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POL 121: Introduction to Politics [Reynolds]

Supplementary Internet materials for students taking the Introduction to Politics course at Saint Leo University

Overview -- The Federalist Papers

This masterpiece of American political thought originated as a series of newspaper articles published under the pseudonym Publius in New York between October 1787 and August 1788 by framers Alexander Hamilton, John Jay and James Madison. The aim was to make the case for ratification of the new constitution, which had been agreed to in September 1787 by delegates to the federal convention meeting in Philadelphia over four months of remarkable discussion, debate and deliberation about self-government.

By the end of 1788, a total of 85 essays had been gathered in two volumes under the title The Federalist. Written at a brisk clip and with the crucial vote in New York hanging in the balance, the essays formed a treatise on constitutional self-government for the ages.

The Federalist deals with the reasons for preserving the union, the inefficacy of the existing federal government under the Articles of Confederation, and the conformity of the new constitution to the principles of liberty and consent. It covers war and peace, foreign affairs, commerce, taxation, federalism and the separation of powers. It provides a detailed examination of the chief features of the legislative, executive and judicial branches. It advances its case by restatement and refutation of the leading criticisms of the new constitution. It displays a level of learning, political acumen and public-spiritedness to which contemporary scholars, journalists and politicians can but aspire. And to this day it stands as an unsurpassed source of insight into the Constitution's text, structure and purposes.

An excerpt from "Why Colleges Don't Teach the Federalist Papers"

by Peter Berkowitz
Wall Street Journal
Monday, May 7, 2012

Online Readings

The Federalist #10 - Madison

Examining Federalist #10

In Federalist #10 Madison offered two ideas for how to limit the damage to fledgling American government caused by factions. The first idea was to remove the troubled factions or reduce their ability to participate in the system. Madison argued that such an approach was everything the New World stood against and such a move would destroy the very idea of a democracy. Instead, Madison argued that what was needed was a Republic, one that was big enough where the various factions could find commonality and solutions, rather that partisanship. Madison believed that what made the American Experiment different from any other one in the past was the process by which the government would solve the biggest problems of the day. Various parties and factions would debate vigorously, try to persuade others to agree with their solutions, but at the end of the day, compromising for the good of the country and getting the best deal possible. Madison’s idea of coalition building around a particular issue, instead of partisan fighting, has proven successful. For over 300 years, we’ve abolished slavery, provided Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, passed the Civil Rights Act; the list goes on and on. The President can build a coalition around his plan incorporating various and divergent factions like Wall Street, defense contractors, poverty advocates, etc., groups who have a direct and vested interest in avoiding the Fiscal Cliff at all costs.

As the Euro-Crisis in Europe has shown, solving the nation’s fiscal challenges is of paramount importance to the health and wellbeing of a nation. But the Fiscal Cliff is about something even bigger - more fundamental and truly seismic; it’s about whether the process of American government still works. Process is one of the things that distinguish America from the rest of the world. It’s the only nation on earth where rival factions can engage in the brutal battle of an issue, fighting like hell for every inch and idea, but at the end of the day, compromise for the best deal possible for the country. Madison understood this, and that, as a nation, we are strongest when we rally not around parties or factions, but come together as a coalition around the grand issues of the time, and solve them together."

-- Nels Johnson  Copied 9/10/13


The Federalist #51 - Madison

Madsion, Hamilton & Jay