On October 27, 1787, the first of a long series of articles on the proposed new federal constitution appeared in the New York City press. The first seven articles were published in the columns of the Independent Journal. Later, other essays in the series appeared in the New York Packet and the Daily Advertiser.
The articles were, for the most part, rather short because of limitations of space in the small newspapers of the day. All of them were in assay form, political in subject matter, and quite frankly partisan in spirit and purpose. They were designed to mobilize public opinion in support of the new national constitution proposed by the Constitutional Convention that had met in Philadelphia from late May to mid-September, 1787.
That convention, after long and often very acrimonious debate, had finally agreed to a plan for setting up a whole new governmental framework for the country, and had ordered that the proposal be submitted to the thirteen states for ratification or rejection.
Throughout the country, from New England to Georgia, responsible public opinion was sharply divided on the merits of the scheme. 'or one thing, it entailed the complete scrapping of the Articles of Consideration under which Americans had successfully concluded the Revolution. A great many persons questioned the rush for a change.
The articles in the New York press urging quick ratification of the proposed new scheme of things were put together and, with eight more assays added, hurriedly published in book form as The Federalist, in two small volumes. All the newspaper articles, and the book as well, wore the signature of one "Publius" as author.
It soon transpired that "Publius" was 51 parts Alexander Hamilton, 9 parts James Madison, and 5 parts John Jay. The authors will be discussed in that order.