"This country and this people seem to have been made for each other, and it appears as if it was the design of Providence, that an inheritance so proper and convenient for a band of brethren ... should never be split into a number of unsocial, jealous, and alien sovereignties." So wrote John Jay, one of the revolutionary authors of The Federalist Papers, arguing that if the United States was truly to be a single nation, its leaders would have to agree on universally binding rules of governance--in short, a constitution. In a brilliant set of essays, Jay and his colleagues Alexander Hamilton and James Madison explored in minute detail the implications of establishing a kind of rule that would engage as many citizens as possible and that would include a system of checks and balances. Their arguments proved successful in the end, and The Federalist Papers stand as key documents in the founding of the United States.
About the Author:
Alexander Hamilton (1757-1804) was born in the West Indies and served during the War of Independence as a captain. His military brilliance was recognized, and he was sent on several important military commissions. He was George Washington’s secretary and aide-de-camp and in 1787 become a Member of the Constitutional Convention. From 1789 to 1795 he was the first Secretary of the Treasury, and in 1801 he held the casting vote against Burr and for Jefferson. He fought a duel with Burr and died the next day.
James Madison (1751-1836) was the fourth President of the United States and become known as the ‘father’ of the Constitution because of his influence in planning it and drawing up the Bill of Rights. He was Secretary of State under Jefferson, and his main achievement in this role was the purchase of Louisiana from the French. He lived in Montpelier, Virginia, for eighty-five years, two of which he spent on the governor’s council. He was elected President in 1809 and again in 1812. During his terms in office he worked to abolish slavery, to disestablish the Church and to seek peace, although under his command the war against Britain resulted in a U.S. triumph.
John Jay (1745-1829) served the new nation in both law and diplomacy and established important judicial precedents as first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. A New York attorney from 1768, he won a wide reputation with The Address to the People of Great Britain, which stated the claims of the colonists. He did not sign the Declaration of Independence in 1776 but helped to ensure its approval in New York. In 1789 he was appointed the first U.S. Chief Justice and shaped the Supreme Court procedures. The Jay Treaty of 1794 with Great Britain made him unpopular, and his hopes of succeeding Washington as President faded. After a spell as Governor of New York he retired to a farm, where he spent twenty-seven uneventful years.
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