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October 23 - 29, 1787
Hamilton Leads Battle To Ratify the Constitution

October 2011

Alexander Hamilton and Benjamin Franklin confer at the signing of the U.S. Constitution (detail of painting by Howard Chandler Christy). The 20-by-30-foot work was commissioned during the FDR years, in 1939, in observance of the 150th anniversary of the Constitution. It is displayed in the U.S. Capitol.

The fall of 1787 was truly a turning point in history. Over an intense five months, 56 leaders of the American Revolution had met in Philadelphia where they had forged a Constitution for the United States of America. Now, they had to present their work to special legislative assemblies in the 13 states, for ratification. The outcome of their great experiment hung in the balance.

There was little question but that a majority of the states could be expected to ratify the new Constitution, and it was even likely that the required majority—nine states ratifying—could be reached with little difficulty. But it was by no means clear that those nine would include all of the most populous states, specifically New York and Virginia, without whom the ability of the new nation to prosper would be minimal indeed.

In stepped Alexander Hamilton, the Founding Father who had played a pivotal role in bringing together the Constitutional Convention to begin with. He determined to lead an aggressive fight to win New York State, through writing a series of articles that would be printed in newspapers, and would systematically put forward the benefits of the Constitution, and answer its critics. Initially, Hamilton won agreement from other members of the Continental Congress, Virginian James Madison and fellow New Yorker John Jay, to help him in this endeavor, but it ultimately turned out that Hamilton himself wrote 51 out of the 85 essays, sometimes turning out one every three to four days. Hamilton also negotiated with the New York newspapers for their publication, and arranged their reprinting in book form.

The first Federalist Paper appeared on Oct. 27, 1787 in the Independent Journal. By agreement among the three authors, the joint pseudonym "Publius" was chosen. In this introductory piece, Hamilton identified what was at stake in the battle for ratification, and demanded a level of deliberation on the matter which was unique in the founding of any Constitution in human history. We would do well to take the same approach in the election we face today.

We quote the first two paragraphs:

"After an unequivocal experience of the inefficacy of the subsisting federal government, you are called upon to deliberate on a new Constitution for the United States of America. The subject speaks its own importance; comprehending in its consequences nothing less than the existence of the Union the safety and welfare of the parts of which it is composed, the fate of an empire in many respects the most interesting in the world. It has been frequently remarked that it seems to have been reserved to the people of this country, by their conduct and example, to decide the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force. If there be any truth in the remark, the crisis at which we are arrived may with propriety be regarded as the era in which that decision is to be made; and a wrong election of the part we shall act may, in this view, deserve to be considered as the general misfortune of mankind.

"This idea will add the inducements of philanthropy to those of patriotism, to heighten the solicitude which all considerate and good men must feel for the event. Happy will it be if our choice should be directed by a judicious estimate of our true interests, unperplexed and unbiased by considerations not connected with the public good...."


The original article was published in the EIR Online’s Electronic Intelligence Weekly, as part of an ongoing series on history, with a special emphasis on American history. We are reprinting and updating these articles now to assist our readers in understanding of the American System of Economy.