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The Federalist No. 1: Hamilton

October 27, 1787

To the People of the State of New York.

After an unequivocal experience of the inefficacy of the subsisting Federal Government, you are called upon to deliberate on a new Constitution for the United States of America. The subject speaks its own importance; comprehending in its consequences, nothing less than the existence of the Union, the safety and welfare of the parts of which it is composed, the fate of an empire, in many respects, the most interesting in the world. It has been frequently remarked, that it seems to have been reserved to the people of this country, by their conduct and example, to decide the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not, of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend, for their political constitutions, on accident and force. If there be any truth in the remark, the crisis, at which we are arrived, may with propriety be regarded as the æra in which that decision is to be made; and a wrong election of the part we shall act, may, in this view, deserve to be considered as the general misfortune of mankind.

This idea will add the inducements of philanthropy to those of patriotism to heighten the solicitude, which all considerate and good men must feel for the event. Happy will it be if our choice should be directed by a judicious estimate of our true interests, unperplexed and unbiassed by considerations not connected with the public good. But this is a thing more ardently to be wished than seriously to be expected. The plan offered to our deliberations, affects too many particular interests, innovates upon too many local institutions, not to involve in its discussion a variety of objects foreign to its merits, and of views, passions and prejudices little favourable to the discovery of truth.

Among the most formidable of the obstacles which the new Constitution will have to encounter, may readily be distinguished the obvious interest of a certain class of men in every State to resist all changes which may hazard a diminution of the power, emolument and consequence of the offices they hold under the State-establishments-and the perverted ambition of another class of men, who will either hope to aggrandise themselves by the confusions of their country, or will flatter themselves with fairer prospects of elevation from the subdivision of the empire into several partial confederacies, than from its union under one government.

It is not, however, my design to dwell upon observations of this nature. I am well aware that it would be disingenuous to resolve indiscriminately the opposition of any set of men (merely because their situations might subject them to suspicion) into interested or ambitious views: Candour will oblige us to admit, that even such men may be actuated by upright intentions; and it cannot be doubted that much of the opposition which has made its appearance, or may hereafter make its appearance, will spring from sources, blameless at least, if not respectable, the honest errors of minds led astray by preconceived jealousies and fears. So numerous indeed and so powerful are the causes, which serve to give a false bias to the judgment, that we upon many occasions, see wise and good men on the wrong as well as on the right side of questions, of the first magnitude to society. This circumstance, if duly attended to, would furnish a lesson of moderation to those, who are ever so much persuaded of their being in the right, in any controversy. And a further reason for caution, in this respect, might be drawn from the reflection, that we are not always sure, that those who advocate the truth are influenced by purer principles than their antagonists. Ambition, avarice, personal animosity, party opposition, and many other motives, not more laudable than these, are apt to operate as well upon those who support as upon those who oppose the right side of a question. Were there not even these inducements to moderation, nothing could be more illjudged than that intolerant spirit, which has, at all times, characterised political parties. For, in politics as in religion, it is equally absurd to aim at making proselytes by fire and sword. Heresies in either can rarely be cured by persecution.

And yet however just these sentiments will be allowed to be, we have already sufficient indications, that it will happen in this as in all former cases of great national discussion. A torrent of angry and malignant passions will be let loose. To judge from the conduct of the opposite parties, we shall be led to conclude, that they will mutually hope to evince the justness of their opinions, and to increase the number of their converts by the loudness of their declamations, and by the bitterness of their invectives. An enlightened zeal for the energy and efficiency of government will be stigmatized, as the off-spring of a temper fond of despotic power and hostile to the principles of liberty. An overscrupulous jealousy of danger to the rights of the people, which is more commonly the fault of the head than of the heart, will be represented as mere pretence and artifice; the bait for popularity at the expence of public good. It will be forgotten, on the one hand, that jealousy is the usual concomitant of violent love, and that the noble enthusiasm of liberty is too apt to be infected with a spirit of narrow and illiberal distrust. On the other hand, it will be equally forgotten, that the vigour of government is essential to the security of liberty; that, in the contemplation of a sound and well informed judgment, their interest can never be separated; and that a dangerous ambition more often lurks behind the specious mask of zeal for the rights of the people, than under the forbidding appearance of zeal for the firmness and efficiency of government. History will teach us, that the former has been found a much more certain road to the introduction of despotism, than the latter, and that of those men who have overturned the liberties of republics the greatest number have begun their career, by paying an obsequious court to the people, commencing Demagogues and ending Tyrants.

