The Federalist Papers | Study Guide

Alexander Hamilton

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The Federalist Papers | Key Figure Analysis

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Alexander Hamilton

An ardent patriot, Alexander Hamilton served with distinction in the Revolutionary War and was appointed aide-de-camp to General George Washington. Hamilton believed in a strong national government. His goal in The Federalist Papers was to persuade the citizens of New York, and by extension all the citizens of the new nation, to support the Constitution that was drawn up by the framers in Philadelphia in 1787. Alexander Hamilton was a charismatic figure, but he was also impulsive and enigmatic. A man of outstanding intellect and initiative, he was hard-working but also somewhat dogmatic and abrasive. In The Federalist Papers he pulls no punches with his opponents, the Anti-Federalists, often indulging in satire and highly charged language. Hamilton never deviates from his conviction that the federal government needs to be strong and energetic. He is especially emphatic praising the virtues and advantages of the Union.

John Jay

John Jay, a lawyer by profession, was heavily involved in the affairs of New York, serving as the governor of the state and also as a contributor to the state's first constitution. Jay's role in The Federalist Papers was, compared to that of Hamilton and Madison, relatively minor: his fields of expertise were law and diplomacy. He is especially remembered today as the first chief justice of the United States, appointed by President George Washington in 1789.

James Madison

James Madison's depth of experience in the government of the young nation was matchless. He took on a major role at the Constitutional Convention in 1787, and he is often referred to as "the father of the Constitution." Practical, learned, and skilled at negotiation, Madison served in the House, as secretary of state (under President Thomas Jefferson), and as the fourth president (1809–17). James Madison authored two of the most widely cited Federalist papers: Essays 10 and 51. His prose style is fluent, polished, and more moderated than Hamilton's. Like Hamilton, however, Madison had no illusions about human nature. "If men were angels," he writes pithily in Essay 51, "no government would be necessary." Like Jefferson, Madison hailed from Virginia and was a slaveholder. It is clear, however, that the institution of slavery made him extremely uncomfortable.

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