Online Library of Liberty

A collection of scholarly works about individual liberty and free markets. A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.

Advanced Search

Hamilton & the Federalist

Source: The Works of Alexander Hamilton, ed. Henry Cabot Lodge (Federal Edition) (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904). In 12 vols. Vol. 11.

Introduction by Henry Cabot Lodge

I. The authorship of the “Federalist”

The authorship of certain numbers of the Federalist has fairly reached the dignity of a well-established historical controversy, and has become almost as hopeless of settlement as the identity of Junius or the guilt of Mary, Queen of Scots. In character it closely resembles the former question, except that the mystery of Junius is due to his secrecy, while with the Federalist more authors have confessed themselves than can be provided for in the essays.

The discussion about the Federalist began nearly seventy years ago, has continued at intervals down to the present day, and culminated some twenty years since in two most elaborate essays, one by Mr. Henry B. Dawson, the other by Mr. John C. Hamilton, which were prefixed to the editions of the Federalist published by those two gentlemen respectively. It is of course idle to suppose that any thing can now be written which will convince or satisfy everybody as the true answer to this long-mooted question. Yet it is possible, perhaps, not only to present the evidence, including a little that is new, in a compact form, but also to state the case and set forth the arguments in brief and simple fashion, so that the merits of the question may be readily understood and easily appreciated.

The first step is to employ the process of elimination which will free us from much extraneous matter and from the repetition of many long and bewildering lists of numbers. We can throw out first all those essays of which the authorship has never been questioned. We can then do the same with certain others as to which the authorities are at variance, but from which a little examination removes all doubt. This done, there will be left a small number of essays, which are the subject of irreconcilable claims, and on which this controversy really turns. The total number of essays, according to modern numbering, and as agreed to by both Hamilton and Madison, is eighty-five. Of these, the following have never had their authorship disputed by any one, and are to be thus assigned:

To Hamilton: 1, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12, 13, 15, 16, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 59, 60, 61, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 80, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85,—in all, 49.

To Madison: 10, 14, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48,—in all, 14.

To Jay: 2, 3, 4, 5,—in all, 4.

This disposes of 67 numbers, and leaves 18 to be still accounted for—i. e.: 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 62, 63, 64.

We now come to the second class of essays, where the authorship, after examination, can be fixed with entire certainty. Number 17 is claimed for Madison in one of his own lists (there are four from his hand), and in one of the two Jefferson lists. Hamilton claims it in all his own lists, and Madison concedes it to Hamilton in three of his. When Madison in any one of his four lists agrees with Hamilton as to the authorship of any essay, it must be considered as settled. Number 17 therefore belongs to Hamilton. All the Hamilton lists assign numbers 18, 19, and 20 to Hamilton and Madison jointly. Two of the Madison lists give the authorship of these three papers exclusively to Madison. One Madison list and one Jefferson list give 18 and 19 exclusively to Madison, and 20 wholly to Hamilton. In his fourth and last list Madison appends to No. 18 the following note: “The subject of this and the two following numbers happened to be taken up by both Mr. H. and Mr. M. What had been prepared by Mr. H., who had entered more briefly into the subject, was left with Mr. M., on its appearing that the latter was engaged in it, with larger materials, and with a view to a more precise delineation, and from the pen of the latter the several papers went to press.” This note confirms Hamilton’s statement that these three papers were the work of himself and Madison, and to them jointly Nos. 18, 19, and 20 may therefore be credited without any reserve. One Jefferson list and one Madison list give No. 21 to Madison. Three Madison lists and all the Hamilton lists give it to Hamilton. No. 21, therefore, can be set down unhesitatingly to Hamilton. No. 64 is claimed by Madison for himself in one of his lists; but in his three other lists, and in one of the Jefferson lists, it is given to Jay. In five of the Hamilton lists 64 is claimed for Hamilton, and 54 is given to Jay. Chancellor Kent’s Hamilton list gives 64 to Jay, while the edition of 1810 credits both 64 and 54 to Hamilton. Jay claimed for himself Nos. 2, 3, 4, 5, and 64, and the MS. of 64 has been found among his papers and in his own handwriting. There is therefore no longer any doubt whatever as to 64, which can be given with absolute certainty to Jay.1

The eighteen numbers left over from the first sifting are now reduced to twelve. Two of the six thus disposed of go to Hamilton, one goes to Jay, and the other three (18, 19, and 20) to Hamilton and Madison jointly. This makes Hamilton’s total 51; Jay’s, 5; Madison’s, as before, 14; and Madison’s and Hamilton’s jointly, 3. The twelve remaining numbers (49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 62, and 63) are those over which the whole controversy as to the authorship of the Federalist really arises.

