Alexander Hamilton Papers

Introductory Note: The Federalist, [27 October 1787–28 May 1788]

Introductory Note: The Federalist

[New York, October 27, 1787–May 28, 1788]

The Federalist essays have been printed more frequently than any other work of Hamilton. They have, nevertheless, been reprinted in these volumes because no edition of his writings which omitted his most important contribution to political thought could be considered definitive. The essays written by John Jay and James Madison, however, have not been included. They are available in many editions, and they do not, after all, properly belong in the writings of Alexander Hamilton.

The Federalist, addressed to the “People of the State of New-York,” was occasioned by the objections of many New Yorkers to the Constitution which had been proposed on September 17, 1787, by the Philadelphia Convention. During the last week in September and the first weeks of October, 1787, the pages of New York newspapers were filled with articles denouncing the Constitution.1 The proposed government also had its defenders, but their articles were characterized by somewhat indignant attacks on those who dared oppose the Constitution rather than by reasoned explanations of the advantages of its provisions.2

The decision to publish a series of essays defending the Constitution and explaining in detail its provisions was made by Alexander Hamilton. Both the reasons for his decision and the date on which he conceived the project are conjecturable. Having gone to Albany early in October to attend the fall session of the Supreme Court, he was not in New York City during the early weeks of the controversy over the Constitution.3 He must, nevertheless, have concluded that if it were to be adopted, convincing proof of its merits would have to be placed before the citizens of New York. His decision to write the essays may have been made before he left Albany, for according to tradition he wrote the first number of The Federalist in the cabin of his sloop on the return trip to New York.4

At some time before the appearance of the first essay, written under the pseudonym “Publius,” Hamilton sought and found collaborators, for the first essay, published in The [New York] Independent Journal: or, the General Advertiser on October 27, 1787, was followed in four days by an essay by John Jay. Neither Hamilton nor Jay left a record of any plans they might have made, but the third collaborator, James Madison, later wrote that “the undertaking was proposed by Alexander Hamilton to James Madison with a request to join him and Mr. Jay in carrying it into effect. William Duer was also included in the original plan; and wrote two or more papers, which though intelligent and sprightly, were not continued, nor did they make a part of the printed collection.”5 Hamilton also sought the assistance of Gouverneur Morris, who in 1815 remembered that he had been “warmly pressed by Hamilton to assist in writing the Federalist.”6

In reprinting the text of The Federalist the original manuscripts have been approximated as nearly as possible. As the first printing of each essay, despite typographical errors, was presumably closest to the original, the text published in this edition is that which was first printed. The texts of those essays among the first seventy-seven which were written by Hamilton or are of doubtful authorship are taken from the newspapers in which they first appeared; the texts of essays 78–85 are taken from the first edition of The Federalist, edited by John and Archibald McLean.7

With the exception of the last eight numbers, all the issues of The Federalist were first printed in the newspapers of New York City. The first essay was published on October 27, 1787, in The Independent Journal: or, the General Advertiser, edited by John McLean and Company. Subsequent essays appeared in The Independent Journal and in three other New York newspapers: New-York Packet, edited by Samuel and John Loudon; The Daily Advertiser, edited by Francis Childs; and The New-York Journal, and Daily Patriotic Register, edited by Thomas Greenleaf.8

The first seven essays, published between October 27 and November 17, 1787, appeared on Saturdays and Wednesdays in The Independent Journal, a semiweekly paper, and a day or two later in both New-York Packet and The Daily Advertiser. At the conclusion of essay 7 the following announcement appeared in The Independent Journal: “In order that the whole subject of these Papers may be as soon as possible laid before the Public, it is proposed to publish them four times a week, on Tuesday in the New-York Packet and on Thursday in the Daily Advertiser.” The intention thus was to publish on Tuesday in New-York Packet, on Wednesday in The Independent Journal, on Thursday in The Daily Advertiser, and on Saturday in The Independent Journal.

The announced plan was not consistently followed. On Thursday, November 22, The Daily Advertiser, according to the proposed schedule, published essay 10, but after its publication no other essay appeared first in that newspaper. To continue the proposed plan of publication—a plan which occasionally was altered by publishing three instead of four essays a week—the third “Publius” essay of the next week appeared on Friday in New-York Packet. After November 30 the essays appeared in the following manner: Tuesday, New-York Packet, Wednesday, The Independent Journal, Friday, New-York Packet, and Saturday, The Independent Journal. The third essay of the week appeared either on Friday in the Packet or on Saturday in The Independent Journal. This pattern of publication was followed through the publication of essay 76 (or essay 77, in the numbering used in this edition of Hamilton’s works) on April 2, 1788. The remaining essays were first printed in the second volume of McLean description begins The Federalist: A Collection of Essays, Written in Favour of the New Constitution, As Agreed upon by the Federal Convention, September 17, 1787. In Two Volumes (New York: Printed and Sold by J. and A. McLean, 1788). description ends ’s edition of May 28, 1788, and beginning on June 14 were reprinted, at intervals of several days, first in The Independent Journal and then in New-York Packet.

The first edition, printed by J. and A. McLean9 and corrected by Hamilton, is the source from which most editions of The Federalist have been taken. On January 1, 1788, McLean description begins The Federalist: A Collection of Essays, Written in Favour of the New Constitution, As Agreed upon by the Federal Convention, September 17, 1787. In Two Volumes (New York: Printed and Sold by J. and A. McLean, 1788). description ends , having observed “the avidity” with which the “Publius” essays had been “sought after by politicians and persons of every description,” announced plans for the publication of “The FEDERALIST, A Collection of Essays, written in favour of the New Constitution, By a Citizen of New-York, Corrected by the Author, with Additions and Alterations.”10 The promised volume, including the first thirty-six essays, was published on March 22, 1788. Hamilton was not altogether pleased with the volume, for he stated in the preface11 that it contained “violations of method and repetitions of ideas which cannot but displease a critical reader.” Despite such imperfections, he hoped that the essays would “promote the cause of truth, and lead to a right judgment of the true interests of the community.” Interested readers were promised a second volume of essays as soon as the editor could prepare them for publication.

