Skip Navigation Links  The Library of Congress >> Researchers >> Virtual Programs & Services
Web Guides (Virtual Services, Digital Reference Section)
  Home >> Primary Documents >> American Revolution & New Nation >> Federalist Papers

Primary Documents in American History

The Federalist Papers

The Federalist
Title Page of The Federalist vol. 1 / N.Y. John Tiebout, 1799.
Prints & Photographs Division.
Reproduction Number:
LC-USZ62-70508

The Federalist Papers were a series of eighty-five essays urging the citizens of New York to ratify the new United States Constitution. Written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay, the essays originally appeared anonymously in New York newspapers in 1787 and 1788 under the pen name "Publius." A bound edition of the essays was first published in 1788, but it was not until the 1818 edition published by the printer Jacob Gideon that the authors of each essay were identified by name. The Federalist Papers are considered one of the most important sources for interpreting and understanding the original intent of the Constitution.

Library of Congress Web Site | External Web Sites | Selected Bibliography

Digital Collections

Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress

John C. Hamilton, the son of Alexander Hamilton, sent a letter to Abraham Lincoln on November 29, 1864, in which he writes, "I have the honor to send you a few pages of 'The Federalist' recently edited by me, the text revised by my father. My motive in sending you these pages is, to call your attention to page cxxiv. of the Historical Notice which it will cost you only a few moments to read pertinent to your Emancipation Proclamation."

A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation

James Madison sent a copy of the first seven essays from the Federalist Papers to George Washington on November 18, 1787. Search the Letters of Delegates to Congress using the word "Publius" to locate additional letters in this publication.

Elliot's Debates is a five-volume collection compiled by Jonathan Elliot in the mid-nineteenth century. The volumes remain the best source for materials about the national government's transitional period between the closing of the Constitutional Convention in September 1787 and the opening of the First Federal Congress in March 1789.

Farrand's Records gathered the documentary records of the Constitutional Convention into four volumes, three of which are included in this online collection, containing the materials necessary to study the workings of the Constitutional Convention. The notes taken at that time by James Madison, and later revised by him, form the largest single block of material other than the official proceedings. The three volumes also include notes and letters by many other participants, as well as the various constitutional plans proposed during the convention.

The Making of the U.S. Constitution is a special presentation that provides a brief history of the making of the Constitution followed by the text of the Constitution itself.

Documents from the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention, 1774-1789

Contains an extract of an address by John Jay to the people of New York on the new Constitution.

George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress

On November 10, 1787, George Washington thanked Alexander Hamilton for sending him a copy of the pamphlet written by "Publius." In another letter dated August 28, 1788, Washington praised Hamilton for the latest installment of the Federalist Papers. Washington writes, "As the perusal of the political papers under the signature of Publius has afforded me great satisfaction, I shall certainly consider them as claiming a most distinguished place in my Library."

Search Washington's papers using the word "Publius" to locate additional documents related to the Federalist Papers.

The James Madison Papers

James Madison explained his involvement with the Federalist Papers in a letter to Thomas Jefferson dated August 10, 1788. Madison wrote, "I believe I never have yet mentioned to you that publication. It was undertaken last fall by Jay, Hamilton, and myself. The proposal came from the two former. The execution was thrown, by the sickness of Jay, mostly on the two others. Though carried on in concert, the writers are not mutually answerable for all the ideas of each other, there being seldom time for even a perusal of the pieces by any but the writer before they were wanted at the press, and sometimes hardly by the writer himself."

Published by the printer Jacob Gideon, the 1818 edition of The Federalist was the first to identify the authors of each essay were identified by name. On January 28, 1818, Madison sent Gideon a copy of the Federalist Papers "with the names of the writers prefixed to their respective numbers."

Search the full text of the Madison papers using terms such as "Publius" or "Federalist" to locate additional documents related to this topic.

The Thomas Jefferson Papers at the Library of Congress

In a letter to James Madison dated November 18, 1788, Thomas Jefferson praised the Federalist Papers "as being, in my opinion, the best commentary on the principles of government, which ever was written."

Words and Deeds in American History

Presents Alexander Hamilton's notes for a speech proposing a plan of government at the Constitutional Convention. Hamilton later addressed many of these same concerns in The Federalist Papers.

Exhibitions

American Treasures of the Library of Congress - The Federalist

James Madison's Federalist no. 10 is one of the most important and enduring statements of American political theory. Its reasoned statement explains what an expanding nation might do if it accepted the basic premise of majority rule, a balanced government of three separate branches, and a commitment to balance all the diverse interests through a system of checks and balances.

Creating the United States

This online exhibition offers insights into how the nation’s founding documents were forged and the role that imagination and vision played in the unprecedented creative act of forming a self–governing country. The exhibition includes a section on Creating the United States Constitution that contains images from Thomas Jefferson's copy of the Federalist Papers.

Madison's Treasures

Includes Thomas Jefferson's annotated copy of the Federalist Papers.

Today in History

December 12, 1745

John Jay, one of the nation's founding fathers, was born on December 12, 1745, to a prominent and wealthy family in the Province of New York.

March 16, 1751

James Madison, "Father of the Constitution" and fourth president of the United States, was born on March 16, 1751.

September 17, 1787

Members of the Constitutional Convention signed the final draft of the Constitution on September 17, 1787.

October 27, 1787

Known as the Federalist Papers, the first in a series of eighty-five essays by "Publius," the pen name of Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay, appeared in the New York Independent Journal on October 27, 1787.

December 15, 1791

The new United States of America adopted the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution, confirming the fundamental rights of its citizens on December 15, 1791.

July 11, 1804

On July 11, 1804, political antagonists and personal enemies Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr met on the heights of Weehawken, New Jersey to settle their longstanding differences with a duel. The participants fired their pistols in close succession. Burr's shot met its target immediately, fatally wounding Hamilton and leading to his death the following day. Burr escaped unharmed.

Link disclaimerExternal Web Sites

The Federalist Papers, The Avalon Project at Yale Law School

The Founders' Constitution, University of Chicago Press and the Liberty Fund

Our Documents, Federalist Papers, No. 10 & No. 51, National Archives and Records Administration

Selected Bibliography

Dietze, Gottfried. The Federalist: A Classic on Federalism and Free Government. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999. [Catalog Record]

Morris, Richard B. Witnesses at the Creation: Hamilton, Madison, Jay, and the Constitution. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1985. [Catalog Record]

Rossiter, Clinton L., ed. The Federalist Papers: Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, John Jay. New York: Mentor, 1999. [Catalog Record]

Taylor, Quentin P., ed. The Essential Federalist: A New Reading of the Federalist Papers. Madison, Wis.: Madison House, 1998. [Catalog Record]

Younger Readers

Ball, Lea. The Federalist--Anti-Federalist Debate over States' Rights: A Primary Source Investigation. New York: Rosen Central Primary Source, 2005. [Catalog Record]

Top of Page Top of Page
  Home >> Primary Documents >> American Revolution & New Nation >> Federalist Papers
  The Library of Congress >> Researchers
  September 24, 2014
Legal | External Link Disclaimer

Contact Us