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  • Writer's pictureMary Webster

Who Wrote the Federalist Papers?

The United States Constitution is a contract between the citizens of the United States and the federal government. Although we don’t always do it, we all know that before signing a contract, we should read and thoroughly understand it. And if we have any questions about the contract, we don’t sign it, then ask the questions. We ask the questions before we sign it.

This is what happened with the US Constitution. The people who had to vote to accept or reject it, wanted to know what they were agreeing to. Some people said that the Constitution would limit the citizens’ and States’ rights, liberties, and freedoms too much. The writer(s) of the Federalist Papers explained what rights, liberties, and freedoms the citizens would give up to give the new federal government enough power to govern effectively and protect the citizens.

If a person was going to sign a contract with a company (like an employment contract, a contract to buy something, or to perform some service), he/she might have some questions about the contract. One of the company’s lawyers might write answers to the person’s questions.

Now comes the important point. Many years pass. Either the person who signed the contract or his/her heirs or the people that took over either of the companies that were the original contract signers, have a question about a clause in the contract. Do the try to figure out the name of the lawyers who explained the meaning of the contract? No. They don’t care what the lawyer(s’) names were. They care about what the people who originally signed the contract believed that they were agreeing too. They go back and look at the original notes that explain the clauses in the contract.

This is the Federalist Papers. Since they were written to explain the clauses in the United State Constitution before it was ratified, they are the first explanation of what the Constitution means and what the voters in New York agreed to. Therefore, it simply doesn’t matter who wrote them. We just need to know that the people, at the time of the ratification process, accepted them as an explanation of the US Constitution.

That’s the first answer. The second answer is this—something happens during the writing process. I don’t know if it happens because of some Higher Power or the depths of the human subconscious, but written statements are often deeper, clearer and better than we would expect if we know the author and their abilities. In the case of the Federalist Papers, I believe this “inspiration” is very present. Some of the presentations and arguments are actually different than what the assumed authors stated or argued at different times during their lives. Therefore, knowing who the authors were might confuse us, because they might have made different arguments at other times in their lives. But the only opinions on the Constitution that we are interested in are the opinions about the Constitution before the voters ratified it.

Third. I am an author. I’ve written several novels and hundreds of non-fiction articles. I’ve discovered the wonderful surprises that “inspiration” brings to my writing. I don’t have the foggiest idea where it comes from. I just know that it exists. So far, when I write something, I do inject myself. I put my name on all articles and books. So, my ego is involved. I might (even subconsciously) edit my inspiration in a way that makes me feel that people won’t reject me personally or I might not have the courage to write something that I feel will be controversial. But if I wrote anonymously, I would feel free to follow my inspiration without self-editing. And, more importantly, I wouldn’t be writing to get money and/or power—the two most powerful motivators of human behavior. I couldn’t get either because no one would know who wrote it. If it was wonderful, I wouldn’t get any power or glory.

We know of people who wrote anonymously, then were happy to “out” themselves so they could get acclaim or money. But we’re talking about the authors of the Federalist Papers. They displayed real humility. They wrote freely, without any desire, during their lifetime, of money and power.

Fourth. If someone studies the Federalist Papers, they can usually guess who wrote what Paper, simply because each person has a different writing style. I guessed during my research, but simply did not care and quickly forgot. I believe that if the authors wanted to be anonymous, then it is my responsibility, as a reader and student, to accept the author(s’) decision.

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