The Federalist

The Federalist

The Federalist

The Federalist

Synopsis

No competing edition of The Federalist offers nearly as much help in grasping Publius' arguments in defense of the new but unratified United States Constitution of 1787 as this new annotated edition by J. R. Pole. Essay by essay--with ample cross-references and glosses on 18th-century linguistic usage--Pole's commentary lays bare the intellectual background and assumptions of Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay; explicates and critiques The Federalist's central concepts, rhetorical strategies, and arguments; and points up the international, national, and local facts on the ground relevant to Confederation Era New Yorkers, the constituency to which The Federalist was originally addressed. Pole's Introduction, a brief chronology of political events from 1688 to 1791, a brief overview of the themes of the essays, the text of the Constitution cross-referenced to The Federalist , and an index of proper names, concepts, and themes that also functions as a glossary further distinguish this edition.

Excerpt

Independence dragged its way slowly into the lives of the peoples of the new United States. Viewed from the seats of power, the sense of achievement was great; leaders (and no doubt followers) knew that they had accomplished something of transcendent scale on the map of world history. But the experience had been costly. Except for one or two bursts of exhilaration, it was neither a sudden nor even, all too often, a joyful experience. the war, drawing men from their homes, disrupting both the human and animal life of farms and families, dividing neighbors and friends, and causing grievous deprivations, affected different regions in different ways and at different periods. Most of New England, for example, was free of warfare and virtually independent after 1775; New York was occupied by the British throughout the war. There were few who would have been able to record the moment at which they felt they had achieved the freedom they had fought for; and after that momentous transition, few would have been able to say that they felt very differently from the way they had felt the day before. So many of the hardships and difficulties that had strewn the paths of independence were unresolved and continued in much the same ways—or worse. Public demonstrations of joy were followed—or accompanied—by bitter internal struggles for political power, for direction of fiscal and economic policies, for disputed areas of settlement, and for control of vast but vaguely defined natural resources. Feelings of hope for higher standards of living and new opportunities of western settlements were clouded with apprehensions of debt and foreclosures resulting from internal conflicts. Above all, Americans, having fought for and attained their liberty, were at last on their own: they had taken upon themselves the heavy responsibility of self-government according to republican principles. They had overthrown patriarchal authority and hereditary right, which they had replaced by government based on voluntary consent and association. But as the authors of The Federalist were to show, independent republics did not have a very impressive record of survival; if they failed, Americans would have only themselves to blame.

The British, with all their experience, had failed to hold together the largest and most prosperous of European empires; it remained to be proved that the Americans could succeed in holding together a large, various, and potentially prosperous republic. They had constantly to bear in mind that they were far from being alone on their continent; Britain still dominated Canada and most of the West Indies, Spain owned Florida, claimed much of the vast and uncharted west, and controlled the outlet of the Mississippi, and numerous powerful Native . . .

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