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One United People

One United People: The Federalist Papers and the National Idea

Copyright Date: 1990
Pages: 280
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  • Book Info
    One United People
    Book Description:

    The Federalistand the Constitution, whose cause it defended, were created amid the turmoil of political controversy. Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay, authors of The Federalist, were not theorists but fervent partisans in a campaign to gain acceptance -- by no means a sure thing at that time -- for the new plan of national government which they themselves had largely shaped. Their essays were immediately popular, were quickly collected and reissued in book form, and soon came to be recognized in America and Europe as a landmark in political theory -- the basic blueprint for the American system of government.

    In this new, provocative study, Edward Millican argues persuasively that the authors ofThe Federalistwere not merely laying the groundwork for the American system but were setting forth the principles for the creation of a modern nation-state. He defends this thesis through a systematic analysis of the entire body ofThe Federalist, taking up each essay and showing how its contents relate to the idea of nationalism. Millican is one of few critics to examine the essays in this thoroughgoing fashion. He concludes that they do not constitute an apologia for states' rights, nor do they establish a passive government that would protect the rich and the privileged. In advancing these ideas, he takes decided issue with many scholars and commentators, including Ronald Reagan and the New Federalists.

    InOne United People, Edward Millican puts forth one of the clearest and ablest expositions ofThe Federalistnow in print. His vigorous advocacy of the theme of nationalism is bound to be controversial. But his reading of this classic of political theory will be one that future commentators must account for.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6137-2
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. 1 Will the Real Publius Please Stand Up?
    (pp. 1-21)

    Critics agree thatThe Federalistis a great work of political theory, but they do not agree on what it says. It is venerated as a guide to the mysteries of American government and as a fount of political wisdom in general, but the content of that wisdom is a subject of considerable debate. This celebrated tract is variously regarded as favoring a powerful central government, a weak central government, states’ rights, the total eclipse of the states, the rule of special-interest groups, the submersion of special-interest groups, and numerous other mutually contradictory ideas. The work has been quoted on...

  5. 2 The Political Objectives of Publius
    (pp. 22-40)

    In a word, the situation in October 1787 was critical. America was on a cusp. The Philadelphia Convention, which had conferred in closed session throughout the summer for “the sole and express purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation,” had adjourned on September 17, conveying its conclusions to Congress.¹ The Convention proposed to “revise” the Articles by junking them completely and replacing them with a wholly new constitution providing for a much stronger national regime. Congress, then meeting in New York City, promptly approved the Philadelphia conclave’s suggestion that the recommended government be submitted to the states and, if ratified...

  6. 3 The Idea of the Nation-State
    (pp. 41-57)

    Adair has pointed out that the “American Revolutionaries found in Plutarch not merely a generalized image of glory, but one very specific and concrete type of fame … the great lawgiver and the founder of a commonwealth.”¹ There was Theseus, the heroic king of Athens, who “gathered together all the inhabitants of Attica into one town, and made them one people of one city, whereas before they lived dispersed, and were not easy to assemble upon any affair for the common interest.” There was Romulus, who similarly populated his city with a miscellaneous concourse, many of whom had previously lived...

  7. 4 Jay Describes a Nation
    (pp. 58-76)

    Of the first fiveFederalistpapers, all but No. 1 were written by John Jay, constituting four-fifths of his entire contribution to the argument of Publius. In these essays, Jay systematically enumerates the elements of American nationhood, warns of foreign intervention in our internal affairs, points out the advantages of centralized decision making, and praises the wise—and popularly representative—national elite. All the vital aspects of the political theory of nationalism are here blended into a coherent perspective that will underlie the rest ofThe Federalist.

    TheIndependent Journal, wherein these essays first appeared, was a biweekly newspaper published...

  8. 5 Hamilton Aims to Centralize
    (pp. 77-112)

    The next thirty-one papers, No.6 through No. 36, further establish the need for a strong and centralized American national government. The great majority of these essays were written by Hamilton. Only five were penned by Madison, but these include the most celebrated of them all,FederalistNo. 10. The articles were published between November 14, 1787, and January 9, 1788, usually at the rate of four per week. Most first appeared in one of two newspapers, theNew-York Packetor theIndependent Journal. They were widely reprinted. This was the pattern of publication until near the end of the series....

  9. 6 Madison Argues for a National Regime
    (pp. 113-145)

    Many commentators who concede that Hamilton exhibits no real fondness for federalism inThe Federalisthave maintained that the essays of Madison express a noticeably different point of view. Thus Alpheus T. Mason characterizes Hamilton as a thoroughgoing nationalist who “saw the great size of the country, torn by warring factions, as necessitating a consolidated system with ‘unconfined,’ ‘coercive power,’ poised at one center.” But Madison, in Mason’s view, was a pluralist who “envisaged a counterpoised, confederate system, a ‘compound republic’ with the power of the people divided between the states and the nation and national power ‘sub-divided among distinct...

  10. 7 Madison Separates the Powers
    (pp. 146-171)

    Beginning withFederalistNo. 47, Madison turns his attention to the internal arrangement of the various parts of the new national regime. The fourteen remaining essays by him may be divided into three groups. The papers through No. 51 discuss various methods of keeping the different branches in their places, culminating in a renowned exposition of the principles of separation of powers and checks and balances. No. 52 through No. 58 make up Publius’s analysis of the proposed House of Representatives. And No. 62 and No. 63 begin the examination of the Senate. These articles appeared during the month of...

  11. 8 Hamilton Provides Leadership
    (pp. 172-208)

    FederalistNo. 59, which marks Hamilton’s return, was published on February 22, 1788. From this point, except for a pair of essays by Madison and one by Jay, Hamilton wrote all of the remaining papers. The last number to appear in the daily newspapers was No. 77, on April 2. Hamilton was then called away to his legal briefs and to more pressing political concerns and left the argument of Publius for the time being uncompleted. Brutus—who had been gamely continuing, although at only about one-eighth of Hamilton’s output—immediately ceased publication. The first volume of the M’Lean edition...

  12. 9 Publius the Nationalist
    (pp. 209-229)

    The exposition of the argument of Publius is now complete, and it is time to stand back from the canvas to take an overall look. The foregoing analysis has shown thatThe Federalistexhibits a clearly nationalist outlook and that the other prominent themes of the essays—federalism, separation of powers, checks and balances, and the interest-group theory of No. 10—are less central to Publius’s purpose. Without difficulty, we can ascertain from the text of this treatise, what we know anyway from other sources, that Hamilton, Madison, and Jay wished above all else to coordinate the resources of the...

  13. 10 The Significance of The Federalist
    (pp. 230-245)

    The foregoing is obviously no trivial conclusion. The essays of Publius are generally conceded to occupy an eminent place within the Western political tradition and to possess a particular relevance to the governmental affairs of the United States. Our discovery thatThe Federalistis truly an argument for nationalism is material in both of these contexts.

    Western critics in general, like Americans, have interpretedThe Federalistin various ways, but they appear to have most commonly perceived it as a justification for that peculiar Yankee invention, federalism. Dietze recounts that although the tract was at first favorably received in France,...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 246-255)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 256-261)
  16. Index
    (pp. 262-267)