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The Federalist Papers (1787-1789)

The Founding Fathers

Important Terms, People and Events

Context

Timeline

Terms

Anti-Federalists  -  As opposed to Federalists, people that feared a strong central government, supported states' rights, and opposed ratification of the U.S. Constitution. Anti-federalists insisted that a Bill of Rights must be included in the Constitution to protect individual's rights against a powerful central government. Anti-federalists typically were members of the poorer classes, but also included patriots Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, James Monroe, and Richard Henry Lee. Anti-federalists strongly opposed the ratification of the U.S. Constitution in Virginia and New York.
Articles of Confederation  -  The document that served as the first official constitution of the United States from 1781 through 1789. The Articles of Confederation dictated a loose organization of 13 independent states, joined together with equal representation in a Congress, in order to provide for the common defense. The Articles proved too weak to effectively govern the young nation, however, and delegates meeting at the Annapolis Convention in 1786 recommended that a new convention be called to discuss revision of the Articles. SparkNote on the Articles of Confederation.
Confederacy  -  A confederacy is a form of government in which independent states are loosely joined, typically for common defense. Each independent state maintains power over the majority of its own affairs.
Federalists  -  As opposed to anti-Federalists, people that favored a strong central government, feared too much power in the hands of the masses, and strongly supported the U.S. Constitution. Federalists were typically members of the cultured and propertied classes, and included Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay. The Federalist perspective was codified in the form of 85 essays that appeared in New York newspapers between 1787 and 1788, and later published as The Federalist.
Ratification  -  To approve or accept an official or legal document. Article VII of the U.S. Constitution states that 9 states must ratify the document before it became the official law of the land.
U.S. Constitution  -  The official document that is the basis of the U.S. Government. The U.S. Constitution was officially put into effect on March 4, 1789 and has been in effect, with some amendments, ever since. SparkNote on the U.S. Constitution

People

Alexander Hamilton  -  Beginning his political career through a close military association with George Washington in the Continental Army, Hamilton soon distinguished himself as a strong proponent of federalism. He represented New York at the Annapolis Convention, and participated as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention at which he proposed a tremendously strong centralized government with a president who served for life. When the U.S. Constitution was delivered to the states for ratification, Hamilton played an integral role to pass the document in New York State through his joint authorship of a series of persuasive essays called the Federalist Papers. He served as Secretary of the Treasury during Washington's presidency and distinguished himself through his strong financial policy and leadership. He died as a result of a duel fought with Aaron Burr in 1804, thus depriving the Federalist Party of its strongest leader.
John Jay  -  John Jay was the most moderate of the three authors of The Federalist, having resisted independence from England until the Declaration of Independence. After the formal dedication of war, Jay was a devoted statesman and foreign ambassador, serving in New York State as Chief Justice, as delegate to the Confederation Congress, as one of the negotiators for the Treaty of Paris, and as ambassador to Spain. Although Jay was struck with a bout of rheumatism that prevented him from writing a significant portion of the federalist essays, he worked closely with Alexander Hamilton throughout the ratification process in New York to spread the federalist ideas. He later served as Chief Justice of the United States.
James Madison  -  James Madison was a delegate from Virginia to both the Annapolis Convention and the Constitutional Convention who strongly clamored for a vigorous and powerful central government. Prior to attending the Constitutional Convention, Madison prepared two papers on government, A Study of Ancient and Modern Confederacies and Vices of the Political System of the United States, from which he drew most of the ideas for the plan of government that was proposed on May 29th, 1787. Because of his central role in creating the U.S. Constitution, and because of the diligence with which he maintained records during the Convention, he is known as "the father of the Constitution." He faced off against Patrick Henry in the Virginia debate over ratification, and contributed his nationalist arguments, along with Hamilton and Jay, to the series of federalist propaganda compiled in The Federalist. Later in his political career, he moved away from the federalist political party and became a strong supporter of the Jeffersonian Republicans. Madison followed Jefferson as the fourth president of the United States.
Publius  -  The name used by all three authors of The Federalist to conceal their true identity. Publius referred to the legendary Publius Valerius Puplicolo, the founder of republican government in ancient Rome.

Events

Annapolis Convention  -  Held in September 1786 at the request of Virginia, this meeting of the states aimed to improve the uniformity of commerce. Only 12 delegates participated, including Alexander Hamilton and James Madison. Sensing a statewide agreement on the importance of revising the Articles of Confederation, this convention resolved to call another statewide convention in May of 1787. This convention would become known as the Constitutional Convention.
Constitutional Convention  -  Scheduled to begin on May 14, 1787 in Philadelphia PA, the Constitutional Convention progressed through the summer to establish a new form of government as described by the U.S. Constitution. Although the convention was called for the purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation, delegates from 12 of the 13 states (Rhode Island was absent) expressed an overwhelming interest in a totally new, and stronger, form of central government. Upon ratification of the U.S. Constitution in 1789, this agreed upon form of government was put into effect and has operated as the government of the United States ever since.
Ratification of the U.S. Constitution  -  Article VII of the U.S. Constitution indicates that the document would officially go into effect upon the ratification of 9 of the 13 state ratifying conventions. When New Hampshire, the 9th state to do so, formally ratified the Constitution, the Constitutional Convention appointed a committee to begin planning the transition to the new government. Planning for the new government was underway even before Virginia, New York, North Carolina and Rhode Island had formally approved of the government plan.
Shays' Rebellion  -  Daniel Shays organized farmers throughout New England to protest legislation that increased taxes and demanded immediate debt-repayment. When the state legislature refused to respond, Shays and his armed followers closed the courts in Western Massachusetts in protest of foreclosed properties. The rebellion came to a head when Shays was defeated while trying to seize a federal arsenal of weapons in Springfield, MA on January 25, 1787. This rebellion demonstrated the weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation, and convinced many states of the need for a stronger central government.

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