“This Day is published,” The Independent Journal advertised on May 28, 1788, “The FEDERALIST, VOLUME SECOND.” This volume contained the remaining essays, including the final eight which had not yet appeared in the newspapers. As in the first volume, there were editorial revisions which probably were made by Hamilton. The final eight essays, which first appeared in this volume were reprinted in The Independent Journal and in New-York Packet between June 14, 1788, and August 16, 1788.

In addition to the McLean edition, during Hamilton’s lifetime there were two French editions12 and two American editions of The Federalist. The second American edition, printed by John Tiebout in 1799, was not a new printing but a reissue of the remaining copies of the McLean edition with new title pages. The third American edition, published in 1802, not only was a new printing; it also contained revisions presumably approved by Hamilton. It is this, the Hopkins description begins The Federalist On The New Constitution. By Publius. Written in 1788. To Which is Added, Pacificus, on The Proclamation of Neutrality. Written in 1793. Likewise, The Federal Constitution, With All the Amendments. Revised and Corrected. In Two Volumes (New York: Printed and Sold by George F. Hopkins, at Washington’s Head, 1802). description ends edition, which must be taken as Hamilton’s final version of The Federalist.13

George F. Hopkins announced his plan for a new edition of The Federalist in the January 13, 1802, issue of New-York Evening Post. “Proposals, By G. F. Hopkins, 118 Pearl Street,” read the advertisement in the Post, “For Publishing by Subscription, in Two handsome Octavo Volumes, THE FEDERALIST, ON THE CONSTITUTION, BY PUBLIUS Written in 1788. TO WHICH IS ADDED, PACIFICUS, ON THE PROCLAMATION OF NEUTRALITY. Written in 1793. The whole Revised and Corrected. With new passages and notes.” Hopkins proposed not only to issue a revised text but to give the author of each essay; by naming Hamilton, Madison, and Jay as the authors of The Federalist, he publicly broke the poorly kept secrecy surrounding its authorship. Almost a year passed before Hopkins, on December 8, 1802, offered to the public “in a dress which it is believed will meet with general approbation” the new edition.

Although it is certain that Hamilton did not himself revise the text published in the Hopkins edition, available evidence indicates that he approved the alterations which were made. In 1847 J. C. Hamilton wrote to Hopkins requesting information on the extent to which Hamilton had made or approved the revisions. Hopkins replied that the changes had been made by a “respectable professional gentleman” who, after completing his work, had “put the volumes into the hands of your father, who examined the numerous corrections, most of which he sanctioned, and the work was put to press.” The editor, who was not named by Hopkins, was identified by J. C. Hamilton as John Wells, an eminent New York lawyer. The Hopkins edition, Hamilton’s son emphatically stated, was “revised and corrected by John Wells … and supervised by Hamilton.”14 Henry B. Dawson in his 1864 edition of The Federalist contested J. C. Hamilton’s conclusion and argued that the changes were made by William Coleman, editor of New-York Evening Post, and that they were made without Hamilton’s authorization or approval. According to Dawson, Hopkins declared on two different occasions in later years—once to James A. Hamilton and once to John W. Francis—that Hamilton refused to have any changes made in the essays.15 Although it is impossible to resolve the contradictory statements on Hamilton’s participation in the revisions included in the 1802 edition of The Federalist, J. C. Hamilton presents the more convincing evidence. He, after all, quoted a statement by Hopkins description begins The Federalist On The New Constitution. By Publius. Written in 1788. To Which is Added, Pacificus, on The Proclamation of Neutrality. Written in 1793. Likewise, The Federal Constitution, With All the Amendments. Revised and Corrected. In Two Volumes (New York: Printed and Sold by George F. Hopkins, at Washington’s Head, 1802). description ends , while Dawson related only a conversation.

The McLean and Hopkins editions thus constitute Hamilton’s revision of the text of The Federalist. Hamilton made some minor changes in essays written by Jay and Madison—changes which in the McLean edition they presumably authorized. Jay never revised the essays he wrote, and it was not until 1818 that Madison authorized the publication of an edition which included his own corrections of his essays. This edition was published by Jacob Gideon,16 a printer in Washington, D.C.

It is, then, from the newspapers of the day, the McLean edition of 1788, and the Hopkins edition of 1802 that a definitive text of Hamilton’s contribution to The Federalist must be reconstructed. In the present edition, as stated above, the texts of essays 1–77 have been taken from the newspapers in which they first appeared; the texts of essays 78–85 are from volume two of the McLean edition. All changes which Hamilton later made or approved in the texts of the essays he wrote have been indicated in notes. Thus in essays 1–77 all changes made in the McLean and Hopkins editions in Hamilton’s essays are given. In essays 78–85 all the changes which appeared in the Hopkins edition are noted. The edition in which a revision was made is indicated by a short title, either by the name “McLean” or “Hopkins.” To this rule there are, however, three exceptions: 1. When an obvious typographical error appears in the text taken from the newspaper, it has been corrected without annotation. 2. When in McLean there is a correction of a printer’s error which, if left unchanged, would make the text meaningless or inaccurate, that correction has been incorporated in the text; the word or words in the newspaper for which changes have been substituted are then indicated in the notes. 3. Obvious printer’s errors in punctuation have been corrected; a period at the end of a question, for example, has been changed to a question mark. When a dash is used at the end of a sentence, a period has been substituted.

Because of changes made in the McLean edition, the numbering of certain essays presents an editorial problem. When McLean, with Hamilton’s assistance, published the first edition of The Federalist, it was decided that the essay published in the newspaper as 35 should follow essay 28, presumably because the subject matter of 35 was a continuation of the subject treated in 28. It also was concluded, probably because of its unusual length, that the essay which appeared in the newspapers as essay 31 should be divided and published as two essays. When these changes were made, the original numbering of essays 29–36 was changed in the following way:

Newspaper Number Number in the McLean Edition
29 30
30 31
31 32 and 33
32 34
33 35
34 36
35 29

Essays 36–78 in the McLean edition thus were one number higher than the number given the corresponding essay in the newspaper.

