After Mosteller and Wallace: Authorship of the Federalist Papers

Testing the notion of conceptual metaphor

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Testing the notion of conceptual metaphor

The first test I carried out was to isolate lexical words which appeared to be important conveyors of conceptual metaphor. Specifically, I looked at categories of metaphorical value, such as the notion of structure and construction; ideas encompassing disease, ailment, illness, cure, remedy, malady, disfigurement, mortality (of the state, or government); physical reactions such as horror, disgust; concepts relating to wisdom; notions of cunning (including ‘arts’ and ‘artful’); as well as those occurring in respect of ideas of virtue, vice, violence, greed, envy, excess, vanity, hope, passion, and spirit.

From these various categories 111 words (including head words and lemmas) were isolated. Adjusting for overall length of each corpus (Hamilton 117,093 words; Madison 41,325 words and Disputed 22,241 words) I then looked at the individual relative frequency of each word for each corpus. It should be stressed that these words are central to the metaphorical concepts of the entire Federalist corpus, and as such critical to the expression of meaning within the texts, even though their actual number is low relative to the entire lexicon of the corpus. Of the 111 words selected in this way, Hamilton’s frequency was closest to Madison’s 29 times, Hamilton’s to the Disputed texts 27 times, and Madison’s to the Disputed texts 49 times. Thus, for 44% of these important categories of words Madison appears to be much closer to Disputed than he does to Hamilton, and Madison appears to be much closer to Disputed than Hamilton does.

In the course of reading the Federalist Papers it also became apparent that Hamilton frequently refers to ‘man’ or ‘men’ in such phrases as ‘the good man’ or ‘men of virtue’ (‘reason’, ‘prudence’, etc.). Madison by contrast appears to refer to ‘people’ in preference to ‘man’ or ‘men’ or, on the other hand, to avoid altogether those constructions requiring specific reference to individuals or groups. In order to test this idea, eleven words in this category were searched for including ‘man’, ‘woman’, ‘women’, ‘men’, ‘citizen/s’, ‘people’, ‘person/s’, and the subject pronouns ‘he’ and ‘she’. For eight of these eleven words Madison’s distribution was closer to Disputed than Hamilton’s was and closer to Disputed than it was to Hamilton’s. In fact words which imply gender, or gender‑related issues turn out to be quite significant in the Federalist Papers, given the prevalent eighteenth century assumption that citizens are ‘men’. However, in this regard, Madison appears to have been somewhat ahead of his time, in that he tended, as noted above, to make this assumption of masculine superiority somewhat less frequently than Hamilton did. The use of the pronoun ‘she’ is also interesting in the corpus. In using ‘she’ Hamilton usually refers to one of the States, such as Vermont, New York, Connecticut or Pennsylvania, or to a country, such as Britain. The only time he uses it with reference to a person is where he gives an example of the rights of women to dispose of their property. He uses it once only with reference to America. By contrast, both Madison and Disputed always use ‘she’ to refer to America.

With regard to the idea of ‘America’ and its proposed form of constitutional government, Hamilton and Madison adopt significantly different views. Both talk about the necessity of America uniting in order to be strong against any form of foreign threat, but Hamilton adopts a more nationalistic tone, referring to America becoming “the broad and solid foundation of other edifices”, the need to assert American superiority over other races, “Facts have too long supported these arrogant pretensions of the Europeans. It belongs to us to vindicate the honor of the human race, and to teach that assuming brother, moderation”, and the need for the American states “bound together in a strict and indissoluble Union” to “concur in erecting one great American system, superior to the control of all transatlantic force or influence, and able to dictate the terms of the connection between the old and the new world”.

Madison is noticeably less xenophobic, his sole reference to America in this connection being the nobility of a constitutional America which will be a happy occurrence “for the whole human race”. In the disputed papers there is, also, no reference to America erecting a system of constitutional government which would be an example, by aggression or force, to the rest of the world. In this respect the Disputed papers also resemble Madison more closely than they do Hamilton.

I believe, also, that Madison was far in advance of many of his compatriots with respect to questions of African‑American rights and slave questions. His papers state it as a good thing that the importation of slaves into America was to cease in 1808, while the Disputed papers refer to the fact that some states have allowed ‘negroes’ (sic.) to hold property as a benefit to those states. Hamilton does not mention African‑Americans at all. I am not suggesting that Hamilton was a racist, nor am I particularly trying to hold Madison up as an exemplar of ‘advanced’ race relations, but there do seem to be more similarities with regard to questions such as these between Madison and the Disputed papers than between Madison and Hamilton or Hamilton and the Disputed papers.

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