote stood as ten to one for their ticket. "Reject the constitution," threatened the federal leaders, and "a separation of the Southern District from the other parts of the State . . would become the object of the Federalists and of the neighboring States." This would not merely exclude the inland part of the state from the Union, it would shut it out from the sea. Worse still, it would lose to the country sections their share of the large revenues arising from the imposts on the rich commerce of New York City, and as this revenue was a principal reason for the refusal to join the Union (because of its necessary transference to the general government), the certain loss of it by a secession of the City removed a powerful motive of the Anti-federalists for opposing the constitution.
This danger of division, therefore, made the triumph of the Clinton party more apparent than real, and not daring to reject, nor willing to accept, the opponents of the constitution could only adopt the policy of delay, hoping that enough states would reject the new government to prevent its organization. Having postponed the state convention as long as possible, to gain time, it was next proposed when that body had met that they should take a "long adjournment as the safest and most artful course to effect their final purpose." But as state after state accepted the constitution such action became too extreme, and in place of it a plan of conditional amendments was brought forward, by which the state could later withdraw from the Union. Rather than risk further contest, this compromise was at first favorably received by the Federalists; the one side hoping that the new government would prove so great a failure or so hard a master that a favorable opportunity would come for rescinding the ratification, while the other foresaw that, a ratification once obtained, there would be little to "fear in the future." But while this compromise was still in embryo news reached the convention that both New Hampshire and Virginia had ratified the constitution, making ten states in all, and insuring the organization and trial of the new government. The Federalists therefore became less yielding and finally wrung from their opponents an unconditional ratification. What the arguments of " Publius " could not bring to pass had been extorted from the majority of the state by the majority of the states and a minority of its own citizens.
But if The Federalist was an uninfluential factor in the actual struggle for ratification, it was because of the nature of the contest, and not from want of ability. It is true that serious defects, due to the circumstances of its production, are obvious. Although intended to be a systematic work on republican government, it was even more a plea for the adoption of this particular constitution, and therefore had quite as much of the legal brief as of the philosophical commentary on government. Not one of the authors of The Federalist entirely approved of the constitution, but none the less they were called upon to defend it in toto. "In some parts," wrote Jefferson, immediately after its publication, "it is discoverable that the author means only to say what may be best said in defense of the opinions in which he did not concur," proving that some of the arguments were so halfhearted that the author's true thoughts stood revealed. As essays intended to combat the letters of "Cato" and "Brutus," frequent digressions and repetitions were made to disprove such postulates of those publications as were found to influence the people. Written especially to influence the voters of the state of New York, its references to local circumstances, and especially to the state constitution, were constant. Furthermore, the work was written with the utmost haste by three men, with few opportunities to consult, leading to frequent duplication, and to some inconsistencies. "The haste," wrote one of its authors, "with which many of the papers were penned in order to get through the subject while the Constitution was before the public, and to comply with the arrangement by which the printer was to keep his paper open for four numbers every week, was such that the performance must have borne a very different aspect without the aid of historical and other notes which had been used in the Convention, and without the familiarity with the whole subject produced by the discussions there. It frequently happened that, while the printer was putting into types parts of a number, the following parts were under the pen and to be furnished in time for the press." "The particular circumstances," wrote Hamilton, in the preface of the first collected edition of The Federalist, "under which these papers have been written have rendered it impracticable to avoid violations of method and repetitions of ideas which cannot but displease a critical reader."