In the course of the preceeding observations I have had an eye, my Fellow Citizens, to putting you upon your guard against all attempts, from whatever quarter, to influence your decision in a matter of the utmost moment to your welfare by any impressions other than those which may result from the evidence of truth. You will, no doubt, at the same time, have collected from the general scope of them that they proceed from a source not unfriendly to the new Constitution. Yes, my Countrymen, I own to you, that, after having given it an attentive consideration, I am clearly of opinion, it is your interest to adopt it. I am convinced, that this is the safest course for your liberty, your dignity, and your happiness. I effect not reserves, which I do not feel. I will not amuse you with an appearance of deliberation, when I have decided. I frankly acknowledge to you my convictions, and I will freely lay before you the reasons on which they are founded. The consciousness of good intentions disdains ambiguity. I shall not however multiply professions on this head. My motives must remain in the depository of my own breast: My arguments will be open to all, and may be judged of by all. They shall at least be offered in a spirit, which will not disgrace the cause of truth.

I propose in a series of papers to discuss the following interesting particulars-The utility of the Union to your political prosperity-The insufficiency of the present Confederation to preserve that Union-The necessity of a government at least equally energetic with the one proposed to the attainment of this object-The conformity of the proposed constitution to the true principles of republican government-Its analogy to your own state constitution-and lastly, The additional security, which its adoption will afford to the preservation of that species of government, to liberty and to property.

In the progress of this discussion I shall endeavour to give a satisfactory answer to all the objections which shall have made their appearance that may seem to have any claim to your attention.

It may perhaps be thought superfluous to offer arguments to prove the utility of the Union, a point, no doubt, deeply engraved on the hearts of the great body of the people in every state, and one, which it may be imagined has no adversaries. But the fact is, that we already hear it whispered in the private circles of those who oppose the new constitution, that the Thirteen States are of too great extent for any general system, and that we must of necessity resort to separate confederacies of distinct portions of the whole.1 This doctrine will, in all probability, be gradually propagated, till it has votaries enough to countenance an open avowal of it. For nothing can be more evident, to those who are able to take an enlarged view of the subject, than the alternative of an adoption of the new Constitution, or a dismemberment of the Union. It will therefore be of use to begin by examining the advantages of that Union, the certain evils and the probable dangers, to which every State will be exposed from its dissolution. This shall accordingly constitute the subject of my next address.

Revue de presse

Admirable introduction...Oxford University Press is to be congratulated on adding it to its collection of World's Classics. (Howard Temperley, TLS) --Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Broché .

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Première phrase
AFTER an unequivocal experience of the inefficacy of the subsisting federal government, you are called upon to deliberate on a new Constitution for the United States of America. Lire la première page
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Couverture | Copyright | Table des matières | Extrait | Index | Quatrième de couverture
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639 internautes sur 654 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Serious Political Thinking 16 avril 2006
Par James E. Egolf - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Poche
The new edition of THE FEDERALIST PAPERS edited by Clinton Rossiter and co. is probably the best paperback edition. Rossiter and Charles Kesler did a good job in presenting these papers, and their explanations and notes make this book clear for readers. THE FEDERALIST PAPERS alone are an important source of serious political thinking. In an age of almost unbridled political power, corruption, empire buidling, etc. THE FEDERALIST PAPERS are important reminder of what a Free Republic (not an empire) should be.

THE FEDERALIST PAPERS were written by Alexander Hamilton (1757-1804), John Jay (1745-1829), and James Madison (1751-1835). Due to concerns about the New York State legislators ratifying the The U.S. Constitution, these papers were journal pieces written to New York journals and newspapers to convince both the residents and state legislators to ratify The U.S. Constitution. One should note there were other published articles supporting ratification of The U.S. Constitution and other articles can be read in a text titled FRIENDS OF THE CONSTITUTION.

What is alarming about THE FEDERALISTS PAPERS is that they were written for most readers. If one were to write such articles these days, most Americans would not read them nor comprehend them. This is a sad commentary on Americans regarding serious political writing regarding their birthright. If THE FEDERALIST PAPERS were assigned to high school kids, whoever would make such an assignment would be fired or worse.

THE FEDERALIST PAPERS give important explanations of the separation of powers, limits of each branch of the central government (The Federal Government), and how political power should be used within severe limitations. These articles were a brilliant attempt to mitigate fears that The U.S. Constitution would give far too much power to the the central or federal government.

