100 Books for America: The Federalist Papers

With 88 days until the election, let us continue looking at the 100 books every American should read. These write-ups will be short and not incredibly comprehensive looks at some books and novels that will help you become a better citizen. Check out all of the books that have been picked.

Ultimately, James Madison, John Jay and Alexander Hamilton didn’t know their audience.

When the three men sat down to compose The Federalist Papers, there goal wasn’t to write a book that would reach across multiple centuries. They weren’t even speaking to a national audience.

The Federalist Papers, oft-quoted by those who never read them, were aimed at a much more specific audience: The people of New York State and the members of the committee that would vote on the ratification of the Constitution.

Well, it’s likely Madison, the smartest of the bunch, had an eye toward posterity. But Publius, the pseudonym the trio wrote under, had one goal in mind: Passage of the Constitution.

The Constitutional Conventional has already approved the document and sent it along to the states when several people began attacking the ideas in it.

Several small states and Pennsylvania were well on their way to ratifying they document, but New York was no sure thing. Along with Virginia, it was one of the most influential states.

So the trio sat down to begin what would become one of the most important propaganda campaigns in American history.

They were advocating for an incredibly strong central government, compared to the Articles of Confederation. It would have the power to tax. It would have a Court system.

These ideas terrified the Anti-federalists, who argued we’d just left an abusive central government.

So Jay, Madison and Hamilton eloquently, and at times ferociously, showed how this new strong central government would police itself better than a small government could.

Their arguments worked, helping swing New York into ratification.

Now the essays, originally published in newspapers and other formats, are now taught in college and high school classes as a way to see into the minds of the Founders

And the Federalist Papers clearly are important, but they’re not the only papers or writings from the era we should read.


Previously, we looked at the correspondence of a Civil Rights icon. Up next, we look at what sparked The Federalist Papers.

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