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The Federalist Papers – A Beginning

December 16, 2012

I mentioned in a previous post that I was undertaking a project to go back and read the opinions of the founders from the men themselves via The Federalist Papers and The Anti-Federalist Papers. In preparation for this project I did a little more digging, and will have to somewhat alter my plans for the project.

First, it does not appear that the papers are organized as I would have hoped, with a distinctive back-and-forth argument over the various topics. Rather, The Federalist Papers were conceived as a response to the perceived greater organization of the opponents of the offered Constitution. Also, The Federalist Papers were published almost exclusively in New York, as it was perceived by the writers to be one of the most important states in the ratification process. There are also 85 essays which make up the full collection of The Federalist Papers.

The Anti-Federalist Papers, on the other hand, ended up being less organized, despite their initially perceived greater level of organization. The copy I have is more a history of the Constitutional Convention and the debates over the writing of the Constitution in addition to The Anti-Federalist Papers.

Ultimately I will focus more time and attention on The Federalist Papers, as the Constitution was obviously ratified and they offer the most complete perspective on the rationale for its ratification. We can argue about the consistency of the arguments or lack thereof, how influential those arguments were given its relative lack of circulation, and to what extent the common person understood and/or agreed with those arguments, but there is not a better collection of writings on the subject that I am aware of.

To start with, however, I am going to spend some time in the book containing The Anti-Federalist Papers so as to frame the debate from a historical perspective in the larger context. I will post some of my thoughts on the summary of the Convention and the arguments on both sides. I will then focus on The Federalist Papers, attempting to get through at least 2 essays per week, and even at that rate it’s going to take a while. Hopefully this project will give me a deeper appreciation for the history surrounding the drafting of the Constitution and a greater understanding of what “The Founders” believed. And hopefully I won’t lose focus before I’m done. Wish me luck!

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