Federalist Papers Trivia

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Though Alexander Hamilton is recognized as one of the three authors of the Federalist Papers, the extent of which he was involved in the creation, writing, and publishing of the essays is not as widely-known. Learn some of the interesting trivia about Alexander Hamilton and the Federalist Papers.

What is the official name of the Federalist Papers?

When the essays were published in book form in 1788, the title was - The Federalist: a collection of essays, written in favour of the new Constitution: as agreed upon by the Federal convention, September 17, 1787

Did you know?

  • The Federalist Papers were a series of essays published in the newspaper to argue in favor of ratifying the proposed Constitution.
  • In The Federalist, there are 85 essays in total, though Hamilton, Madison and Jay actually wrote only 84 essays. When the essays were first published in book form, the publisher (with Hamilton’s agreement) divided the lengthy 31st newspaper essay into two separate freestanding pieces and then renumbered the essays.1
  • The first Federalist essay was published on October 27, 1787.
  • The Federalist (a two volume book of the 85 essays) was published in 1788 - Volume I on March 22nd and Volume II on May 28th. 
  • Publius was the pseudonym used for all the essays.

Alexander Hamilton's Personal Copy

This is a first edition copy of Volume II of The Federalist. It was owned by Alexander Hamilton, as evidenced by his personal bookplate on the inside of the cover. Courtesy of Columbia University's Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

Alexander Hamilton as "Father of the Federalist Papers"

  • Alexander Hamilton first came up with the idea for an organized series of essays while traveling on a sloop on the Hudson River from Albany to NYC.
  • By the time he debarked the sloop for Depeyster’s at Denning’s Point, Hamilton had already written the series outline and the first essay.
  • Hamilton convinced the printers to do the type setup and printing for free - a rare occurrence. Usually authors had to pay those costs out of their own pocket so that the printers were assured they would cover expenses and make a profit based on sales.
  • Alexander Hamilton recruited other authors to contribute to the essays.

Authors of the Federalist Papers

  • The first person Hamilton recruited as author was John Jay.
  • James Madison was the other contributing author.
  • Alexander Hamilton approached two others possible authors: Gouverneur Morris and William Duer.
  • Gourverneur Morris declined because he was too busy.
  • Hamilton did not accept Duer's submissions because he considered them not up to par. Duer published his contributions separately under the moniker “Philo-Publius.”
  • John Jay became sick after writing essays No. 2-5 and did not contribute again until a final essay near the end of the project.
  • Authorship was anonymous at the time of writing. To this day, there is not an exact consensus on the authorship of some of the essays.
  • Scholars roughly attribute 51 essays to Alexander Hamilton, 29 to James Madison, and 5 to John Jay.
  •  Computer-based analysis of word choice patterns was one method used to determine authorship.

Law and Government

  • The Federalist Papers are often considered the 'de-facto' interpretation of the Constitution today
  • Thomas Jefferson, a political rival of Hamilton’s, described the eighty-five essays as “the best commentary on the principles of government, which ever was written.” 
  • The Federalist Papers have been cited over 300 times in Supreme Court decisions2
  • The first time the Federalist Papers were cited in the Supreme Court was in 1798 in Calder v. Bull3
  • The most-cited essay in Supreme Court opinions is Federalist No. 78, written by Hamilton.4 Titled "The Judiciary Department", it discusses judicial review and other judicial powers.

Other interesting facts

  • Publius, the pseudonym used for the Federalist Papers, was first used by Hamilton in 1778 in an article criticizing Samuel Chase. Ironically, Samuel Chase was the first justice of the Supreme Court to cite the Federalist Papers.
  • Hamilton wrote his contributions to the Federalist Papers (over 350 pages in the leading modern book edition) while also maintaining a full-time law practice and, during a period in which he wrote about half of his essays, serving as New York's elected delegate to the federal Congress.5 

Coenen, Dan. "Fifteen Curious Facts about The Federalist Papers." April 1, 2007. University of Georgia School of Law

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