Yet despite these adverse conditions, the writers of The Federalist produced a work which from the moment of publication has been acknowledged to be at once the ablest commentary on the federal constitution and one of the most solid and brilliant works on government ever written. "It would be difficult," wrote a critic in 1788, "to find a treatise which, in so small a compass, contains so much valuable political information, or in which the true principles of republican government are unfolded with such precision." This was echoed in 1830 by one of our ablest jurists, who declared "There is no work on the subject of the constitution, and on republican and federal government generally, that deserves to be more thoroughly studied. . . I know not indeed of any work on the principles of free government that is to be compared, in instruction, and intrinsic value, to this small and unpretending volume of The Federalist, not even if we resort to Aristotle, Cicero, Machiavel, Montesquieu, Milton, Locke, or Burke. It is equally admirable in the depth of its wisdom, the comprehensiveness of its views, the sagacity of its reflections, and the fearlessness, patriotism, candor, simplicity, and elegance with which its truths are uttered and recommended." More recently the historian of the Supreme Court, after stating that The Federalist "has been seriously and reverently called the Bible of Republicanism," added "that for comprehensiveness of design, strength, clearness, and simplicity, the book has no parallel among the writings of men, not even excepting or overlooking those of Montesquieu and Aristotle."
As certain defects in The Federalist resulted from its being written by three men, so this circumstance in time produced a controversy as to the exact share two of its authors had borne in the undertaking. The question has been needlessly complicated by the use of much material which had really no bearing on it, or which was valueless as evidence. Discarding all this, the dispute is reduced to the problem: did Hamilton, or Madison, write Nos. 49 to 58 and Nos. 62 and 63?
That either man should actually believe that he wrote twelve essays which he did not may at first sight seem impossible, but a recurrence to the circumstances at the time they were written proves that it was possible for both honestly to err. The essays were penned by men who had been reading the same books and listening to the same debates. Necessarily, therefore, their minds for the moment were saturated with the same material. The air was filled with certain principles and facts, which were used by both men, as well as by many, others, and for this reason, any attempt to argue the question from mere similarity of thought, as is done in the special pleas of John C. Hamilton in his edition of The Federalist in behalf of his father, and of Professor E. G. Bourne in the American Historical Review for March, 1897, in behalf of Madison, are, so far as. they argue from mere resemblance of idea, valueless as real evidence. From the letters of "Brutus," the great opponent of "Publius," could be selected a series of extracts that would go far to prove that he was the writer of the disputed essays of The Federalist. Undoubtedly, too, there was some between the writers of "Publius," with inevitable mutual coloring, and the letters were written with such haste that no one essay could especially impress itself on the mind of the writer. But an even greater cause than this matter of "stock" phrases and exchange of ideas, for the confusion and resulting contradiction of the writers, was the fact that both Hamilton and Madison were members of the conventions in their respective states to discuss the constitution, and in their speeches necessarily went over the same points that had been discussed in The Federalist. Mention has already been made of the fact that Hamilton was charged with "retailing" Publius to the New York state convention, and a reading of Madison's speeches in that of Virginia shows that he, too, made large drafts on The Federalist. When, therefore, the moment came that its writers could look over the collected edition, it is not strange that much of it read so familiarly to each that he honestly thought himself the writer. Granting the possibility, therefore, that both men could be misled, the question becomes not what each author thought, but purely what other evidence than their opinions goes to prove.
Before dismissing this question of memory, one fact of value cannot be omitted. Madison set out for Virginia three days after the last essay in dispute was published, was quickly engaged in the heat of party strife tending to obscure his memory on the question of authorship, and making it improbable that he could give the volumes of The Federalist, when they presently appeared, any careful examination for some time. Strange though it may appear, Madison apparently possessed no copy of the first edition, having presumptively given away all those sent him by Hamilton. On the contrary, while Madison was engaged in occupations likely to make him forget or confuse the part he had borne in the undertaking, Hamilton was revising the newspaper articles and seeing them through the press for the book edition. There is not an essay in the collected edition of 1788 in which he did not make from ten to twenty verbal corrections, implying careful study of the text, and as this revision was done within two months of their appearance in the newspapers, and before Hamilton had confused matters by "retailing" Publius in the New York convention, it is obvious that he refreshed his memory in a way most certain to fix the authorship clearly in his mind.
These facts being considered, it becomes of importance to find what is the earliest date at which each of the disputants asserted his claim of authorship. So far as is known Madison's was first noted in a copy of the edition of The Federalist printed in 1799, or eleven years after the appearance of the essays. Hamilton's earliest statement was made to Chancellor Kent, and as he is spoken of in the memoranda as "General Hamilton" it must have been made while he held that rank, or in the years 1798 or 1799. Thus both assertions practically rest on equal ground, so far as time is concerned.
