The Federalist Papers were written in 1787
and 1788, and they are the foremost American contribution to political thought. They are
one of the greatest books ever written. They were written as newspaper articles. There
are 85 of them. They make a book about that thick, something like that, not that tall.
It’s not that long to read them. But they are very deserving of study. They are important
for a variety of reasons. They are important because they’re great. They’re important because
they concern the most successful constitution in the history of the world. And they are
important because of who wrote them. They were written by 3 people. One was John
Jay, who negotiated the treaty that ended the American Revolutionary War and established
the United States of America, and who was later Chief Justice of the Supreme Court—a
really remarkable man. He wrote 4 or 5 of the Federalist Papers. They concern foreign
policy. He had much to do with that in his life. The bulk of [The Federalist Papers]
were written by Alexander Hamilton and James Madison. Alexander Hamilton was from New York.
James Madison was from Virginia. They are among the greatest people in political history.
They both helped to found the country. Madison was always close to Thomas Jefferson, both
Virginians. He succeeded Jefferson as president. Hamilton was from New York, originally born
in Jamaica. He was among the makers of the revolution. He was Secretary of the Treasury
in the first Washington administration. But when [Hamilton and Madison] wrote the
Federalist Papers, they were fresh from writing the Constitution of the United States, and
those 2 people wrote it more than any other 2 people, although it was written by several
dozen people who had a lot to do with it. They came together to produce the Constitution.
They studied hard before they did it. Then they spent those months, from May until September,
in Philadelphia, in a closed room with the delegates from the states, composing the Constitution.
It wasn’t exactly the Constitution the way they wanted it when they started. But the
Federalist Papers are testimony to how much they liked it when it was finished.
So just having written the document, having debated every point in it with a lot of very
impressive people, they wrote out why it was so. That makes it remarkable, too, because
it’s not just some people working in a university who wrote this, it was the people who made
the document. These were people of very unusual quality.