Hamilton, particularly, was already formulating his far-reaching plans for restructuring the American economy through forceful governmental measures. Indeed, he and his colleagues would have preferred an even stronger central regime than the one recommended by the Philadelphia conclave. These attitudes, it is claimed, are reflected in The Federalist, the main motif of which is said to be the need for centralized direction of the country’s affairs. This conception of the work has a distinguished pedigree. It can be traced back to our country’s greatest jurist, John Marshall, whose magisterial rulings during his lengthy tenure as chief justice of the United States, from 1801 to 1835, definitely established the U.S. Supreme Court as the final arbiter of the Constitution and reinforced the supremacy of the federal government over the states.
Marshall enunciated the nationalist interpretation of The Federalist in his opinion in the case of Cohens v. Virginia, in 1821, wherein he maintained that, because the essays were “written in answer to objections founded. . . on. . . diminution of State sovereignty,” they are therefore entitled to most “consideration” when they “frankly” acknowledge increases in the power of the central government.5 In other words, according to Marshall, the work is to be implicitly believed when it endorses the concept of national supremacy, but taken with a grain of salt otherwise. This reading of Publius, stamped with the great chief justice’s formidable imprimatur, helped unite America in the early nineteenth century.