But one piece of evidence deserves mention, because it seemed at one time to threaten that Madison's claim was to be lost by default. Hamilton's list was published in a widely read periodical in 1807, and the edition of The Federalist printed in 1810 gave further currency and authority to Hamilton's view by ascribing the numbers according to one of his statements. Yet not one word of denial was publicly made by Madison, or by any of his friends for him, until 1817. It has been urged in explanation that Madison's official positions prevented his entering into a controversy, but an adequate reply is furnished by the fact that through his friends the Secretary of State and President conducted several newspaper controversies in these very years.
Another point worth considering is the fact that Hamilton held by far the readier pen, and as the originator of the series undoubtedly intended to take the laboring oar. Madison was the last one of the three to join in the undertaking, and in the first thirty-six essays he wrote but two entirely by himself, the remaining three in which he bore a part having been begun as well by Hamilton. With this in mind let us consider the circumstances that mark a peculiarity in Madison's chief share in the work. At No. 37 Hamilton for the time being ceased all work, and Madison took up the task and wrote twelve consecutive essays, immediately following which come the twelve in dispute. The question naturally arises why Hamilton should suddenly transfer to Madison the continuance of the series, throwing upon him all the work, and the reason is not far to seek. No. 36 of The Federalist, or the last of Hamilton's contributions, was published on January 8. On January 15 the New York state supreme court began its winter term, and Hamilton as a busy lawyer was called upon to attend it. Furthermore, on January 11 the New York state legislature assembled, and Hamilton, who was a candidate for membership of Congress, was involved in a political campaign akin to the modern senatorial election. These joint occupations necessarily made such drafts upon his time that he could not continue The Federalist, and that there should be no break in it Madison assumed the entire task of carrying it on. The term of the court ended on January 25, and on February 22 Hamilton was elected to the Continental Congress. We therefore have the choice of inferring that Hamilton at once resumed his work on The Federalist or else that he resumed it when Madison went south.
Turning from these extraneous facts to those which can be drawn from the essays themselves, the first point deserving consideration relates to a condition implied by joint authorship. A moment's thought will suggest that a work produced in this manner must force upon each writer a little difficulty in maintaining in a nominally consecutive work an appearance of homogeneity. Where an essay was to follow one written by the same author sequence was possible, but when it was to succeed one he had not written or read, the task was not easy. Necessarily then, one would expect a certain disjointedness of connection, and this is the very thing discovered on examining the points where a new writer assumed the pen. Thus No. 10, by Madison, is an essay on faction, yet though the preceding letter was on the same subject, it does not continue the first, but is a distinct essay. Following this are three essays on the defects of the confederation, by Hamilton, and then comes No. 14, by Madison, which is really a continuation of No. 10, and is therefore an absolute break in the subject of both the letters which precede and follow it. If the authorship of these six numbers were not known it would be possible to decide, from internal evidence, at what points a different writer undertook the labor. Nor does the obvious difference between a man opening an essay which follows one by himself or one by another, fail to show itself at every change of writer that is known to have occurred. By examining the opening phrases of Nos. 10, 14, 18, and 37, in which Madison began his contributions, the disconnection with the preceding numbers is obvious, and the same is true of Nos. 2 and 64 in which those by Jay began. But most marked of all are the opening sentences with which Hamilton resumed his part, and as they are of value, in the present consideration, they are quoted here:
6. "The last three numbers of this work have been dedicated to an enumeration of the dangers". . .
11. "The importance of the union in a commerical light". . .
15. "In the course of the preceding papers, I have endeavored". . .
21. "Having, in the last three numbers, taken a summary review". . .
Here, then, in three cases, are evident attempts to attach new subjects to previous essays so as to imply a sequence that was absent in the subjects and treatment. With this as a clew, if we run through the letters from Nos. 37 to 63 (after which there is no dispute), but two natural breaks are to be found—at Nos. 47 and 52, which severally begin:
47. "Having reviewed the general form of the proposed government". .
