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Federalists and Antifederalists Debate a Bill of Rights

His motion, supported only by Elbridge Gerry, was deemed unnecessary. Apparently, Mason left Philadelphia very upset with what had taken place. A number of little circumstances arising in part from the impatience which prevailed toward the close of business, conspired to whet his acrimony. He returned to Virginia with a fixed disposition to prevent the adoption of the plan if possible.

He considers the want of a Bill of Rights as a fatal objection.

The Federalist Papers

He is already instructed to promote in the Assembly the calling of a Convention, and will probably be either not deputed to the Convention, or be tied up by his express instructions. And that Americans, as Jefferson remarked in the remarkable exchanges with Madison, had become used to a bill of rights and was something to be expected by all lovers of free government.


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And, however good the work of the Constitution, there was still the need to make the union more perfect. Opponents of ratification of the Constitution argued that the absence of a bill of rights demonstrated that rights were insecure under the proposed Constitution. And thus also argued the Pennsylvania Minority at the Pennsylvania Ratifying convention. But lurking under this Antifederalist support for a traditional bill of rights to limit the reach of government were a more strident group of Antifederalists who favored amendment proposals that would alter the power and structure of the new federal government back in the direction of the Articles of Confederation.

It is imperative to the unfolding of the political dimension of the Bill of Rights that the distinction between amendments to the Constitution and a bill of rights be kept distinct. The fact that, in the end, the U. Bill of Rights appears as 10 Amendments to the Constitution is the result of the politics of the First Congress and the shifting meaning and use of language that took place at the time of the American Founding. See, for example, the shift in the meaning of both republicanism and federalism. Interestingly, even after the requisite nine states ratified the Constitution, Mason and Gerry became more and more interested in amendments that altered the structure and powers of the new government and less and less interested in limiting its reach by means of a bill of rights.

Because the essays were initially published in New York, most of them begin with the same salutation: The high demand for the essays led to their publication in a more permanent form. On January 1, , the New York publishing firm J. McLean announced that they would publish the first thirty-six essays as a bound volume; that volume was released on March 22, and was titled The Federalist Volume 1.

A second bound volume containing Federalist 37—77 and the yet to be published Federalist 78—85 was released on May In , George Hopkins published an American edition that similarly named the authors.

The Anti-Federalists

Hopkins wished as well that "the name of the writer should be prefixed to each number," but at this point Hamilton insisted that this was not to be, and the division of the essays among the three authors remained a secret. The first publication to divide the papers in such a way was an edition that used a list left by Hamilton to associate the authors with their numbers; this edition appeared as two volumes of the compiled "Works of Hamilton".

In , Jacob Gideon published a new edition with a new listing of authors, based on a list provided by Madison. The difference between Hamilton's list and Madison's formed the basis for a dispute over the authorship of a dozen of the essays. Both Hopkins's and Gideon's editions incorporated significant edits to the text of the papers themselves, generally with the approval of the authors.

In , Henry Dawson published an edition containing the original text of the papers, arguing that they should be preserved as they were written in that particular historical moment, not as edited by the authors years later.


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Modern scholars generally use the text prepared by Jacob E. Cooke for his edition of The Federalist ; this edition used the newspaper texts for essay numbers 1—76 and the McLean edition for essay numbers 77— The authorship of seventy-three of The Federalist essays is fairly certain.

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Twelve of these essays are disputed over by some scholars, though the modern consensus is that Madison wrote essays Nos. The first open designation of which essay belonged to whom was provided by Hamilton who, in the days before his ultimately fatal gun duel with Aaron Burr , provided his lawyer with a list detailing the author of each number.

This list credited Hamilton with a full sixty-three of the essays three of those being jointly written with Madison , almost three-quarters of the whole, and was used as the basis for an printing that was the first to make specific attribution for the essays. Madison did not immediately dispute Hamilton's list, but provided his own list for the Gideon edition of The Federalist.

