Federalist Paper Quotes

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P1000867Thomas Jefferson declared the Federalist Papers "the best commentary on the principals of government which was ever written." George Washington accurately predicted that the essays would "merit the notice of posterity." Since the 1780s, when the essays were first written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay, the Federalist Papers have indeed become a primary resource for political thought.  

The "Father of the Federalist Papers," Alexander Hamilton wrote approximately two-thirds of the 85 essays. Here is a selection of some of Hamilton's most celebrated quotes and passages.


It has been frequently remarked that it seems to have been reserved to the people of this country, by their conduct and example, to decide the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force.

– Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 1, "General Introduction," Independent Journal, October 27, 1787 


Experience is the oracle of truth; and where its responses are unequivocal, they ought to be conclusive and sacred.

– Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, Federalist No. 20, "The Same Subject Continued: The Insufficiency of the Present Confederation to Preserve the Union," New York Packet, Tuesday, December 11, 1787.


Alexander Hamilton quote on vigor of government

Vigor of government is essential to the security of liberty.

– Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 1, "General Introduction," Independent Journal, October 27, 1787


Why has government been instituted at all? Because the passions of men will not conform to the dictates of reason and justice, without constraint.

-Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 15, "The Insufficiency of the Present Confederation to Preserve the Union," Independent Journal, December 1, 1787


Alexander Hamilton quote on vigilant attention

It will indeed deserve the most vigilant and careful attention of the peopl, the see that [the Federal Government] be modelled in such a manner, as to admit of its being safely vested with the requisite powers.

– Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 23, "The Necessity of a Government as Energetic as the One Proposed to the Preservation of the Union," December 18, 1787


The fabric of American empire ought to rest on the solid basis of THE CONSENT OF THE PEOPLE. The streams of national power ought to flow from that pure, original fountain of all legitimate authority.

– Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 22, "The Same Subject Continued: Other Defects of the Present Confederation," New York Packet, December 14, 1787


In disquisitions of every kind there are certain primary truths, or first principles, upon which all subsequent reasonings must depend.

-Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 31, "The Same Subject Continued: Concerning the General Power of Taxation," New York Packet, January 1, 1788


...[I]n politics, as in religion, it is equally absurd to aim at making proselytes by fire and sword. Heresies in either can rarely be cured by persecution.

– Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 1, "General Introduction," Independent Journal, October 27, 1787


The natural cure for an ill-administration, in a popular or representative constitution, is a change of men.

– Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 21, "Other Defects of the Present Confederation," Independent Journal, December 12, 1787


…[W]e must bear in mind that we are not to confine our view to the present period, but to look forward to remote futurity. Constitutions of civil government are not to be framed upon a calculation of existing exigencies, but upon a combination of these with the probable exigencies of ages, according to the natural and tried course of human affairs. 

– Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 34, "The Same Subject Continued: Concerning the General Power of Taxation,"From the New York Packet, January 4, 1788


"Let Americans disdain to be the instruments of European greatness! Let the thirteen States, bound together in a strict and indissoluble Union, concur in erecting one great American system, superior to the control of all transatlantic force or influence, and able to dictate the terms of the connection between the old and the new world!" 

– Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 11, "The Utility of the Union in Respect to Commercial Relations and a Navy," Independent Journal, November 24, 1787


Alexander Hamilton quote on Safety of Nations

Safety from external danger is the most powerful director of national conduct. To be more safe, they [nations] at length becoming willing to run the risk of being less free.

– Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 8, "The Consequences of Hostilities Between the States," New York Packetl, November 20, 1787


quote circumstances that endanger

The circumstances that endanger the safety of nations are infinite; and for this reason no constitutional shackles can wisely be imposed on the power to which the care of it is committed.

- Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 23, "The Necessity of a Government as Energetic as the One Proposed to the Preservation of the Union," December 18, 1787


quote rights of neutrality

The rights of neutrality will only be respected when they are defended by an adequate power.

- Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 11, "The Utility of the Union in Respect to Commercial Relations and a Navy," November 24, 1787


The truth is, after all the declamations we have heard, that the Constitution is itself, in every rational sense, and to every useful purpose, A BILL OF RIGHTS.

-Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 84, "Certain General and Miscellaneous Objections to the Constitution Considered and Answered," From McLEAN'S Edition, New York. May 28, 1788


Alexander Hamilton quote on laws and the courts

Laws are a dead letter without courts to expound and define their true meaning and operation.

– Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 22, "The Same Subject Continued: Other Defects of the Present Confederation," New York Packet, December 14, 1787


The Judiciary . . . has no influence over either the sword or the purse; no direction either of the strength or of the wealth of the society, and can take no active resolution whatever. It may truly be said to have neither FORCE nor WILL, but merely judgment...

-Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 78, "The Judiciary Department," McLeans's Edition, New York


A feeble Executive implies a feeble execution of the government. A feeble execution is but another phrase for a bad execution; and a government ill executed, whatever may be its theory, must be, in practice, a bad government.

- Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 70, "The Executive Department Further Considered", New York Packet, March 18, 1788


Energy in the executive is a leading character in the definition of good government. It is essential to the protection of the community against foreign attacks; it is not less essential to the steady administration of the laws; to the protection of property against those irregular and high-handed combinations which sometimes interrupt the ordinary course of justice; to the security of liberty against the enterprises and assaults of ambition, of faction, and of anarchy.

– Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 70, "The Executive Department Further Considered," From the New York Packet, March 18, 1788.


The ingredients which constitute energy in the Executive are, first, unity; secondly, duration; thirdly, an adequate provision for its support; fourthly, competent powers.

The ingredients which constitute safety in the republican sense are, first, a due dependence on the people, secondly, a due responsibility.

– Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 70 "The Executive Department Further Considered," From the New York Packet, March 18, 1788.


So numerous indeed and so powerful are the causes which serve to give a false bias to the judgment, that we, upon many occasions, see wise and good men on the wrong as well as on the right side of questions of the first magnitude to society. This circumstance, if duly attended to, would furnish a lesson of moderation to those who are ever so much persuaded of their being in the right in any controversy.

– Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 1, "General Introduction," Independent Journal, October 27, 1787


On the other hand, it will be equally forgotten that the vigor of government is essential to the security of liberty; that, in the contemplation of a sound and well-informed judgment, their interest can never be separated; and that a dangerous ambition more often lurks behind the specious mask of zeal for the rights of the people than under the forbidden appearance of zeal for the firmness and efficiency of government. History will teach us that the former has been found a much more certain road to the introduction of despotism than the latter, and that of those men who have overturned the liberties of republics, the greatest number have begun their career by paying an obsequious court to the people; commencing demagogues, and ending tyrants.

– Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 1, "General Introduction," Independent Journal, October 27, 1787


"Has it not. . . invariably been found that momentary passions, and immediate interests, have a more active and imperious control over human conduct than general or remote considerations of policy, utility and justice?"

-- Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No 6, "Concerning Dangers from Dissensions Between the States," Independent Journal, November 14, 1787


If the federal government should overpass the just bounds of its authority and make a tyrannical use of its powers, the people, whose creature it is, must appeal to the standard they have formed, and take such measures to redress the injury done to the Constitution as the exigency may suggest and prudence justify.

– Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 33, "The Same Subject Continued: Concerning the General Power of Taxation," From the Daily Advertiser, January 3, 1788


If duties are too high, they lessen the consumption; the collection is eluded; and the product to the treasury is not so great as when they are confined within proper and moderate bounds. This forms a complete barrier against any material oppression of the citizens by taxes of this class, and is itself a natural limitation of the power of imposing them.

– Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 21, "Other Defects of the Present Confederation," Independent Journal, December 12, 1787


There is no part of the administration of government that requires extensive information and a thorough knowledge of the principles of political economy, so much as the business of taxation. The man who understands those principles best will be least likely to resort to oppressive expedients, or sacrifice any particular class of citizens to the procurement of revenue. It might be demonstrated that the most productive system of finance will always be the least burdensome.

– Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 35, "The Same Subject Continued: Concerning the General Power of Taxation,"From the Independent Journal, January 5, 1788


I go further, and affirm that bills of rights, in the sense and to the extent in which they are contended for, are not only unnecessary in the proposed Constitution, but would even be dangerous. They would contain various exceptions to powers not granted; and on this very account, would afford a colorable pretext to claim more than were granted. For why declare that things shall not be done which there is no power to do?

-Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 84, "Certain General and Miscellaneous Objections to the Constitution Considered and Answered," From McLean's Edition, New York. May 28, 1788




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