52. "From the more general inquiries pursued in the preceding four last papers". . . If the analogy of the previous openings is allowed as evidence, it is at one of those two points, then, that we should conclude that a new writer had begun.
With these facts to work upon, an examination of the five essays, Nos. 47 to 51, shows them to be a discussion of the apportionment of the powers of government among the three departments. The general extent of these powers had been already discussed in the immediately preceding numbers, and a more minute survey of their relation to the three departments is the subject of the remaining essays almost to the end. They can, therefore, be considered as belonging to either. From Madison himself, however, we get a clew, for in No. 41 he distinctly assigns them to the second series. But whether this is accepted as proof, an examination of the five forces the inference that they were all written by one man.
The authorship of Nos. 37 to 48 is given to Madison by every known list, so it is difficult to avoid concluding that the apparent break between Nos. 46 and 47 merely represent the beginning of a new subject by the same pen, and not a change of writer. Furthermore we have the excellent authority of James Kent for the statement that "Mr. Hamilton told me that Mr. Madison wrote 48 and 49, or from Pa. 101 to 112 of Vol. 2d." No. 50 was almost surely written by the same hand which penned No. 49, and No. 51 was certainly composed by the writer of No. 50. In addition these essays discuss the powers from the purely historical and theoretical standpoint, views for which Madison had strong predilections. A candid survey of the facts, therefore, will, we think, lead every unbiased student to assign them to one author, and the balance of evidence certainly points to James Madison.
But the same internal evidence shows that with No. 52, a minute and homogeneous examination of the structure of the grovernment is begun, in which the three departments are analyzed point by point. That one man wrote Nos. 52 to 58, that a second contributed Nos. 59 to 61, that then the original writer resumed his work in Nos. 62 and 63, and that finally the task was again assumed by the second writer, and completed by him, the essays themselves give no evidence. With the exception of the insertion of one essay (No. 64, on the treaty-making power of the Senate, which was given to Jay, because of his diplomatic experience), it is difficult to resist the conviction that the whole remainder of the letters are the work of one writer and one prone to take the practical rather than the theoretical view of things. Examining Nos. 52 to 58 and 62 and 63, in detail, we find several small facts which throw light on the question of authorship. In Nos. 52, 56/57, 58, and 63, are citations of examples in English history, like references being numerous in many of Hamilton's essays, but only two passing references to Great Britain are to be found in any of those written by Madison. The same difference is noticeable in the papers prepared by the two writers for use in the federal convention—Hamilton's "Brief" of his speech, and Madison's "Notes," the first citing British example frequently, the latter not once."
In Nos. 53, 54, and 56, are paragraphs discussing taxation, and the first and last of these letters also discuss the militia, both of which subjects Hamilton had familiarized himself with, and which he had made his own topics in the earlier essays.
No. 54 is a discussion of slave representation, written nominally from the Southern point of view, but really from the Northern. Not once did Madison allude to this famous clause in the Virginia convention, but Hamilton spoke a résumé of this essay in that of New York. The cause for this is obvious: the "federal number" needed no defense in Virginia; in New York, the contrary was true. But an even greater reason for Hamilton's taking up this particular point was the fact that on February 7, 1788, there had appeared in the New York Journal a letter entitled "The Expositor," savagely attacking the slave compromise and charging of Hamilton himself that "The delegate from this state acceded to it alone on the part of this state," and adding, "I cannot help thinking it a most daring insult offered to the freemen and freeholders of this State, besides being an unparalleled departure from his duties to this state as well as to the United States." Necessarily this attack could not be disregarded, and the impersonal reply to it in No. 54 was published exactly one week later, on February 14. It seems almost conclusive under these circumstances that it was written by Hamilton. Another opinion in this number furthers this probability. The writer praises the "federal number," on the ground that it introduces through the slave a partial representation of property. This was a favorite idea of Hamilton's, for which he had spoken in the federal convention, and for which he praised this clause in one of his speeches in the New York convention. To this idea of property representation Madison was absolutely opposed.