The late Clinton Rossiter had a useful suggestion for those who did not want to read all 85 of THE FEDERALIST PAPERS. He suggested that the best numbers were 1,2,6,9,10, 14, 15, 16,23, 37, 39,47, 49, 51, 62, 70, 78, 84, and 85. Those readers who read these numbered papers would probably want to read the remainder.

This newer paperback edition of THE FEDERALIST PAPERS has some valuable features to help the reader navigate complex political thinking. The U.S. Constitution is placed in the end of the book with page numbers of the book whereby the authors of THE FEDERALIST PAPERS refer to that section of the U.S. Constitution. This gives clarity as to exactly what the authors were arguing regarding specific sections of the proposed U.S. Constitution. Another important feature of this edition of THE FEDERALIST PAPERS consists of the notes. The men who wrote THE FEDERALIST PAPERS were learned men who had seriously studied history and political thought. The notes explain the examples of Ancient Greek and Roman History used to make some of the arguments. These notes also refer to examples of Renaissance and English History which were also used to make good arguments from historical examples. One could get first rate learning experience of Ancient Greek and Roman History as well as a better view of European Renaissance and English History.

Readers should not forget that the authors of THE FEDERALIST PAPERS were responding to the Anti-Federalists and their articles titled THE ANTI-FEDERALIST PAPERS. Too often the Anti-Federalists are referred to as obstrcutionists and narrow minded men. This is simply not true. The ANTI-FEDERALIST PAPERS were as well written and brilliantly argued as THE FEDERALIST PAPERS.
One should note that one of the major objections of the Anti-Federalists to ratification of The U.S. Constitution was that it did not contain a Bill of Rights. The Federalists took this argument seriously. Basically, one could argue that without the Anti-Federalists, there would have been no Bill of Rights. Ergo, without The Bill of Rights, there would have been no U.S. Constitution. The Anti-Federalists were very important in the ratification of The U.S. Constitution.

Anyone who wants to define who Americans should be should read THE FEDERALIST PAPERS. They should also read THE ANTI-FEDERALIST PAPERS and read clear, informed, and well written political theory from men who could actually think. Most political hacks and too many American citizens are not even vaguely aware of this important political writing. Yet, this political writing is the very best American political thinking in U.S. History. This reviewer highly recommends the Rossiter-Kesler edition of THE FEDERALIST PAPERS and other editions of THE ANTI-FEDERALIST PAPERS.
206 internautes sur 215 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
The rich keep getting richer... 19 novembre 2000
Par Stephen - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Poche
and the Mentor Federalist Papers keep getting better. Yes, that's right. They actually managed to improve on it. The great new additions include the Declaration, the Articles, and an excellent new introduction by Charles Kessler. I think the killer feature for new readers will be the notes in the back, which, if you (like me) are shaky in your Greek history (and the finer points of European), do a great job of explaining allusions and references by the Papers. Be sure to use this feature -- there's no indication in the text that a note exists, but you should just look if you're unsure of a historical setting (or something similar), and there probably will be one.
On the minus side, I do miss Rossiter's introduction. It wasn't as good for laying out the plan of the work, but it should have been included (along with Kessler's) for its excellent overview of the contemporary situation and the philosophy behind the papers. Also, I feel that Rossiter's contents were slightly better than Kessler's. And, the page numbers are changed, invalidating older references to them. But all in all it's an improvement, and certainly the Mentor edition is the only one to have. Period. It's the one used by at least some of the Supreme Court Justices, and it retains that single dominating feature, Rossiter's cross-referenced Constitution (and index of ideas).
As for the Papers themselves, of course, they need no review. They are the first and ultimate Constitutional commentary, and fascinating reading besides. As literature they stand out for the exceptional style (all the more remarkable considering the haste in which they were written) and clear thinking, and more than any other book they define how the U.S. _should_ work.
All in all, this is one of the best book bargains on the market, that rare coincidence where best edition meets mass-market paperback. What are you waiting for?
107 internautes sur 110 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
The best edition of the Federalist Papers 14 mai 2000
Par Chitown Reader - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Poche
This is the best edition of the Federalist Papers. It includes many extras, but especially useful is the text of the US Constitution with cross-references to specific pages of the Federalist Papers referring to that provision. I highly recommend the Federalist Papers generally, and more specifically this edition to anyone wishing to know more about the founding and ratification of the Constitution.
90 internautes sur 94 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Great But Incomplete 4 mars 2007
Par Andrei Bolkonski - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Poche
Everyone is probably familiar with what the Anti-Federalist papers are, and the other reviews do a great job of explaining this aspect for those who aren't, so there is no great need to do it again. Needless to say, familiarity with the basic Anti-Federalist arguments and their general themes is essential to understanding the foundation from which the Constitution arose and the twists its historical development would undertake. Believe it or not, but strains of Anti-Federalism are apparent even in today's politics, like the arguments for state power found in debates about topics like abortion or gay-marriage.

