GOVT 2301
Week Eight
Readings, Notes, and Assignment

The Ratification Debate


- Federalist #1
- Federalist #10
- Federalist #51
- Federalist #84(You wont be tested on, or have to write a paper about, this paper)
- Wikipedia: The Federalist Papers.
- Explaining the Constitution: The Federalist Papers.


The Federalist Papers are the best known of the arguments made to justify the ratification of the Constitution. It is not an overstatement to say the if you are familiar with the arguments they contain, you will have a thorough understanding of just what the founders hoped the Constitution would accomplish and why they thought it would do just that.

Assignments and Test:

Internet students: I want you to critically evaluate the arguments contained in the three of the most important of the Federalist Papers, #1, #10, and #51. I want you to do so in at least 200 words each.

Lecture students: We will have a multiple choice test on Monday or Tuesday the week of October 27th. The test will be composed of a handful of multiple choice and fill in the blank questions.

Here are relevant terms and names for you to be able to define and'or identify. You will note that these relate to the Federalist papers above, or are terms drawn fromn the papers themselves.

- Publius Valerius Publicola
- Brutus
- Alexander Hamilton
- James Madison
- ratification
- deliberate
- republican government
- ambition
- avarice
- faction
- the violence of faction
- public good
- passions
- interests
- fallible
- causes of factions
- controlling the effects of factions
- "the impulse and the opportunity"
- pure democracy
- majority faction
- minority faction
- cabals of a few
- confusions of a multitide
- extensive republic
- interior structure of the government
- mutual relations
- peculiar qualifications
- channels
- constitutional means
- personal motives
- angels

I will also give you five or so sentences from the papers above with key terms removed, and ask you to fill in the blanks.

While you read through the papers I want you to keep this in mind: These were written with a strong sense that human nature was flawed, but that these flaws were not, by themselves, sufficient to make the experiment of popular government itself flawed. Human nature is taken into account in the design of this document. In each of the papers you are to read, a different aspect of human nature is described and accounted for. Part of your task -- the bulk of it actually -- is to figure out how.


After the Constitution was signed in Philadelphia the document was sent to the states for ratification. In order to bypass the state legislatures, which were inclined to vote against it, the Constitution stipulated that ratification conventions would be held in each state (click here for the debates) . As long as nine states voted for ratification, it would become the official governing document of the United States, or at least of the state that agreed to it. Passage in New York was never guaranteed. Though the required numeer of states had ratified the document by the time New York got around to discussing it, the country would suffer without New York as a member. An organized effort was made to ensure that the state would ratify the document.

Central to this effort was the writing of the Federalist Papers, a series of editorials organized by Alexander Hamilton, who was assisted by John Jay, and most importantly James Madison. They were addressed to the people of the state of New York -- actually the potential participant in New York's ratification convention.

The federalists, as many of the participants of the constitutional convention, represented the commerical interests of the republic. Therefore they needed a stronger national government - specifically an executive branch - to ensure that the institutions necessary to facilitate trade could be established and maintained. These powers were primarily financial (in a broad sense) and military. The loss of these powers reduced considerably the importance of state governments, in addition to increasing the power of the national government. Aside from the jealousies of those whose power base rested on the state governments, and whose opposition to the Constitution can be attributed to personal motives, there were real concerns that the new executive could provide the base for tyranny.

At its best, the Federalist Papers can be considered to argue that the Constitution established a government that was both effective and restrained.