Because McLean changed the numbers of some of the essays, later editors have questioned whether there were 84 or 85 essays. This is understandable, for there were only 84 essays printed in the newspapers, the essays 32 and 33 by McLean having appeared in the press as a single essay. The last essay printed in The Independent Journal accordingly was numbered 84. The last eight essays published in New-York Packet, on the other hand, were given the numbers used in the second volume of McLean’s edition. The last number of The Federalist printed by New-York Packet in April had been numbered “76”; the following essay, published in June, was numbered “78.” By omitting the number “77,” the editor of New-York Packet, like McLean, numbered the last of the essays “85.”

Later editions of The Federalist, except for that published by Henry B. Dawson, have followed the numbering of the McLean edition. Since no possible purpose would be served and some confusion might result by restoring the newspaper numbering, the essays in the present edition have been given the numbers used by McLean in 1788, and the newspaper number has been placed in brackets.

Almost a century and a half of controversy has centered on the authorship of certain numbers of The Federalist. Similar to most other eighteenth-century newspaper contributors, the authors of The Federalist chose to write anonymously. When The Federalist essays appeared in the press, many New Yorkers probably suspected that Hamilton, if not the sole author of the “Publius” essays, was the major contributor. Friends of Hamilton and Madison, and perhaps those of Jay, certainly knew that this was a joint enterprise and who the authors were.17 The number of essays written by each author, if only because the question probably never arose, aroused no curiosity. The Federalist, after all, was written for the immediate purpose of persuading the citizens of New York that it was to their interest to adopt the Constitution; certainly not the authors, and probably few readers, realized that the essays which in the winter of 1788 appeared so frequently in the New York press under the signature of “Publius” would become a classic interpretation of the Constitution of the United States. In 1802, George F. Hopkins proposed to publish a new edition of The Federalist in which the authors would be identified; but because of Hamilton’s “decided disapprobation”18 no identification of the authors was made in that edition. It was not until three years after Hamilton’s death that The Port Folio, a Philadelphia weekly, published a list of the authors of the essays, thus opening a controversy which still remains unsettled.19

The evidence on the authorship of several of the essays is contradictory because both Hamilton and Madison made, or allegedly made, several lists in which they claimed authorship of the same essays. It is neither necessary nor instructive to discuss the minor discrepancies found in the claims by the two men in their respective lists.20 The whole problem is simplified by keeping in mind that of the eighty-five essays the authorship of only fifteen is disputed. Despite contrary claims in several of the least credible lists published during the first two decades of the nineteenth century, it has long been accepted that Hamilton wrote essays 1, 6–9, 11–13, 15–17, 21–36, 59–61, and 65–85; that Madison was the author of essays 10, 14, 37–48; and that Jay contributed essays 2–5 and 64.21 The authorship of only essays 18–20, 49–58, and 62–63 is therefore debatable.

The number of disputed essays can be reduced by examining the reliability of the several Madison and Hamilton lists. There are four reputed Madison lists: 1. An article, signed “Corrector,” which appeared in the National Intelligencer on March 20, 1817, and which, according to the anonymous author, was copied from “a penciled memorandum in the hand of Madison.”22 2. A statement of authorship, supposedly endorsed by Madison, made by Richard Rush, a member of Madison’s cabinet, in his copy of The Federalist.23 3. An article in the City of Washington Gazette, December 15, 1817, claiming to set forth a list “furnished by Madison himself.”24 4. The edition of The Federalist published by Jacob Gideon in 1818, which based its attribution of authorship on Madison’s own “copy of the work which that gentleman had preserved for himself.”25 There is no evidence that Madison approved the first three lists; the fourth, the Gideon edition, was not only based on Madison’s copy, but it was endorsed by him as correct.

Hamilton’s claims to authorship are more complicated. Despite statements by his partisans, there are only three Hamilton lists that merit the serious attention of the historian who applies any known tests for evaluating historical evidence. They are the so-called “Benson list,” the list allegedly preserved by Hamilton in his own copy of The Federalist, and the “Kent list.”

The Benson list, according to a story first related by William Coleman in March, 1817, was left by Hamilton, shortly before his death, between the pages of a book in the library of his long-time friend, Judge Egbert Benson. Arriving at Benson’s office, Hamilton was told by Robert Benson, Jr., Egbert’s nephew and clerk, that the Judge and Rufus King had gone to Massachusetts for a few days. As Hamilton conversed with the law clerk, he idly handled one of the volumes on the shelves in the office. After Hamilton’s death which occurred two days later, Benson remembered the incident and, looking in the book Hamilton had picked up, he found a scrap of paper, unsigned but in Hamilton’s hand, listing the essays he had written.26 Judge Benson, according to the traditional account, pasted it on the inside cover of his copy of The Federalist but somewhat later, fearing that he might lose such a valuable document, deposited it in the New York Society Library. The memorandum was presumably stolen in 1818.27

The existence of the Benson list was corroborated by two witnesses, Robert Benson and William Coleman. Coleman, editor of New-York Evening Post, is the less credible authority; he may have seen the Benson list, but it is significant that he never definitely stated that he did. The most emphatic statement that he made, elicited by the demands for proof made by an antagonist in a newspaper controversy over the authorship of The Federalist, was as follows:

“I, therefore, for the entire satisfaction of the public, now state, that the memorandum referred to is in General Hamilton’s own hand writing, was left by him with his friend judge BENSON, the week before his death, and was, by the latter, deposited in the city library, where it now is, and may be seen, pasted in one of the volumes of The Federalist.”28

The statement of Robert Benson, the law clerk to whom Hamilton spoke on the day before his encounter with Burr, is more convincing, but it was made many years after the event, and it is far from being conclusive. “I was then a student in the office,” Benson recalled “and well known to the General” who called and enquired for Judge Benson.

