Golden Nuggets from U. S. History

The Blue Quill Series
Concord Learning Systems


The Federalist Papers, Original Intent

The term "Founding Father" is subjective and open to many opinions. Fairly drawn list could range from 50 names or less, to 150 names or more. Nine people: Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Patrick Henry, George Washington, John Hancock, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Alexander Hamilton must appear on all list.

The short list of nine above are in order by age. Ben Franklin was born in 1706 and was the "granddaddy" of the group because next to him in age is Samuel Adams -- 1722. In the middle are John Adams, Henry, Washington, and Hancock, all born from 1735 to 1737. Jefferson was born in 1743 and Madison in 1751. The youngest was Alexander Hamilton.

The Philadelphia Convention in 1787 produced the Constitution: Franklin was 81 years old and too frail to accept the presidency of the convention which then fell to 50 year old Washington. The Declaration had been signed 11 years earlier in 1776. A war had been fought and independence secured with the Treaty of Paris in 1783. The 13 colonies had united into 13 states through the Articles of Confederation and gained enough experience to see that such an arrangement could not work.

AND, by 1787 Alexander Hamilton long before had: Formed an artillery company and as its captain and commander fought in several major battles. -- Become aide-de-camp, a Lt. Colonel, and had served more than two years as General Washington's chief assistant. -- Was with Washington at Valley Forge, crossed the Delaware and captured the Hessians at Trenton. -- Won the last major battle which forced the surrender of Cornwallis to Washington. -- Had formulated a written plan for a united country under a central government, complete with a detailed description of a federal financial system with central banks (Federal Reserve) and capital markets (Stock Market) instead of "land" wealth. -- Completed his studies and was admitted to the bar in New York state. -- Established a highly successful law practice. -- Had served as State of New York Collector of Revenue. -- Had been elected as delegate to the Philadelphia Convention. -- HAD, three years earlier, formed an alliance with James Madison in presenting a plan for a federal government and noted that it had "failed for lack of support."

...AND, in 1787 when the Constitutional Convention was gavelled to order, Alexander Hamilton was just 30 years old.

This Convention was in a far different mood than the one three years earlier which had rejected Hamilton's plan. It was open to the idea of a federal government but it was not ready for Hamilton's notion of a central authority so strong that it would virtually eliminate state governments. The Convention produced a plan much different from that offered by Hamilton, and Hamilton re-acted much differently than most others would have under such circumstances. He did not pout, complain, leave in a huff, or display any other basic human frailties. Instead, he envisioned the possibility that the new document would be opposed by many powerful people throughout the states and he decided to do whatever he could to overcome this opposition. He recruited his old ally, 36 year old James Madison, and his fellow New Yorker, 42 year old John Jay to help insure ratification.

The three began to write a series of essays supporting the proposed constitution. They wrote individually in some cases and in other cases they may have collaborated, but in all cases the author was identified as PUBLIUS. The essays were published in newspapers and periodicals including: "Independent Journal," "New York Packet," "Daily Advertiser," and "McLEAN's Edition, New York."

Over the following two years the three wrote 85 essays explaining the contents of the proposed constitution, the reasoning behind various inclusions and exclusions, answering questions raised by opponents, and generally explaining the necessity for a federal constitution to replace the Articles of Confederation.

Opponents to a federal constitution were also busy during this time. The "Anti-Federalist" coincidentally produced 85 of their own essays, called "The Anti-Federalist Papers," which rail against the concepts of central authority. This effort was not well organized and the papers are often repetitive and generally not well written. If it was a contest for clarity, quality of presentation, and forcefulness of ideas, the Federalist writers won hands-down.

Although there are 85 Federalist Papers, less than 60 subjects are discussed, including opening and closing remarks written by Hamilton. Jay contributed only 5 papers, 4 of which were "Concerning Dangers from Foreign Force and Influence" and 1 on "The Powers of the Senate."

Generally, Madison wrote about the relationship between the proposed Federal government and the states -- the make-up of congress -- elections of Representatives and Senators -- and the necessity of a federal government.

Hamilton, who contributed the most papers, took care of the rest, i.e., taxation -- judiciary and courts -- relationship between states -- the executive branch -- functions of the House and Senate -- relationship between Congress, the President, and the courts -- foreign affairs -- imports, duties, and exports -- balance of power -- and the military.

An interesting thing happens when listening to television talking heads debate and cite the Federalist Papers in support of their argument. The debates are often about due process, right to bear arms, religion, individual rights, freedom of speech, privacy, education, etc. None of this stuff is even MENTIONED in the basic Constitution from the 1787 convention and therefore, was NOT discussed in the Federalist Papers (1787-1789.) The Constitution was ratified in 1789; George Washington was named as the first President; a congress was chosen; AND THEN twelve Amendments were proposed to the Constitution. Ten of those twelve Amendments were ratified in 1791 to become the Bill of Rights and it is those ten Amendments which provide the "rights" so often debated in public.

In 1789, 32 year old Hamilton was chosen by Washington as the first Secretary of the Treasury and Hamilton implemented his financial plan for a nation. He established the central banks (Federal Reserve), paper money economy with capital markets (stock market), and revenue collection and taxation policies which he had thought out years earlier. The system put in place by Hamilton 210 years ago remains much the same today. He served until 1795 when he resigned to return to his law practice.

Washington left office in 1797 and retired to Mount Vernon. In 1798, the second President, John Adams notified congress that war with England was imminent and the nation should prepare. He asked George Washington to come out of retirement and make one last sacrifice, -- build an army and lead it against Britain. Washington was hesitant at first but finally agreed under one condition -- that Alexander Hamilton would be his second in command. Adams, Vice President under Washington, had not seen eye-to-eye with many of Hamilton's policies and was adamantly against Hamilton but Washington insisted until Adams agreed.

In 1798, 41 year old Alexander Hamilton, former Secretary of the Treasury, became a major-general in the Army of the United States.

Philosophos Historia


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