The biggest question to ask before buying this book, then, isn't why the information is important, but why you should pay money for something that can be found for free online. There are several reasons, for which I give this edition 4 stars:

First, it is an accompaniment to the Signet Classics edition of the Federalist Papers, and has a variety of cross-references to it. If you have both, it makes the search for certain topics and both sides' arguments in its regard much easier.

Second, it has a great introduction. The problem with approaching the Anti-Federalists without any editorial priming beforehand (whether from an introduction, a class, or both) is that one becomes liable to think of the group as nothing but a rag-tag group of guys with as many different opinions as there are men professing them, whose only point of unity is their opposition to Federalism. Their negative name--the "Anti-"Federalists--implies this, after all, and Madison himself tries to play off this point in one of his papers. The masterful introduction tries to prevent this, by expounding on the fundamental, unifying vision of the Federalists, the Anti-Federalists, and exactly how the two differed.

Lastly, there is a variety of tables of ideas that make finding specific points of opposition to specific topics that much easier.

For these three reasons, on top of the simple fact that it groups together all the scattered Anti-Federalist essays (making it more likely that you will actually read them), I believe this book is worth the $8 that it costs today.

It does have some issues, however. First, the paper quality is the same as of the Federalist Papers edition I reviewed before, with the same associated defect of leaving ink blotches behind on your finger. For some reason, it actually leaves less ink than the Federalist Papers, but the pulpy texture is still unpleasant. Second, and most important, is the relatively sparsity of the essays included. As it is, if you take a class that touches on this topic, you will invariably end up having to find several essays online that were not included into this edition. There presently seems to be no medium alternative between buying a sparse edition like this and a full anthology that can cost into the thousands of dollars, however, so you're not likely to find anything better.
85 internautes sur 90 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
A Contention and a Suggestion 25 août 2006
Par Christian Thoma - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Poche
One of the reviewers below challenges the notion that the US was ever a Democracy, however, he (apologies if it's a 'she') is viewing the Federalist Papers from the perspective of modern times, and that is a fallacy in reviewing this work, but fortunately it's an instructive fallacy.

The issue with the Federalist Papers is that although it is the leading arguments for the creation of a more centralized government (to replace the Articles of Confederation which seemed inpractible), not all of these arguments were adopted in the Constitution, and some that were did not survive very long. As a result, you may get the wrong impression that the Federalist Papers=the Constitution. Remember, Hamilton's party, the Federalists, did not survive much longer after the defeat of Adams by Jefferson in the 1800 election. The populism of Jefferson and Madison were the ultimate winners *at the time*.

And my *at the time* comment is important. Nowadays the federal government of the US holds a superior and decisive position in the governing of its people; this has not always been the case. In the early-to-mid 19th century, federal power was severely limited when it came to internal affairs; most of the government was conducted at the local level, with some county and state control thrown in where applicable. So *at the time*, the fact that the Senate had 2 members from each state (and appointed by the state legislature) regardless of population was *not* a measure that was anti-democratic in purpose. Democracy existed because the government was predominantly local and the people were predominantly involved in its affairs.

Thus my contention; now for the suggestion: if your project is strictly to research the creation of the US Constitution, than the Federalist Papers by themselves are fine. If, however, you are more interested in how the Constitution affected American society at that time, I would recommend that you start by reading de Tocqueville's "Democracy in America", and working backwards. The immediate results of the Constitution are best expressed in de Tocqueville (he toured the United States and published his work in Europe within 50 years of the ratification) because its not the causes of the Constitution he is discussing, but its effects. After you have completed Democracy in America, then you'll be able to approach the Federalist (and of course the Anti-Federalist) Papers with the understanding of what worked, what didn't, and maybe what we need to work again for.
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