“I replied that he had left the city with Mr. King. The General in his usual manner then went to the book case and took down a book which he opened and soon replaced, and left the office. Some time after the General’s death, a memorandum in his handwriting was found in a volume of Pliny’s letters, I think, which, I believe, was the book he took down, and which memorandum was afterwards wafered by the Judge in the inside cover of the first volume of the Federalist, and where it remained for several years. He subsequently removed it, and, as I understand, gave it to some public library.… The marks of the wafers still remain in the volume, and above them in Judge Benson’s handwriting is, what is presumed, and I believe to be, a copy of the General’s memorandum above referred to.”29

The Benson list is suspect, then, because the claim for its authenticity is based on the evidence of two men neither of whom stated that he actually saw it. If there had not already been too much fruitless speculation on Hamilton’s thoughts and intentions, it would be interesting to explain why Hamilton chose such a roundabout method to make certain that future generations would recognize his contribution to such a celebrated book. Perhaps he knew that Robert Benson would search all the volumes in his uncle’s office on the suspicion that Hamilton, however uncharacteristically, had concealed a note on some important subject; or perhaps he thought that Benson frequently read Pliny’s Letters and thus could be sure the note would be found. One can speculate endlessly on the motives for Hamilton’s extraordinary behavior, but the significant fact is that the Benson list is inadequate as historical evidence.

Evidence of the existence of Hamilton’s own copy of The Federalist in which he supposedly listed the essays he wrote comes from a notice which appeared on November 14, 1807, in The Port Folio. “The Executors of the last will of General Hamilton,” the Philadelphia weekly announced, “have deposited in the Publick Library of New-York a copy of ‘The Federalist,’ which belonged to the General in his lifetime, in which he has designated in his own handwriting, the parts of that celebrated work written by himself, as well as those contributed by Mr. JAY and Mr. MADISON.” No one has seen Hamilton’s copy in the last 150 years; whether it existed or what happened to it, if it did exist, cannot now be known.30

While the numbers claimed by Hamilton in the Benson list and in his own copy of The Federalist are the same, the list by Chancellor James Kent disagrees in several particulars from the other two. The Kent list, in the Chancellor’s own writing, was found on the inside cover of his copy of The Federalist, now in the Columbia University Libraries. Because of differences in the ink and pen he used, Kent’s statement may be divided into three parts, each of which was written at a different time. In the following copy of Kent’s notes the three parts are indicated by Roman numerals:

I. “I am assured that Numbers 2. 3. 4. 5. & 54 [number ‘6’ was later written over the number ‘5’] were written by John Jay. Numbers 10, 14. 37 to 48 [the number ‘9’ was later written over the number ‘8’] both inclusive & 53 by James Madison Jun. Numbers 18. 19. 20. by Messrs Madison & Hamilton jointly—all the rest by Mr. Hamilton.
II. “(Mr. Hamilton told me that Mr. Madison wrote No. 68 [the number ‘4’ was later written over the number ‘6’] & 69 [the number ‘4’ was later written over the number ‘6’] or from pa. 101 to 112 of Vol 2d)
III. “NB. I showed the above Mem. to General Hamilton in my office in Albany & he said it was correct saving the correction above made—See Hall’s Law Journal Vol 6 p 461.”

The numbers which were written over the numbers Kent first wrote are not in Kent’s writing. However familiar one is with the handwriting of another, it is difficult to determine if a single numeral is in his writing. But despite the impossibility of positive identification, a close comparison of numerals made by Hamilton with the numerals which were added to the Kent list strongly indicates that the changes are in the writing of Hamilton. The Kent list thus becomes the only evidence in Hamilton’s writing which now exists. See also James Kent to William Coleman, May 12, 1817 (ALS, Columbia University Libraries).

Certain reasonable deductions can be made from the evidence presented by Kent’s notes. The ink clearly reveals that the three notes were made at different times. The information in part I of the notes was obtained from someone other than Hamilton, for otherwise Kent would not have written in part II “that Mr. Hamilton told me.” The information in part II must have been given to Kent in a conversation, for it is evident that Kent was not sure that he remembered what Hamilton had said or that Hamilton could remember, without reference to a copy of The Federalist, which essays he had written.

Part III—because it refers to Hamilton as “general” (a rank which he attained in 1798), and because the conversation alluded to took place in Albany—must have been made between 1800, the year in which Hamilton resumed his law practice after completing his duties as inspector general of the Army, and his death in 1804. The third section of Kent’s memorandum also indicates that Hamilton corrected and approved the Kent list. It constitutes, therefore, the most reliable evidence available on Hamilton’s claims of authorship. It should be noted, however, that Kent later doubted the accuracy of Hamilton’s memory, for on the page opposite his memorandum he pasted a copy of the article from the City of Washington Gazette, which stated that Madison had written essays 10, 14, 17, 18, 19, 21, 37–58, 62–63, and that Jay was the author of essays 2, 3, 4, 5, 64. Underneath this clipping Kent wrote:

“I have no doubt Mr. Jay wrote No 64 on the Treaty Power—He made a Speech on that Subject in the NY Convention, & I am told he says he wrote it. I suspect therefore from internal Ev. the above to be the correct List, & not the one on the opposite page.”31

A comparison of the Kent list (for those essays claimed by Hamilton) with the Gideon edition (for those essays claimed by Madison) makes it clear that there is room for doubt only over the authorship of essays 18, 19, 20, 50, 51, 52, 54–58, and 62–63. About three of these—18, 19, and 20—there should be no dispute, for there is a statement by Madison which Hamilton’s claim does not really controvert. On the margin of his copy of The Federalist opposite number 18 Madison wrote:

“The subject matter of this and the two following numbers happened to be taken up by both Mr. H and Mr. M. What had been prepared by Mr. H who had entered more briefly into the subject, was left with Mr. M on its appearing that the latter was engaged in it, with larger materials, and with a view to a more precise delineation; and from the pen of the latter, the several papers went to the Press.”