It now becomes necessary to notice briefly the various authorities in regard to the disputed authorship. The day before his fatal duel Hamilton called at the office of his friend Egbert Benson, and left there a slip of paper in his own handwriting, which read as follows:

“Nos. 2, 3, 4, 5, 54, by J.

“Nos. 10, 14, 37 to 48 inclusive, M.

“Nos. 18, 19, 20, M. &H. jointly.

“All the others by H.”

Mr. Egbert Benson was absent when Hamilton called, but Mr. Robert Benson, his nephew, was present, saw the paper deposited by Hamilton in a volume of Pliny, and afterwards examined it himself. Judge Benson on his return pasted the slip thus left by Hamilton on the fly-leaf of his own copy of the Federalist. Thence he removed it, after making a copy, and presented it for safe-keeping to the New York Public Library, where the paper remained for some years. It was still there in 1818 when, in the controversy which then sprang up, William Coleman, the editor of the New York Evening Post, referred to it, and informed the public that they could call and examine it. At some subsequent time this valuable document was stolen, and it has never been recovered. In 1802–1803 John C. Hamilton, at the request and dictation of his father, sent a list to Philip Church, a nephew of General Hamilton, which agrees precisely with the Benson list. In 1807 the executors of Hamilton’s will deposited in the New York Public Library Hamilton’s copy of the Federalist in which the authorship of the various numbers was said to be designated in his own handwriting. Attention was called to this fact by a letter in the Portfolio, attributed to Chancellor Kent, who there gave from the copy thus deposited a list of the authors, corresponding exactly with the Benson list. In 1810 an edition of Hamilton’s works was published in New York. The second and third volumes contain the Federalist, and the author of each paper is designated, as we are informed in the preface, “from a private memorandum in his own [Hamilton’s] handwriting.” The designation of authors in this edition is the same as the Benson list, with one striking exception: No. 54 is given to Hamilton, and Jay is left with only four numbers. This difference would indicate either that the Portfolio list was wrongly given, or that the editor of the 1810 edition had some list of which nothing is now known.

In a copy of the Federalist belonging to Fisher Ames, one of Hamilton’s intimate friends, the authors of the papers are designated in accordance with the Benson list.

I have in my possession a copy of the Federalist of the edition of 1802, which belonged to my great-grandfather George Cabot, who, like Ames, was a very close personal friend of Hamilton. To the preface Mr. Cabot appended this note: “Those by Mr. Jay and Mr. Madison are now marked in this edition, those without a mark are from the pen of Hamilton.” The marking corresponds with that of the edition of 1810, from which it may have been taken, and gives No. 54 to Hamilton as well as No. 64. In the second volume, however, Mr. Cabot has wafered in a slip of paper giving a list of the authors which corresponds exactly with the Benson list.

Then there is a list made and preserved by Chancellor Kent, which he says was revised by Hamilton, and which differs from the Benson list by giving 64 instead of 54 to Jay and 49 and 53 to Madison in addition to the fourteen assigned to him in the other Hamilton lists.

Finally, there is the Washington list, which, so far as I am aware, has never been published before, and for which I am indebted to the kindness of John R. Baker, Esq., of Philadelphia. At the sale of Washington’s library Mr. Baker purchased the General’s copy of the Federalist, of the first edition of 1788. On the fly-leaf of the first volume occurs the following memorandum in Washington’s well-known handwriting:

“Mr. Jay was author of Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 54.

“Mr. Madison of Nos. 10, 14, and 37 to 48, exclusive of the last.

“Nos. 18, 19, 20 were the production of Jay, Madison, and Hamilton.

“All the rest of Gen. Hamilton.”

Washington died in 1799. He speaks of Hamilton, it will be observed, as “General,” and that fixes within a year the time when his list was written. It must have been made up after July, 1798, and before December, 1799, and is therefore much the earliest list we have. It contains some curious variations from all the other lists, and these differences would seem to indicate that Washington made it up from recollection of information derived several years before from the authors. The striking and important fact is that this, the earliest list, drawn up by a singularly accurate man years before there was any thought of controversy, agrees in the main with the Benson list, and assigns the twelve disputed numbers unhesitatingly to Hamilton.

