“To the People of the State of New York”

Thus begins James Madison’s essay Federalist Paper No. 10, and thus begins my extended detour into factions, law, and politics. This classic essay is addressed to the people of New York because it was first published on 23 November 1787 in The New York Packet, a popular periodical that was published in NYC from May 16, 1785 to January 26, 1792. (Here is a complete list of now-defunct NYC newspapers.)

Before we delve into the details of essay ten, here is some background. A draft of a new U.S. Constitution had been proposed to the 13 States then in existence in September of 1787, but this new constitution would not be legally binding on anyone unless it was ratified by at least nine of them. (See Article VII of the original Constitution: “The Ratification of the Conventions of nine States, shall be sufficient for the Establishment of this Constitution between the States so ratifying the Same.”) The New York convention (which would meet in June of 1788) would thus prove to be a crucial test for our new national charter; the future of our republic hung in the balance.

Would the New York convention vote to ratify or reject the proposed constitution? At the time, the outcome was highly uncertain, and if New York ended up rejecting the constitution, the ratification process would likely be doomed! Enter James Madison, John Jay, and Alexander Hamilton, who decided to write a series of weekly articles and short essays–now known collectively as “The Federalist Papers”–in order to drum up public support for the new constitution. In all, they wrote 85 popular essays praising the virtues of the new constitution, essays that would help change the course of history. (Check out the musical tribute to The Federalist Papers from the Broadway show Hamilton below.) Of these 85 papers, Number Ten is my all-time favorite. Here, Mr Madison will discuss the dangers of “domestic faction” and propose some possible cures. In the process of writing this erudite essay, Madison will also paint a far more realistic picture of law and morals than Finnis does. Stay tuned. We will begin exploring the substance of Federalist #10 in earnest in our next post.

About F. E. Guerra-Pujol

When I’m not blogging, I am a business law professor at the University of Central Florida.
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