The problem of determining the authorship of these three essays is merely one of deciding on the comparative contributions of the two men. Although there are several sentences which are very similar to remarks Hamilton recorded in the outline for his speech of June 18, 1787, on the Constitution, most of the material was undoubtedly supplied by Madison who without doubt wrote these essays. Essay 20, for example, is virtually a copy of notes which Madison had taken in preparation for the Constitutional Convention.32 On the other hand, Hamilton, however slight his contribution, did contribute to these essays. The authorship of 50, 51, 52, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 62, and 63 is more difficult to determine,33 but Madison’s claim as represented by the Gideon edition appears more convincing than Hamilton’s claim as represented by the Kent list.

Internal evidence has proved to be of little assistance in determining the authorship of The Federalist. The ablest studies in this field are those by Edward G. Bourne34 and J. C. Hamilton.35 Bourne attributes all disputed essays to Madison; J. C. Hamilton asserts that they were written by his father. Bourne and J. C. Hamilton attempt to prove their respective cases by printing excerpts from the disputed essays parallel to similar, and sometimes identical, passages from other writings by each man. Bourne presents very convincing evidence for Madison’s authorship of numbers 49, 51, 53, 62, 63, and a fair case for Madison having written numbers 50 and 52; his case for 54, 55, 56, 57, and 58 is particularly weak as he offers no evidence from Madison’s other writings and relies on the argument that, as essays 48–58 are a group, the author who wrote the earlier essays must also have written the later ones in the group. J. C. Hamilton, on the other hand, produces some evidence that Hamilton wrote essays 55–58, and he offers contrived and unconvincing arguments in support of Hamilton’s authorship of the remaining disputed essays. The significant point, however, is that each man was able to find evidence that his candidate wrote all the disputed essays. The contradictory conclusions of these two men—one of whom studied intensively the previous writings of Madison and the other whose life-long study of his father gave him a knowledge of Hamilton’s writings which never has been excelled—point up the difficulties of deciding this dispute on the basis of internal evidence.

The problems posed by internal evidence are made even more difficult by the fact that both Hamilton and Madison defended the Constitution with similar arguments and by the fact that they both had a remarkably similar prose style. To attempt to find in any of the disputed essays words which either man used and which the other never employed is futile, if only because the enormous amount which each wrote allows the assiduous searcher to discover almost any word in the earlier or subsequent writings of both.36 The search for parallel statements in the disputed essays and in earlier writings is also an unrewarding enterprise. Madison doubtless did not approve of the ideas expressed in Hamilton’s famous speech on June 18, 1787, to the Convention; but before 1787 both men agreed on the weaknesses of the Confederation and the necessity of a stronger central government.37 The similarity of their thinking is particularly apparent to one who examines their collaboration when they were both members of the Continental Congress in 1783. Their later political differences prove little about what they wrote in 1787–88.

If one were to rely on internal evidence, it would be impossible to assign all the disputed essays to either Hamilton or Madison. While such evidence indicates that Madison surely wrote numbers 49–54 and probably 62–63, it also suggests that Hamilton wrote 55–58. In this edition of Hamilton’s writings, however, greater weight is given to the claims made by the disputants than to internal evidence. Madison’s claims were maturely considered and emphatically stated; Hamilton, on the other hand, showed little interest in the question, and he died before it had become a matter of acrimonious controversy. But the fact remains that Hamilton’s claims have never been unequivocally refuted, and the possibility remains that he could have written essays 50–52, 54–58, 62–63. As a consequence, these essays have been printed in this edition of Hamilton’s writings. Madison’s adherents may, however, derive some consolation from the fact that in the notes to each of these essays it is stated that Madison’s claims to authorship are superior to those of Hamilton.

1The most important of these was by “Cato,” presumably George Clinton. The first “Cato” letter was published in The New-York Journal, and Weekly Register on September 27, 1787.

2See, for example, the two articles by “Caesar” (September 28 and October 15, 1787), which erroneously have been attributed to H.

3An anonymous newspaper article, signed “Aristides” and published in The [New York] Daily Advertiser on October 6, stated that H’s absence from the city prevented him from defending himself against newspaper attacks. An entry in H’s Cash Book dated November 4 (see “Cash Book,” March 1, 1782–1791) indicates that he attended the October session of the Supreme Court in Albany.

4The story was first related in Hamilton, History description begins John C. Hamilton, Life of Alexander Hamilton, a History of the Republic of the United States of America (Boston, 1879). description ends III, 369, and has been repeated in most works on The Federalist.

5A memorandum by Madison entitled “The Federalist,” quoted in J. C. Hamilton, ed., The Federalist: a Commentary on the Constitution of the United States. A Collection of Essays by Alexander Hamilton, Jay, and Madison. Also, The Continentalist and Other Papers by Hamilton (Philadelphia, 1865), I, lxxxv.

The essays by William Duer, signed “Philo-Publius,” are published at the end of the second volume of J. C. Hamilton’s edition of The Federalist.

6Morris to W. H. Wells, February 24, 1815, in Sparks, The Life of Gouverneur Morris description begins Jared Sparks, The Life of Gouverneur Morris (Boston, 1832). description ends , III, 339.

7Drafts of only two essays, 5 and 64, both of which were written by John Jay, have been found. The draft of essay 5 is in the John Jay Papers, Columbia University Libraries. The draft of essay 64 is in the New-York Historical Society, New York City. The draft of essay 3 is now owned by Mr. Ruddy Ruggles of Chicago.

8Most writers have stated that all the essays first appeared in The Independent Journal: or, the General Advertiser or New-York Packet. Others (J. C. Hamilton and Henry B. Dawson, for example) were aware that they appeared first in different newspapers, but they did not determine accurately the newspaper in which each essay first appeared.