We now come to the Madison lists. The first appeared in the National Intelligencer, April 18, 1817, in a letter signed “Corrector,” and was stated to be from “indubitable authority—a pencilled memorandum in the handwriting of Madison himself.” The second was given by Madison to Richard Rush at about the same time apparently as that of “Corrector.” The third was published in the City of Washington Gazette, December 15, 1817, and was stated “to be furnished by Madison himself.” The fourth appeared in Gideon’s edition of the Federalist, published at Washington in 1818, and was taken from Madison’s notes in his own copy of the work.1 These lists all agree in giving the twelve disputed numbers to Madison, but they differ among themselves as to other numbers in a very marked degree.

There are two Jefferson lists. One was in his copy of the Federalist, and corresponds with the most erroneous Madison list, that furnished to the Washington Gazette, while the other was given to his friend Gideon Granger, and is identical with the Benson list.2

The only information derived from Mr. Jay was that he was the author of Nos. 2, 3, 4, 5, and 64.

Thus we find that the two principal authors of the Federalist are at variance as to the authorship of twelve important numbers.

Having stated what the authorities are, it merely remains to examine them. Suggestions have not been wanting that the principal Hamilton list, that of Benson, never existed. It is difficult to see how any one could seriously entertain such an idea, but in this inquiry I do not propose to pass over any theory which has even been hinted at. In his introduction to the Federalist which is marked by the most extraordinary care, and is thorough to the last degree in details, Mr. Dawson says that he had an interview with Mr. Robert Benson, who was present in the office when Hamilton came in and left the memorandum, and from this eye-witness Mr. Dawson received the whole story. Mr. Benson said that he saw Hamilton and saw the list which was in Hamilton’s handwriting; that his uncle made a copy of it, which still exists, and that his uncle then deposited the original in the New York Public Library. There, as has been said, the list remained for many years. There it could have been and no doubt was seen by any one who chose to look at it, and in 1818 public attention was called to it and everybody was invited to examine it. During all those years its existence and its authenticity were never questioned for a moment, even in the somewhat sharp controversy which then arose. To suppose that it did not exist, is to assume that Egbert Benson and his nephew were either liars or forgers, or both, and the mere statement that such an assumption is necessary, is sufficient to destroy at once any theory that the Benson list never existed in Hamilton’s handwriting.

All the Hamilton lists agree except as to No. 54, which the edition of 1810 gives to Hamilton. Chancellor Kent’s list gives 64 to Jay, which is correct, and 49 and 53 to Madison. As to the two last the difference is peculiar, but the Chancellor corrected his list in later years, and owing to the confusion between the original and the modern numbering, the changes as to 49 and 53 seem to lose significance, especially as they are two of the first ten of the disputed numbers, and these ten all coming consecutively, must on any reasonable theory be assigned to one or the other of the authors in a block.

The next step is to find out the errors of the different authorities as to the undoubted numbers, in order to properly test their value as to those in dispute. The one unquestioned error made by Hamilton was as to number 54. He gave Jay his correct total of five numbers but assigned him 54 instead of 64. We are now trying the value of these lists simply as documents by the ordinary rules of historical evidence, and this error may be justly said to impair their authority. This being admitted, let us apply the same rules to the Madison lists. In Gideon’s edition of 1818 Madison concedes 18, 19, and 20 to be the joint work of Hamilton and himself, and gives 17 and 21 to Hamilton and 64 to Jay. In his first list, that of the National Intelligencer, he claims 18, 19, and 20 as exclusively his own work, and also 64, which belonged to Jay. In the Rush list Madison again claimed 18, 19, and 20 for himself alone. In the Washington Gazette list he takes 17, 18, 19, and 21 to himself, two of them being joint and two belonging to Hamilton, and gives 20, which was the third joint number, wholly to Hamilton. The authority of the lists other than that of the edition of 1818 cannot be questioned, for Madison says in a letter to Gideon, dated August 20, 1818 (Writings, iii., 110): “It may, however, be proper, perhaps, to observe that it [his copy lent to Gideon] is not the only one containing the names of the writers correctly prefixed to their respective papers. I had, a considerable time ago, at the request of particular friends, given the same advantage to their copies.”