In No. 52 the writer is in doubt as to the term of office of the colonial assembly of Virginia before the Revolution; a fact so notorious in that state that it could not have been unknown to Madison.
In No. 63 the writer praises the British House of Lords; something Madison would not have done. Hamilton, on the contrary, had been most open in his admiration of the British government, and so admired this particular branch of it that he had but just modeled the Senate in his proposed constitution as closely upon it as he could. This essay, too, devoted a paragraph to the Senate of Maryland, which Hamilton had already noticed with some attention in his "great" speech in the federal convention.
In Nos. 54 and 57 the mention of local circumstances, of New York state, of New York city, and of Albany county, points to the knowledge of Hamilton rather than to that of Madison.
Finally and most conclusive, in the republication in 1788 of the letters in book form, Hamilton inserted in the newspaper text of No. 56 a paragraph relating to military affairs, and as he was scrupulous, in correcting the numbers not written by himself, to limit his change to merely verbal improvements, this addition amounts to an assertion of authorship within two months of its writing. Strangely enough, in the edition of 1818 in which "the numbers written by Mr. Madison" were "corrected by himself," this insertion of Hamilton's was retained.
From the preceding facts, in which, so far as possible, all evidence that is of value has been included, without regard to whether it told for or against a particular man, it appears that Madison probably wrote Nos. 49 to 51, and Hamilton Nos. 52 to 58 and Nos. 62, 63, of those essays of which we find their testimony in direct contradiction. Accordingly they are in this edition assigned as above, but since the evidence cannot be termed conclusive, a question mark has been placed before the name attached to each disputed number.
But to whomever the disputed numbers are assigned, or whether they are left in doubt, the value and power of The Federalist were due to its undertaker, and not to his assistants. It is asserted that Hamilton requested the insertion of the sentence in the preface of the edition of 1802 to the effect that the contributions of Madison and Jay were "not unequal in merit to those which are solely from the pen of General Hamilton." In this opinion Hamilton was probably singular, for the few essays of Jay, and Madison's dry-bones on long dead confederacies, and his "theoretic" arguments, would have long since been forgotten, but for their inclusion in the essays written by Hamilton. No one who has carefully read the essays can fail to agree with George Ticknor Curtis when he asserted that "it was from [Hamilton] that The Federalist derived the weight and the power which commanded the careful attention of the country," and with the Hon. James Bryce, when he wrote: "Of these writers Hamilton must be deemed the leading spirit, not merely because he wrote by far the larger number of letters, but because his mind was more independent and more commanding than Madison's."
The Federalist has been many times reprinted, and an elaborate catalogue of these editions is given in Ford's "Bibliography and Reference List of the History and Literature Relating to the Adoption of the Constitution of the United States, 1787-1788." Briefly, a collected edition of the newspaper articles, as revised by Hamilton, was printed in 1788, and a reissue of this was made in 1799. In 1802 a new edition with a preface by John Wells, who was slightly assisted by Hamilton, was issued, and this text was again printed in 1810 and 1817, both the latter editions adding the names of the authors from "a private memorandum" in Hamilton's "own handwriting."
In 1818 an edition, with a preface by Jacob Gideon, was printed with Madison's authority, "the numbers written by Mr. Madison corrected by himself," and with the assignment of authorship according to his views. Other editions of this text were printed in 1821, 1826, 1831, 1837, 1842, 1847, 1852, and 1857. In the edition of 1831 a brief and very inadequate index was added.
In 1863 Mr. Henry B. Dawson reprinted in collected form the original newspaper text, to which he added a learned, though biased introduction. There have been several reprints of this, but with the suppression of this introduction.
In 1864 Mr. James C. Hamilton edited an elaborate edition of Hamilton's revised text of 1788, with an introduction written from a Hamiltonian point of view; of this edition there have been several reissues.
In 1886 Mr. Henry Cabot Lodge reprinted the text of Dawson, with one or two slight modifications, and with an introduction rather favorable to Hamilton. He also included the index printed in the edition of 1831.