The Independent Journal and New-York Packet carried the entire series of essays, while The Daily Advertiser ceased to print them after essay 51. The New-York Journal carried only essays 23 through 39. At no time, however, did an essay appear in The New-York Journal without appearing in at least one of the three other papers at the same time. On January 1, 1788, Thomas Greenleaf, editor of the Journal and supporter of George Clinton, printed a letter signed “45 Subscribers” which complained about Greenleaf’s publication of “Publius,” which was already appearing in three newspapers. Shortly after this, on January 30, 1788, Greenleaf discontinued publication of the essays with number 39 (numbered by him 37).

9The full title is The Federalist: A Collection of Essays, Written in Favour of the New Constitution, As Agreed Upon by the Federal Convention, September 17, 1787. In Two Volumes (New York: Printed and Sold by J. and A. McLean, No. 41, Hanover-Square. MDCCLXXXVIII). This is referred to hereafter as the “McLean edition.”

10The Independent Journal: or, the General Advertiser January 1, 1788.

11There is no question that H was the author of the preface and that he corrected the essays. Not only was this stated by McLean’s advertisement, but Madison, writing years later, said that the essays “were edited as soon as possible in two small vols. the preface to the 1st. vol. drawn up by Mr. H., bearing date N. York Mar. 1788” (Hunt, Writings of Madison description begins Gaillard Hunt, ed., The Writings of James Madison (New York, 1902). description ends , VIII, 411).

12The first French edition, published in two volumes in 1792, listed the authors as “MM. Hamilton, Madisson et Gay, Citoyens de l’Etat de New-York.” The second edition, published in 1795 and also in two volumes, named “MM. Hamilton, Madisson et Jay” as the authors. For a description of these editions, see The Fœderalist: A Collection of Essays, Written in Favor of the New Constitution, as Agreed upon by the Fœderal Convention, September 17, 1787. Reprinted from the Original Text. With an Historical Introduction and Notes by Henry B. Dawson. In Two Volumes (Morrisania, New York, 1864), I, lxiv–lxvi.

13The FEDERALIST, On the New Constitution. By Publius. Written in 1788. To Which is Added, PACIFICUS, On the Proclamation of Neutrality. Written in 1793. Likewise, The Federal Constitution, With All the Amendments. Revised and Corrected. In Two Volumes (New York: Printed and Sold by George F. Hopkins, At Washington’s Head, 1802). Cited hereafter as the “Hopkins edition.”

14J. C. Hamilton, The Federalist description begins John C. Hamilton, ed., The Federalist: A Commentary on the Constitution of the United States. A Collection of Essays by Alexander Hamilton, Jay, and Madison. Also, The Continentalist and Other Papers by Hamilton (Philadelphia, 1865). description ends , I, xci, xcii.

15Henry B. Dawson, The Fœderalist, I, lxx–lxxi.

16The Federalist, on The New Constitution, written in the year 1788, By Mr. Hamilton, Mr. Madison, and Mr. Jay with An Appendix, containing The Letters of Pacificus and Helvidius, on the Proclamation of Neutrality of 1793; Also the Original Articles of Confederation, and The Constitution of the United States, with the Amendments Made Thereto. A New Edition. The Numbers Written by Mr. Madison corrected by Himself (City of Washington: Printed and Published by Jacob Gideon, Jun., 1818). Cited hereafter as the “Gideon edition.”

17Three days after the publication of the first essay, Hamilton sent George Washington a copy of it. Hamilton wrote that the essay was “the first of a series of papers to be written in its [the Constitution’s] defense.” Washington, of course, knew that H was the author, for H customarily sent to Washington anonymous newspaper articles which he wrote. On December 2, 1787, Madison wrote to Edmund Randolph:

“The enclosed paper contains two numbers of the Federalist. This paper was begun about three weeks ago, and proposes to go through the subject. I have not been able to collect all the numbers, since my return to Philad, or I would have sent them to you. I have been the less anxious, as I understand the printer means to make a pamphlet of them, when I can give them to you in a more convenient form. You will probably discover marks of different pens. I am not at liberty to give you any other key, than, that I am in myself for a few numbers; and that one, besides myself was a member of the Convention.” (Hunt, Writings of Madison description begins Gaillard Hunt, ed., The Writings of James Madison (New York, 1902). description ends , V, 60–61.)

18The first edition of The Federalist which attributed specific essays to individual authors appeared as the second and third volumes of a three-volume edition of H’s writings published in 1810 (The Federalist, on the new constitution; written in 1788, by Mr. Hamilton, Mr. Jay, and Mr. Madison … A new edition, with the names and portraits of the several writers. In Two Volumes [New York, published by Williams & Whiting, 1810]).

19The letter in The Port Folio of November 14, 1807, reads as follows:


“The Executors of the last will of General HAMILTON have deposited in the Publick Library of New-York a copy of ‘The Federalist,’ which belonged to the General in his lifetime, in which he has designated, in his own hand-writing, the parts of that celebrated work written by himself, as well as those contributed by Mr. JAY and Mr. MADISON. As it may not be uninteresting to many of your readers, I shall subjoin a copy of the General’s memorandum for publication in ‘The Port Folio.’   M.

“Nos. 2, 3, 4, 5, 54 Mr. JAY. Nos. 10, 14, 37, to 48 inclusive, Mr. MADISON. Nos. 18, 19, 20, Mr. HAMILTON and Mr. MADDISON jointly—all the rest by Mr. HAMILTON.”

