Though all the federalist papers are signed Publius, their authorship is credited to three of the founding fathers: Alexander Hamilton (the first Secretary of the Treasury), James Madison (the fourth President of the United States) and John Jay (the first Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court). The purpose of the Federalist was to promote ratification of the United States Constitution which was opposed by the Anti-Federalists whose ranks included Patrick Henry and George Clinton. The United States was, at the time still operating under the Articles of Confederation and while both sides agreed a new form of government was in order not all agreed on the government proposed by the United States Constitution.

The Federalist Papers are the proponents public remarks on the Constitution and its contents. As the Federalists won the debate, their exposition is generally regarded as having persuaded the majority of Americans to adopt the Constitution and therefore hold weight, if not being dispositive, in deciding any constitutional question.

The original text has been altered as necessary to allow the modern reader to more comfortably follow: for instance using numbers rather than newsprint typogrphical symbols for marking footnotes. The intent is to make the material more accessible. Also, the Papers first appeared in newsprint in New York with the greeting "To the People of the State of New York:", however, they were also disseminated by other means both with and without the greeting which is ommited herein.

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