George Washington accurately predicted that it would “merit the notice of posterity,” and Thomas Jefferson called it “the best commentary on the principles of government ever written.” Nor has the applause for this work been confined to our shores. Alexis de Tocqueville, for example, deemed it “an excellent book, which ought to be familiar to the statesmen of all countries,” and John Stuart Mill said it was “even now the most instructive treatise we possess on federal government.”

 

Twentiethcentury scholars have almost universally shared these sentiments.  The Federalist is important for three reasons: its authorship, its subject matter, and its impressive argument. Anyone of these would have gained it at least some renown. Together, they comprise an intellectual critical mass of enormous dimensions. The authors, especially Hamilton and Madison, are among the most significant political leaders of our history. Alexander Hamilton, secretary of the treasury and virtual prime minister during the Washington administration, bore chief responsibility for guiding our country onto the path of commercial expansion and capitalistic development that we have basically followed ever since his day.

 

James Madison, the “Father of the Constitution,” was the man who played the largest role in arranging the Philadelphia Convention, setting its agenda, and molding its final product.