20There are several lists other than those subsequently discussed in the text. On the flyleaf of volume 1 of his copy of The Federalist, Thomas Jefferson wrote the following: “No. 2. 3. 4. 5. 64 by Mr. Jay. No. 10. 14. 17. 18. 19. 21. 37. 38. 39. 40. 41. 42. 43. 44. 45. 46. 47. 48. 49. 50. 51. 52. 53. 54. 55. 56. 57. 58. 62. 63. by Mr. Madison. The rest of the work by Alexander Hamilton.” Jefferson’s copy of The Federalist, now in the Rare Book Room of the Library of Congress, came to him indirectly from H’s wife, Elizabeth. It bears the inscription: “For Mrs. Church from her Sister. Elizabeth Hamilton.” The words, “For Mrs. Church from her Sister,” are in the handwriting of Elizabeth Hamilton. Angelica Schuyler Church, despite her admiration for her brother-in-law, had long been a friend of Jefferson and must have sent her copy of The Federalist to him. It is not known from whom Jefferson got his information on the authorship of the essays, but presumably it was from Madison. It will be noted that there is only one minor difference between Jefferson’s attribution of the essays and that made by Madison: Jefferson attributed essay 17 to Madison. A facsimile is printed in E. Millicent Sowerby, Catalog of the Library of Thomas Jefferson (Washington, D.C., 1953), III, 228.

On the title page of George Washington’s copy of The Federalist there is an assignment of authorship which reads as follows: “Jay author—1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 54. Madison—10, 14, 37–48 exclusive of last. 18, 19, 20, productive of Jay, AH and Madison. All rest by Gen’l Hamilton.” This memorandum is in an unidentified handwriting. Except for two differences it conforms to the Benson list. Without more information on the source of the list, its reliability is highly suspect (Washington’s copy of The Federalist is in the National Archives).

Henry Cabot Lodge in his edition of The Federalist (HCLW description begins Henry Cabot Lodge, ed., The Works of Alexander Hamilton (New York, 1904). description ends , XI, xxvii), placed in evidence lists of authors which he found in copies of The Federalist owned by Fisher Ames and George Cabot. Both correspond to the Benson list.

21Jay’s authorship of these essays is incontestable. H supposedly stated in the Benson list that he wrote 64 and that Jay was the author of 54. The draft of 64, in the writing of Jay, is in the New-York Historical Society, New York City. Both H and Madison agreed that Jay wrote 2, 3, 4, and 5.

That Jay contributed only five essays was due to an attack of rheumatism which lasted through the winter of 1787. It was not due, as his earlier biographers stated, to an injury which he received in the “Doctors’ Riot” in New York. The riot did not occur until April, 1788, by which time most of the “Publius” essays had been written (Frank Monaghan, John Jay [New York, 1935], 290).

22“I take upon me to state from indubitable authority,” Corrector wrote “that Mr. Madison wrote Nos. 10, 14, 18, 19, 20, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 62, 63, and 64. Mr. Jay wrote Nos. 2, 3, 4, and 5; and Mr. Hamilton the residue” ([Washington] National Intelligencer, March 20, 1817).

23Benjamin Rush, the oldest son of Richard, sent Henry B. Dawson the following description of the notes in the edition of The Federalist owned by his father: “On a fly-leaf of the second volume there is the following memorandum in my father’s handwriting. I copy it exactly as it appears: ‘The initials, J.M. J.J. and A.H. throughout the work, are in Mr. Madison’s hand, and designate the author of each number. By these it will be seen, that although the printed designations are generally correct, they are not always so’” (Benjamin Rush to Dawson, August 29, 1863, New-York Historical Society, New York City).

Madison’s attribution of authorship, according to Benjamin Rush, was exactly the same as that which the Virginian authorized in the Gideon edition.

24The anonymous author of the article in the City of Washington Gazette stated that Madison wrote essays 10, 14, 17, 18, 19, 21, 37–58, 62–63, that Jay was the author of essays 2, 3, 4, 5, and 64, and that H wrote the rest.

25Gideon, p. 3. In this edition, essays 10, 14, 18–20, 37–58, 62–63 are assigned to Madison; 2, 3, 4, 5, and 64 to Jay; and the remainder to H. Madison’s copy of The Federalist, with corrections in his handwriting, is in the Rare Book Room of the Library of Congress.

26The memorandum by H, as printed by William Coleman, reads as follows: “Nos. 2. 3. 4. 5. 54, Mr. Jay; Nos. 10, 14, 37 to 48 inclusive, Mr. Madison; Nos. 18, 19, 20, Mr. Hamilton and Mr. Madison jointly; all the rest by Mr. Hamilton” (New-York Evening Post, March 25, 1817).

27According to Coleman the memorandum was deposited by Egbert Benson in “the city library,” as the New York Society Library was then sometimes known. The remainder of the story related in this paragraph is taken from J. C. Hamilton’s account of a “Copy of a statement in my possession made for me by Egbert Benson, Esq., a nephew of Judge Benson.” It is quoted in Hamilton, The Federalist description begins John C. Hamilton, ed., The Federalist: A Commentary on the Constitution of the United States. A Collection of Essays by Alexander Hamilton, Jay, and Madison. Also, The Continentalist and Other Papers by Hamilton (Philadelphia, 1865). description ends , I, xcvi–xcvii.

28New-York Evening Post, January 23, 1818.

The volume from which the memorandum was stolen may have been at one time in the New York Society Library; however, it is no longer there. That library has no McLean edition of The Federalist that bears any marks which indicate that a piece of paper once had been pasted on the inside cover.

29Hamilton, The Federalist description begins John C. Hamilton, ed., The Federalist: A Commentary on the Constitution of the United States. A Collection of Essays by Alexander Hamilton, Jay, and Madison. Also, The Continentalist and Other Papers by Hamilton (Philadelphia, 1865). description ends , I, xcvi–xcvii. The italics have been inserted.

J. C. Hamilton did not get this statement from Robert Benson. It was, as has been stated, from the “Copy of a statement in my possession made for me by Egbert Benson, Esq., a nephew of Judge Benson” (ibid., xcvii).

30For the attribution of authorship which H made in his copy of The Federalist, see note 20.

