To pass the US citizenship test, you will have to answer 10 of a possible 100 questions. The following question is from the USCIS test.
The Federalist Papers supported the passage of the U.S. Constitution. Name one of the writers.
- James Madison
- Alexander Hamilton
- John Jay
The following is a full explanation of the USCIS question:
What Are the Federalist Papers?
The Federalist Papers is a highly influential series of essays published around the time of the American Revolution. It may be the most influential series of political essays in American history. The Papers argue that a strong federal government will not necessarily destroy liberty and is in fact vital to protect it.
The papers were written by James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay, who were all Founding Fathers of the United States and important revolutionary figures. They initially used the pseudonym “Publius” for their essays.
What Did the Federalist Papers Say?
The Federalist Papers argued that the Articles of Confederation were inadequate because the government was too weak and had insufficient power to enforce its laws. The states were in competition with another and not unified enough to defend the country in the long run.
The Federalist Papers argued for a strong central government with individual states retaining a degree of sovereignty. The essays made many pertinent points that swung public opinion in favor of a constitution and a new form of government. Here are just a few:
- Without a strong government, states would increase their military power, engage in conflicts with other states, and suppress civil liberties.
- A single state can have a strong navy and uniform trade regulations with European states. Trade will bring money to the government, making taxes less necessary.
- The federal government has a responsibility to protect the country. Therefore, they need the power to do it, including raising an army and collecting taxes.
- The legislature can protect people from a government that oppresses them.
- The United States federal government should be split into different branches to ensure a balance of power.
The Federalist Papers were published when the constitution was complete but had not yet been accepted by the states. The 85 essays use examples from history and the state of the country at the time to make their points. The Federalist Papers also use ideas from the European enlightenment.
James Madison was one of the framers of the constitution and known as the father of the Bill of Rights. He was concerned about religious freedom, preventing democracy from turning into the tyranny of the majority, and making sure there were checks and balances in government power. Unlike Alexander Hamilton, James Madison eventually became president.
Madison saw the Articles of Confederation as too flawed to reform incrementally. The Articles were difficult to alter (all thirteen states had to agree to any changes) and needed to be replaced by a United States Constitution that was less difficult to amend.
Madison’s Views on Government
Madison desired each part of the government to do what it is best at. The national government could deal with national issues, the state governments with state issues, and the local governments with local issues.
He didn’t want the federal government to interfere with many decisions of local or state governments. He sought a national government strong on finance and national security but not too powerful in other ways.
What Did James Madison Contribute to the Federalist Papers?
James Madison wrote 29 of the 85 Federalist Papers, compared to 51 for Alexander Hamilton and five for John Jay. In the Federalist Paper #10, one of the most famous essays, Madison argued that people will always split into factions and tend not to work together and that people should expect such factions.
In Federalist Paper #19, Madison suggested that Germany (at the time, the Holy Roman Empire) had frequent internal wars because of the lack of a strong central government. He did not want a similar fate for the United States, where the federal government would wage war against the small states. In the 39th paper, Madison wrote about the future of the United States as a republic and about how term limits are important.
Unlike some other Founding Fathers, Hamilton was not born wealthy. He started life as a poor illegitimate boy in the Caribbean and managed to impress the right people with his energy and intelligence. He went from the West Indies to what is now the United States to get an education and was instrumental in establishing the republic.
Most scholars believe that Hamilton wrote 51 of the 85 papers. He had a vision of a strong government with extensive powers. The Revolutionary War had put the country into debt, and the United States was unable to pay because the federal government could not force the states to give them any money. Hamilton believed in a new federal government that would accept and be able to pay these debts.
In Federalist Paper #70, Alexander Hamilton argued that a single person should have all executive power instead of an executive branch voting on these decisions. Madison got his way, and all presidents have always had the final say on executive decisions. He worried that the president would be too weak if they were not the sole executive.
The Later Conflict Between Madison and Hamilton
People often think of James Madison and Alexander Hamilton as having strongly opposing views. Hamilton was a Federalist who wanted to keep the central government strong and Madison fearing a strong government. While George Washington was president, the two of them were vocal opponents. However, neither was against a robust federal government.
They both attended the Constitutional Convention and saw a stronger government compatible with people’s rights. Later on, they disagreed on how much power the federal government should have over state governments and individual American citizens.
John Jay was a Founding Father and very accomplished early American who became the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. He ended the Revolutionary War by negotiating the Treaty of Paris. During the Revolutionary War, he sided with the rebels and worked diligently to create an alliance between the colonies and Spain.
While John Jay became ill and only contributed five essays to the total 85 Federalist Papers, he still did his part. He contributed his thoughts to the idea that the government needs to be stronger and that a strong government won’t necessarily oppress the people.
Publius was a pseudonym that New York Founding Fathers James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay used when publishing their ideas. Publius was named after Publius Valerius Publicola, a Roman General and Statesman who saved his country from tyranny. Some other early Americans, including people against a stronger federal government, wrote under Roman pseudonyms.
The Bill of Rights
While the United States Constitution put a lot of power into the hands of the government, the later Bill of Rights protected the states and the people. It included ten amendments that protected the people from an overly strong government, including:
- The First Amendment, or freedom of speech, religion, the press, and peaceful protest.
- The Second Amendment, or the right to bear arms.
- The Ninth Amendment limits the federal government’s powers to what the constitution gives them. This makes it difficult for the federal government to gain more power because it requires a constitutional amendment.
- The Tenth Amendment says that a United States citizen may have other legal rights that are not mentioned in the constitution.