After the Revolutionary War, many Americans realized that the government established by the Articles of Confederation was not working. America needed a new form of government. It had to be strong enough to maintain national unity over a large geographic area, but not so strong as to become a tyranny. Unable to find an exact model in history to fit American’s unique situation, delegates met at Philadelphia in 1787 to create their own solution to the problem. Their creation was the United States Constitution.
Before the Constitution could become “the supreme law of the land,” it had to be ratified (or approved) by at least nine of the thirteen states. When the delegates to the Philadelphia Convention signed the Constitution on September 17, 1787, they knew ratification would not be easy. Many people were bitterly opposed to the proposed new system of government. People opposed to the Constitution became known as anti-federalists. A public debate soon erupted in each of the states over whether the new Constitution should be accepted.
The Federalist Papers
No where was the fervor over the proposed Constitution more intense than in New York. Within days after it was signed, the Constitution became the subject of widespread criticism in the New York newspapers. Many commentators charged that the Constitution diminished the rights American had won in the Revolution. The Constitution did not contain a Bill of Rights to protect people’s natural rights.
Alexander Hamilton devised a plan to write a series of letters or essays rebutting the critics. Hamilton published his first essay in the New York Independent Journal on October 27, 1787. He soon recruited two others, James Madison and John Jay, to contribute essays to the series. Between October 1787 and August 1788, the three men wrote 85 essays in several New York newspapers. The total collection of essays in favor of the Constitution became known as The Federalist Papers. The 85 essays succeeded by helping to persuade doubtful New Yorkers to ratify the Constitution. Today, The Federalist Papers helps us to more clearly understand what the writers of the Constitution had in mind when they drafted that amazing document 200 years ago.
Where did the delegates meet to reevaluate the Articles of Confederation?
What were the Federalist Papers? and why are they important today?
Define the following:
Read the following excerpts and answer the corresponding questions: Federalist Paper 23 – Alexander Hamilton
“The principle purposes to be answered by Union are these – The common defense of the members – the preservation of the public peace as well as against internal convulsions as external attacks – the regulation of commerce with other nations and between the States – the superintendence of our intercourse, political and commercial, with foreign countries.”
According to Hamilton, what are the main purposes of forming a Union under the Constitution? Make a list in your OWN WORDS:
Do the majority of Hamilton’s purposes relate to domestic or to foreign affairs?
Which one of Hamilton’s purposes do you think is the most important for the United States today? Why?