Hamilton and the Federalists on the Constitution Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

Federalist Papers are important to any analysis of the U.S. Constitution because they provided the philosophical and socio-political justification for the adoption of the Constitution. Prior to the ratification of the Constitution, the states were loosely united under the Articles of Confederation. However, Alexander Hamilton and his group of elites did not like that they could not be part of a federal/central government that oversaw and wielded power over the rest of the states. Thus, Hamilton penned many of the Federalist Papers (including Federalist no. 1) in order to combat the ideas expressed by the Anti-Federalists who condemned the Constitution as an attempt to subjugate states' rights.

The Federalist Papers may be read therefore as a series of a letters and arguments meant to sway the reader as to why the U.S. should adopt the Constitution in place of the Articles of Confederation. It is a body of writing that is centralist in perspective and geared towards illustrating how a Constitution would better help the states to avoid the pitfalls of a union that lacks a central government with considerable power.

In other words, the Federalist Papers were about aligning the public's view with that of the Constitutionalists, who aimed to give the individual states a central government that could have the same kind of authority that the American Revolutionaries had just spent the war fighting. It was a return of the old power in a new form, justified by the rhetoric of Hamilton et al., and opposed by the Anti-Federalists, who believed that the only thing that could keep the country from becoming a totalitarian, authoritarian, tyrannical State was for the individual states to maintain their own authority, their own autonomy, their own governments, their own state constitutions, and their own individual identities. The Federalist Papers argued that if the states were not united under a federal government, they would all fight among themselves, get involved in foreign wars, and cause no end of headaches for the people. Obviously, the Federalists were myopic in their assessment.

Nonetheless, the Federalist Papers are important to any analysis of the U.S. Constitution because they provide the perspective and framework from which the Constitution was projected onto the public as a good thing. What the Constitution was supposed to have meant and how it was supposed to be interpreted (positively -- as it is the victors who write the history books) could all be found in the Federalist Papers, as they provided the keys to accessing the Constitution.

Of course, one could just as easily turn to the Anti-Federalist Papers in order to understand why the Constitution was…

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