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Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay, individually or with one of the others, published a series of 85 essays on issues of governance between October 1787 and May 1788. Their purpose was to encourage New Yorkers to ratify the new constitution drafted in 1787. Hamilton, Madison, and Jay published their essays anonymously under the pen name "Publius."

The essays were published primarily in The New York Packet and The Independent Journal; however, other newspapers in New York and in other states reprinted the essays.

The authors of these essays explained the particular provisions of the constitution in detail. Printers J. and A. McLean published a bound edition in 1788 with corrections and revisions by Alexander Hamilton. 30 years later, printer Jacob Gideon published an edition edited by James Madison. Needless to say, the later edition differs a bit from the earlier one. Importantly, the Madison edition connected each essay with its author or authors for posterity.

The Federalist papers are an important distillation of thinking and interpretation of the Constitution by those who wrote it. They go a long way toward clarifying the intent of our founding fathers.

Some links for the research minded:

The Federalist Papers Thomas, Legislative Information on the Internet.
McLean Edition

"What is government itself but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary." James Madison


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