The present edition is designed primarily for the use of students, though it is hoped that certain new and improved features will make it the most serviceable as well for the lawyer and jurist. For the first time Hamilton's preliminary outline of The Federalist is included, and from the earliest edition his table of contents and his introduction, omitted in recent editions, have been added. In addition a new table of contents has been prepared, giving fuller treatment, and this has been repeated at the beginning of each essay to facilitate quick reference. The date of publication of each number, with the name of the newspaper in which it appeared, has been for the first time obtained and prefixed to each essay. Where, in the edition of 1788 the number was changed from the newspaper text, the latter is added, in brackets, that the endless confusion hitherto arising from this contradiction may be henceforth avoided or understood. All text of The Federalist which relates to the purely temporary issues of 1788, and much of the historical part, both of which are now of slight value, have been printed in smaller type. For the benefit of the student, the text has for the first time been annotated, both with a view to making obscure allusions plain, and to the elucidation of the text that intervening history has made possible.
To the text of The Federalist proper there have been added in the Appendix the articles of confederation and the constitution, and to the latter are appended references to the decisions of the Supreme Court bearing on each clause, with three of the most important decisions in an abridged form. All important amendments since proposed have been included in the belief that in them are best expressed the points of friction over that instrument. For this same reason are included the opinions of Hamilton and Jefferson on a national bank, the Virginia and Kentucky resolutions of 1798, the South Carolina Ordinance of Nullification and Jackson's Proclamation of 1832, the South Carolina Ordinance of Secession and Declaration of Independence, the constitution of the Confederate States, and the act creating the Electoral Commission.
Finally, for the first time The Federalist has been thoroughly indexed; an addition which leads the editor, from personal experience of the previous difficulty of consultation and use of the work, to believe that no book of equal importance has so needed such an improvement.
Paul Leicester Ford
- "I hold, with Montesquieu, that a government must be fitted to a nation much as a coat to the individual; and consequently that what may be good at Philadelphia, may be bad at Paris, and ridiculous at Petersburgh." — Hamilton, 1799.
- Instanced in Magna Charta and the French Bill of Rights of 1789.
- Inaugural address of John Adams, 1797.
- What numbers of fine cattle have returned from this city [New York] to the country for want of buyers? What great quantities of salted and other provisions still lie useless in the stores? To how much below the former price is our corn and wheat and flour and lumber rapidly falling?"— John Jay, in " Pamphlets en the Constitution," 73.
- "Notes on Virginia," 157.
- It was fear that Shays's revolt would spread to within the borders of its own state that made the New York legislature vote the call for the federal convention, and the fright it gave Massachusetts was the cause for the assent of her assembly to what it had negatived but a few months before.
- As an example, Washington had bonds and mortgages to "nigh £10,000" paid off in depreciated paper money, worth at times as little as 2/6 in the pound, and when he attended the federal convention, he was in arrears for two years' taxes through having been unable to sell the products of bis farms.
- John Quincy Adams said that the constitution was "extorted from the grinding necessity of a reluctant nation."
- Motion of Roberts Yates, Journal of Senate.
- Elliot, ii. 127.
- Ibid., 480.
- Reprinted in Ford's " Essays on the Constitution."
- New York Journal, November 1, 1787.
- Reprinted in Ford's " Essays on the Constitution."
- Washington complained in November, 1787, that "I have hardly seen one [publication] that is not addressed to the passions of the people."
- See Ford's " Essays on the Constitution," 245.
- "The undertaking was proposed by Alexander Hamilton to James Madison, with a request to join him and Mr. Jay in carrying it into effect." (Madison in a paper entitled "The Federalists.") It was undertaken last fall by Jay, Hamilton, and myself. The proposal came from the two former." —Madison to Jefferson, August 10, 1788.
- It has been stated by Rives and Bourne that the early letters were signed "A Citizen of New York." This is an error, the only use of that pseudonym being in an advertisement of the first collected edition.
- It printed later a petition from thirty subscribers that the paper would cease from republishing The Federalist.
- Maclaine to Iredell, March 4, 1788.
- New York Journal, February 14, 1788.
