The Federalist Papers

The Federalist Papers

The Federalist Papers

The Federalist Papers

Excerpt

The Federalist is the most important work in political science that has ever been written, or is likely ever to be written, in the United States. It is, indeed, the one product of the American mind that is rightly counted among the classics of political theory.

This work has always commanded widespread respect as the first and still most authoritative commentary on the Constitution of the United States. It has been searched minutely by lawyers for its analysis of the powers of Congress, quoted confidently by historians for its revelations of the hopes and fears of the framers of the Constitution, and cited magisterially by the Supreme Court for its arguments in behalf of judicial review, executive independence, and national supremacy. It would nor be stretching the truth more than a few inches to say that The Federalist stands third only to the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. itself among all the sacred writings of American political history. It has a quality of legitimacy, of authority and authenticky, that gives it the high status of a public document, one to which, as Thomas Jefferson put it, "appeal is habitually made by all, and rarely declined or denied by any" as to the "genuine meaning" of the Constitution.

In recent years respect for The Federalist has blossomed into admiration. It is now valued not merely as a clever defense of a particular charter, but as an exposition of certain timeless truths about constitutional government. It has caught the fancy of political scientists throughout the world, has been translated into a dozen languages, and -- surely the most convincing evidence of its lofty status -- has become one of the three or four staples of the American college curriculum in political science. General Washington, who was trying merely to be friendly, wrote some prophetic words to Alexander Hamilton in the summer of 1788: "When the transient circumstances and fugitive performances which attended this crisis shall have disappeared, that work will merit . . .

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