The present study attempts to clarify the issue by examining the argument of The Federalist in a comprehensive and thorough manner. The full-length consideration given to the work here enables us to distinguish the main theme of the treatise from lesser motifs that have frequently confused matters in previous studies. We will conclude that The Federalist expresses an essentially nationalistic viewpoint. The authors of the great tract presuppose the existence of a tangible, and paramount, American national interest, and they maintain that this interest can be upheld only by an energetic and truly sovereign central regime.
This conception of The Federalist is not exactly a novel one. Indeed, it has been endorsed by some very reputable commentators in the past. But it has also been challenged by many others, just as reputable, who have advanced entirely contradictory interpretations of the work. Before plunging ahead into this controversy, it might be well to specify why the inquiry is important. Why should the modern reader attempt to understand this document of a bygone era? As every student of American history is aware, The Federalist comprises a series of essays written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay under the pseudonym “Publius.” These eighty-five pieces were first published in certain New York newspapers in 1787 and 1788 as an argument on behalf of the proposed United States Constitution, which was then being considered by state ratifying conventions.
The widely admired essays were soon collected and reissued between hard covers, and the resulting volume has become without doubt America’s most acclaimed work of political philosophy.