The Federalist Papers as Guide to the Constitution?
Reminding us that "opponents of the Constitution feared that the document would prove an instrument for the incremental establishment of a centralized dictatorship over the people," Prof. Clyde N. Wilson minces no words arguing that "in interpretation we ought to be guided by what the proponents of the Constitution plainly said it intended" — The Founding Fathers’ Guide to the Constitution. An excerpt:
- Third-string "political philosophers" and "Constitutional scholars," and even learned jurists, have made an icon out of The Federalist, but it is only one of many discussions of the Constitution. It was a partisan document designed to overcome the objections of New York, and was not very convincing to its audience since ratification passed in New York by the narrowest possible margin Furthermore, it discusses the Constitution as it was merely a proposal under consideration and not the Constitution as ratified by the people of the States, who made their intentions clear in the undisputable language of the 10th Amendment. The authors – Madison, Hamilton, and Jay – were all disappointed that the Constitution did not centralize power as much as they would have liked, yet realized what they had to say to win over the majority. On the part of Alexander Hamilton, contributions to The Federalist were outright dishonest, because once he got into power he worked to do all sorts of things that he claimed the Constitution did not authorize.
The Federalist, which we see cited all the time as the key to the Constitution is speculation and was never ratified by anybody. But handicapped thinkers read Madison’s philosophical ruminations, nearly all of which have been proved superficial and wrong, and imagine themselves participating in deep thoughts about government and learning about the true Constitution. This is part of the long-established practice of treating the Constitution as something sacred handed down by divine wisdom rather than understanding it by its real history.