H’s copy is now in neither the New York Society Library, the New-York Historical Society, nor the New York Public Library, and those libraries have no record of ever having owned it. G. W. Cole, ed., A Catalogue of Books Relating to the Discovery and Early History of North and South America, The E. D. Church Library (New York, 1907), V, Number 1230, lists an item purporting to be H’s copy of The Federalist with notes in his writing. According to the librarian of the Huntington Library, San Marino, California, which acquired the Church library, the notes were not in the writing of H. The book, which is no longer in the Huntington Library, was sold to an unknown purchaser.

J. C. Hamilton, probably unintentionally, contradicts the statement that the names of the authors in his father’s copy of The Federalist were in H’s handwriting. He stated that his father dictated to him the authors of the essays which he then copied into H’s copy (The Federalist description begins John C. Hamilton, ed., The Federalist: A Commentary on the Constitution of the United States. A Collection of Essays by Alexander Hamilton, Jay, and Madison. Also, The Continentalist and Other Papers by Hamilton (Philadelphia, 1865). description ends , I, xcvi–xcvii).

31Not too much reliance should be placed on Kent’s endorsement of the Madison list in the City of Washington Gazette. According to that list, Madison wrote not only all the disputed essays but also essay 17. As Madison’s most ardent defenders assign this essay to H, it seems that Kent’s statement indicated nothing more than his suspicion that H may have made errors in his assignment of authors of the essays.

While Kent’s statement shows that he doubted the accuracy of the attribution of essays made by H, it raises several questions that cannot satisfactorily be answered. The clipping from the City of Washington Gazette was dated December 15, 1817, and the notes on the opposite page of the flyleaf, as stated in the text, could not have been written later than 1804. How, then, could Kent have written that he doubted that Jay wrote essay 64 when the essay was attributed to Jay on a page which was in front of Kent as he wrote? The only possible answer is that Kent, when writing in 1817 or later, failed to look carefully at the changes which had been made in his earlier memorandum and had his uncorrected list in mind. Whatever the explanation for his later statement, it is at least certain that he did not change the earlier list after he saw the article in the City of Washington Gazette.

32“Notes of Ancient and Modern Confederacies, preparatory to the federal Convention of 1787” (Madison, Letters description begins James Madison, Letters and Other Writings of James Madison (Philadelphia, 1867). description ends , I, 293–315).

33A favorite argument of those who support Madison’s claim to essays 49–58 of The Federalist is that since those essays constitute a unit, one man must have written all of them. The essays deal with: 1. the necessity of the departments of government having checks on each other, and 2. the House of Representatives. Madison’s defenders, in their desire to prove his authorship, forget that essays 59, 60, and 61, essays which they attribute to H, also deal with the House of Representatives. There are, furthermore, several obvious breaks in continuity among the essays from 48 to 58, at which a change of authors could have taken place. Essay 51, for example, ends the discussion of the necessity that “these departments shall be so far connected and blended as to give to each a constitutional control over the others,” and essay 52 begins the discussion of the House of Representatives. A change could also have occurred after essay 54 or essay 57. This is not to say that changes in authorship did occur; it is to indicate that the “unit” argument will not stand up under scrutiny.

34“The Authorship of the Federalist,” The American Historical Review, II (April, 1897), 443–60.

35The fact that only Bourne and J. C. Hamilton are cited does not mean that other studies of the authorship of The Federalist have been ignored or overlooked. It means rather that other authors, while sometimes introducing new arguments, have relied heavily on the research of Bourne and J. C. Hamilton. To cite all those who have agreed with Bourne or Hamilton would be redundant; to summarize all the arguments of the numerous students of The Federalist—based for the most part on Bourne and Hamilton’s original research—is a task best left to the historiographer of that work.

There have been, of course, other able studies of the authorship of the disputed essays. Among the defenders of H’s claim, Henry Cabot Lodge (“The Authorship of the Federalist,” HCLW description begins Henry Cabot Lodge, ed., The Works of Alexander Hamilton (New York, 1904). description ends , XI, xv–xlv) and Paul L. Ford (“The Authorship of The Federalist,” The American Historical Review, II [July, 1897], 675–82) have been the most able advocates. The most convincing exponent of Madison’s claim since Bourne is Douglass Adair (“The Authorship of the Disputed Federalist Papers,” The William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd. ser., Vol. I, Numbers 2 and 3 [April and July, 1944], 97–122, 235–64). In two essays which brilliantly summarize the century-old controversy over the authorship of the disputed essays, Adair amplifies the research of Bourne and attempts to assign the disputed essays on the basis of the political philosophy which they reveal.

36See, for example, S. A. Bailey, “Notes on Authorship of Disputed Numbers of the Federalist,” Case and Comment, XXII (1915), 674–75. Bailey credits Madison with sole authorship of the disputed essays on the basis of the use of the word “while” by H and “whilst” by Madison. Although the evidence for Bailey’s conclusion is convincing—and there is far more evidence than he produces—his argument is destroyed by H’s occasional use of “whilst.” In essay 51, for example, H, who himself edited the essays for publication by McLean, substituted “whilst” for “and.” In essay 81, certainly written by H, the word “whilst” is used. Edward G. Bourne (see note 35), to give another example, offers as evidence for Madison’s authorship of essay 56 his use of the word “monitory,” which, according to Bourne, was “almost a favorite word with Madison.” Yet in essay 26, H, in revising the essays for publication in the McLean edition, changed “cautionary” to “monitory.” Similarly, to assign authorship on the basis of differences in the spelling of certain words in different essays—for example, “color” or “colour,” “federal” or “fœderal”—would be hazardous. The editors of the various newspapers in which the essays appeared obviously changed the spelling of certain words to conform to their individual preferences.

37Similarity between a statement in one of the disputed essays and an earlier remark in the writings of either Madison or H is perhaps valid evidence. It does not seem relevant, however, to attempt to prove authorship by reference to the later writings of either of the men. As both presumably read all the essays, they might later have borrowed a statement from a number of The Federalist written by the other without being aware of its source.

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