- Hamilton to Madison, June 8, 1788.
- Though carried on in concert, the writers were not mutually responsible for all the ideas of each other; there being seldom time for even a perusal of the pieces by any but the writer, before they were wanted at the press, and sometimes hardly by the writer himself." — Madison to Jefferson, August l0, 1788.
- Madison, in paper entitled "The Federalist."
- Noah Webster in American Magazine for March, 1788.
- Jefferson pronounced it "the best commentary on the principles of government which has ever been written." — Letter to Madison, November 18, 1788.
- James Kent in "Commentaries" i. 241. Story, too, speaks of it as "an incomparable commentary."
- Carson's "History of the Supreme Court."
- One fact of interest in this edition is that it gives Hamilton as the author of No. 54, thus showing that there was a list "in his own handwriting" in existence at that time, which corrected the obvious error he made in the Benson list.
- That the courts gave Hamilton so much occupation as to force him to suspend his work on The Federalist is proved in a letter from him to Madison in April, 1788, when he wrote, "If our suspicions of the author be right he must be too much engaged to make a rapid progress in what remains. The Court of Chancery and the Circuit Court are now sitting." Turning to The Federalist we find at this very point a gap of over two months in the publication of a number.
- No. 48 was published on February 2: Madison began his southern journey on March 4.
- A very valuable piece of evidence on this question of authorship has been buried from sight by the mistakes of Hamilton's two editors in labeling a paper printed in both editions as a "Brief of Argument on the Constitution of the United States," though the manuscript of the paper bore no heading whatsoever. Study of it should have clearly indicated that it is a preliminary outline of The Federalist from the point that Hamilton was interrupted in his composition by his legal and political occupations, and it was presumably drawn up as a guide for Madison in his continuance of the task, See post.
- The constitution proposed by the convention may be considered under two general points of view. The First relates to the sum or quantity of power which it vests in the government, including the restraints imposed on the states. The Second, to the particular structure of the government, and the distribution of this power, among its several branches.
"Under the first view of the subject two important questions arise: 1. Whether any part of the powers transferred to the general government be unnecessary or improper? 2. Whether the entire mass of them be dangerous to the portion of jurisdiction left in the several states?"—Opening paragraphs of No. 41.
- One curious fact, to which attention has never been called, is that Taylor, in his "New View of the Constitution (1823)" divides the authorship at No. 46, giving No. 47 and all that follow to Hamilton. Yet though he was the friend and correspondent of Madison, and though this book was a well-known one to the latter, neither publicly nor privately, so far as is known, did Madison correct Taylor's conclusion,
- One rather singular piece of evidence contradictory to the above conclusion is furnished by the comparative length of the different essays. When examining in the newspapers the original text of The Federalist my attention was called to the fact that the letters contributed by Hamilton rarely overran a column and a half, while those by Madison seldom filled less than three columns. I therefore carefully estimated the lengths of each man's work, to find that the average length of the fifty essays unquestionably written by Hamilton is 1800 words; of those certainly written by Madison, 3000 words. Madison wrote in the undoubted numbers (No. 10, 14, 37-46,) but two essays of less than 2300 words, and Hamilton but once wrote one of 3000 words, except in the last five, when an evident attempt was made to finish the series up quickly. Testing Nos. 49 to 58 and Nos. 62 and 63, the average length is found to be 1800 words. No. 47 contains 2700 words; No. 48, 1800; No. 49, 1600 words; No. 50, iioo words ; No. 51, 1800 words; No. 52, 1700 words. It is needless to add, to anyone who has studied the writings of the two men, that the differences between the two styles in this very respect is most noticeable. Madison is wordy and seems to have little ability to express an idea with brevity. Hamilton is direct and compact to an extent which made him a famous draftsman in his day, and few men have ever equaled him in his power of stating a thing tersely.
- I omit here the résumé in No. 47, because from what has already been shown, this number cannot be positively ascribed to Madison.
- In Madison's supplementary notes, prepared for use in the Virginia convention, he cites British example, but this was after The Federalist had called his attention to the value of the material.