The Federalist Papers: The Purpose, the Audience, and the Failing Articles of Confederation

The Federalist Papers: The Purpose, the Audience, and the Failing Articles of Confederation

Legal Methods and Process


What was/were the purpose(s) of the Federalist Papers?

Following the Revolutionary War, many Americans believed that the Articles of Confederation established and ill-mannered government that was not working as the people deemed fit and that a new government was in dire need. They wanted a strong enough government but not too strong as to become a tyranny (Constitutional Rights Foundation, 2002). This led up to delegates reaching for a solution to America’s problem and traveled to Philadelphia in 1787 to and created their own solution known as the United States Constitution. However, before the Constitution could become the “supreme law of the land”, it needed the approval from at least nine out of thirteen states.

When the delegates signed the Constitution at the Philadelphia Convention on September 17, 1787, they knew that ratification would not be easy and that many individuals were “bitterly opposed to the proposed new system of government” (Constitutional Rights Foundation, 2002). A statewide debate began in each of the states, which was viewed as a crucial debate on the future of the United States. Criticism of the new Constitution began within days of it being signed with the most furious of people located in New York with the criticism being published in the New York newspapers.

Alexander Hamilton was the only New Yorker to sign the Constitution at the Philadelphia Convention since the other New York delegates left the Convention in fury. Seeing the upheaval in his home state, Hamilton decided to rebut the critics by writing a series of letters to the newspapers of New York, with his first letter being published in the New York Independent Journal on October 27, 1787, and signed with a Roman name “Publius” (Constitutional Rights Foundation, 2002). Hamilton recruited James Madison and John Jay to write letters to the newspapers and they too signed their published letters with the same pseudonym as this was common practice of writer on public affairs issues. Amongst the three of them, they comprised 85 letters in several New York newspapers. These letters are viewed as being “one of the most important sources of interpreting and understanding the original intent of the Constitution” (, n.d.).

Who was the intended audience?

These letters called upon the citizens of New York to strongly encourage the need to ratify the new United States Constitution and were published between October 1787 and August 1788 in the Independent Journal, The New York Packet, and The Daily Advertiser.

Why did the Articles of Confederation fail?

The first governmental structure that unified the thirteen colonies that fought in the Revolutionary War was established by the Articles of Confederation. However, after only eight years the Articles of Confederation failed due to keeping national government weak and allowed for the states to be as independent as possible (Kelly, M. 2019). Reasons or issues that led to the failure of the Articles of Confederation are:

Congress did not have the powers to tax or regulate foreign and interstate commerce, there was not an executive branch to enforce the acts passed by Congress, there was no national court system or judicial branch, and states could levy tariffs on other states’ goods, each state had only one vote in Congress regardless of size, Amendments to the Articles of Confederation required a unanimous vote, and laws required a 9/13 majority to pass into Congress (Kelly, M. 2019).

During the Constitutional Convention it and the already known facts that change would not work and that the entire Articles of Confederation needed replaced with the United States Constitution.

References (n.d.). The Federalist Papers. Retrieved from

Constitutional Rights Foundation. (2002). The Federalist Papers. Retrieved from

Kelly, M. (2019, July 08). Why the Articles of Confederation Failed. Retrieved from