Madison claimed twenty-nine numbers for himself, and he suggested that the difference between the two lists was "owing doubtless to the hurry in which [Hamilton's] memorandum was made out.

Primary Documents in American History

Statistical analysis has been undertaken on several occasions to try to ascertain the authorship question based on word frequencies and writing styles. Nearly all of the statistical studies show that the disputed papers were written by Madison, although a computer science study theorizes the papers were a collaborative effort.

The Federalist Papers were written to support the ratification of the Constitution, specifically in New York. Whether they succeeded in this mission is questionable. Separate ratification proceedings took place in each state, and the essays were not reliably reprinted outside of New York; furthermore, by the time the series was well underway, a number of important states had already ratified it, for instance Pennsylvania on December New York held out until July 26; certainly The Federalist was more important there than anywhere else, but Furtwangler argues that it "could hardly rival other major forces in the ratification contests"—specifically, these forces included the personal influence of well-known Federalists, for instance Hamilton and Jay, and Anti-Federalists, including Governor George Clinton.

In light of that, Furtwangler observes, "New York's refusal would make that state an odd outsider. Only 19 Federalists were elected to New York's ratification convention, compared to the Anti-Federalists' 46 delegates. While New York did indeed ratify the Constitution on July 26, the lack of public support for pro-Constitution Federalists has led historian John Kaminski to suggest that the impact of The Federalist on New York citizens was "negligible".


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  • As for Virginia, which only ratified the Constitution at its convention on June 25, Hamilton writes in a letter to Madison that the collected edition of The Federalist had been sent to Virginia; Furtwangler presumes that it was to act as a "debater's handbook for the convention there," though he claims that this indirect influence would be a "dubious distinction. Furtwangler notes that as the series grew, this plan was somewhat changed. The fourth topic expanded into detailed coverage of the individual articles of the Constitution and the institutions it mandated, while the two last topics were merely touched on in the last essay.

    The papers can be broken down by author as well as by topic. At the start of the series, all three authors were contributing; the first twenty papers are broken down as eleven by Hamilton, five by Madison and four by Jay. The rest of the series, however, is dominated by three long segments by a single writer: The Federalist Papers specifically Federalist No.

    The idea of adding a Bill of Rights to the Constitution was originally controversial because the Constitution, as written, did not specifically enumerate or protect the rights of the people, rather it listed the powers of the government and left all that remained to the states and the people. Alexander Hamilton , the author of Federalist No. However, Hamilton's opposition to a Bill of Rights was far from universal. Robert Yates , writing under the pseudonym Brutus , articulated this view point in the so-called Anti-Federalist No.

    References in The Federalist and in the ratification debates warn of demagogues of the variety who through divisive appeals would aim at tyranny. The Federalist begins and ends with this issue. Federal judges, when interpreting the Constitution, frequently use The Federalist Papers as a contemporary account of the intentions of the framers and ratifiers. Davidowitz to the validity of ex post facto laws in the decision Calder v.

    Bull , apparently the first decision to mention The Federalist.

    Differences between Federalists and Antifederalists | Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History

    The amount of deference that should be given to The Federalist Papers in constitutional interpretation has always been somewhat controversial. Maryland , that "the opinions expressed by the authors of that work have been justly supposed to be entitled to great respect in expounding the Constitution. No tribute can be paid to them which exceeds their merit; but in applying their opinions to the cases which may arise in the progress of our government, a right to judge of their correctness must be retained.

    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. For the website, see The Federalist website. For other uses, see Federalist disambiguation. Series of 85 essays arguing in favor of the ratification of the US Constitution. Title page of the first collection of The Federalist Retrieved 18 June Retrieved March 16, — via Library of Congress.

    The Encyclopedia of New York City: Morris, The Forging of the Union: The Authority of Publius: A Reading of the Federalist Papers. However, Adair concurs with previous historians that these are Madison's writing alone: Federalist , note 1. Ralph Ketcham, James Madison.