The first few federalist essays establish this document firmly in the American tradition of persuasive pamphleteering characteristic of the Revolutionary Period, and provide the historical context for the necessity of maintaining the union.

The most significant persuasive statements made during the American Revolution focused on the need of the colonies to break from Great Britain. Both Thomas Jefferson's Declaration of Independence and Thomas Paine's Common Sense established strong arguments in favor of independence and significantly contributed to the swaying of public opinion in favor of independence.

However, the pamphleteers were noticeably quiet during the thirteen year period between the declaration of war and the publication of the U.S. Constitution. In particular, commentary and opinions about the passage of the Articles of Confederation are not a significant part of the series of American historical documents. While this could be the result of a consensus that the Articles were a failed experiment and one that need not be memorialized through the study of arguments in their favor, it could also be reflective of the political haste with which the Articles were designed and put into effect.

In contrast to the Articles, which basically codified what the Second Continental Congress was already doing, the Constitution provides a plan for an ideal form of government that can anticipate future changes and growth. Additionally, the Articles were not presented to the people for ratification, so no public justification was required to persuade them in favor of the document. The Articles were approved by the Congress that designed them and then sent to state legislatures for ratification. The public opinion, outside of the delegates to state legislatures, did not engage in the debate over acceptance of the Articles.

The Federalist sets out to persuade readers about the importance of their voice in ratifying the Constitution by appealing to their sense of patriotism and by reminding them of their own powers to judge upon the validity of the arguments. The authors do so by providing logical arguments based on historical evidence, the lived experience of Americans and by references to political philosophers.

The first few federalist essays lay the foundation for the rest of the argument by reminding the reader how important unity had been to the American people throughout all stages of its early history. The idea of a union formed for mutual defense began in 1643 with the founding of the first colonial union, called the New England Confederation, created to defend the New England colonies against the threat of Indian attacks and French invasion. The number of colonies protected by a union expanded during the French and Indian War through the Albany Congress, which was formed for the purpose of a uniform colonial defense strategy against the French and Indians.

The American colonies united to protect themselves from the usurpations of Parliament and the King, first in the form of boycotts and petitions and then in a concerted military effort. The strength of that union succeeded in winning the War for Independence and in establishing the first American government under the Articles of Confederation. The federalist essays seek to remind the reader of the importance of the union because they contend that anything other than a strong central government will mean the end of the union.

The Federalist is full of examples of the ways in which the union has already begun to crumble and of the detrimental outcome of trying to prosper without a union. In particular, tensions with the European nations of Spain and England are escalating over the navigation of the St. Lawrence and the Mississippi Rivers. This tension has been accelerated because of the interests of individual states in violating the treaties arranged between the United States and the European countries. A strong union would have prevented individual states from seeking their own best interest. Furthermore, a strong union has the best chance of defending the United States in case the tensions escalated to war.

By reminding the reader both of the historical reasons for creating a union, as well as the alarming outcome of disbanding the union, Publius presents the foundation upon which the rest of the argument in favor of the Constitution will be built.

Popular pages: The Federalist Papers (1787-1789)