In the Hamilton lists, then, we find two errors as to two numbers, while in the Madison lists there are twelve errors as to six numbers. Tried, therefore, by the list of admitted errors, Hamilton’s authority is shown to be six times as good as that of Madison. But this is not all. In 1807 the Benson list, or one just like it, was published, and in 1810 came the edition of Hamilton’s works, which gave four numbers to Jay, fourteen to Madison, and all the rest to Hamilton. Yet it was not until 1817 that the authority of these assignments was publicly disputed for the first time. Over ten years elapsed after the publication in the Portfolio before Madison contradicted Hamilton’s list, which is a very serious matter if we again apply the rules of evidence. The excuse that it would not have been becoming in the President to have entered upon a literary controversy will not do, for the publication in the Portfolio preceded Madison’s elevation to the presidency by nearly eighteen months, and there was certainly no reason why a Secretary of State should not defend his copyright. There is still another point which tells against Madison. In a letter to J. K. Paulding, written in 1831,1 as well as in an unpublished memorandum2 quoted by J. C. Hamilton in the introduction to his edition of the Federalist, Madison argues from internal evidence that he was the author of certain of the disputed papers. This would not have been done probably by a man who had no doubt in his own mind as to the essays, and it certainly would not be the course of any one who had contemporary memoranda to guide and assure him. Madison’s argument from internal evidence makes it clear that he compiled his list from memory. There is no direct evidence that Hamilton did the same, except from his error in regard to Jay’s number on the treaty power. The probabilities, however, are strong that he also wrote his lists from memory, and all the lists, therefore, stand on the same footing in this respect.

The arguments from internal evidence on both sides, whether by Madison or others, seem to be for the most part worthless. One, for example, is that No. 49 speaks in terms of praise of Jefferson, and therefore could only have proceeded from Madison. But the essays were written in 1788, and in 1788 Hamilton knew Jefferson simply as a revolutionary leader, who was respected by all men, and had never had any political quarrel with him. Moreover, the essay, after quoting Jefferson and praising him, goes on to refute his doctrine as to the point in question. It is also said that 49 continues 48, and must therefore be by the same hand. But this argument fails if we examine the undoubted numbers. No. 9, for instance, is on “the utility of the Union as a safeguard against domestic faction and insurrection,” while No. 10 is “the same subject continued,” and No. 9 is by Hamilton and No. 10 by Madison. As to the historical examples cited in the essays, Madison and Hamilton used the same illustrations and drew from the same sources, as may be seen from the notes and briefs of their speeches. The differences in style are never sufficiently marked to lead to any safe conclusions.

This much, as has already been said, may be asserted with confidence: that Hamilton and Madison both relied upon their memories. We have therefore certain conflicting lists of the highest authority, and if we go merely upon the documentary evidence tried by the ordinary rules of historic evidence, the balance inclines very strongly in favor of Hamilton. The proportion of admitted errors, the ten years without contradiction, and Madison’s arguments from internal evidence all tend to show in the strongest way that Hamilton’s memory was decidedly the more accurate. But if we go beyond the direct documentary evidence, the case is not quite so clear. The best Hamilton list, that given to Benson, was written in haste and at a most agitating moment. It contains one acknowledged slip of the pen which gives 54 instead of 64 to Jay. As an ingenious writer in the Historical Magazine (vol. 8, 306) suggests, “37 to 48 inclusive, by M.” The essays from 49 to 58 inclusive, all deal with the same general subject of the popular element in the Constitution, including representation in the lower House, and on their face they certainly seem to be from the same pen. Madison, in the letter to Paulding just quoted, says that Hamilton’s errors were due, of course, to haste and a lapse of memory, but if he himself was accused of errors they could only be attributed to a want of veracity. This is true to the extent that Madison gave time and thought to his assignment and contradicted Hamilton deliberately. Yet he, too, wrote from memory, and in four lists he made twelve errors, which were certainly owing to forgetfulness and not to untruthfulness.

The theory of the writer in the Historical Magazine provides very comfortably for the ten numbers from 49 to 58 inclusive, but it breaks down utterly as to 62 and 63, the remaining two of the twelve in dispute. As to these two I have very little doubt. I think they both belong to Hamilton. They follow three undoubted Hamilton numbers, and they treat of the Senate, a subject on which Hamilton made a most elaborate speech in the New York convention, and the general line of thought and argument is the same in both cases. It was, too, a topic to which Hamilton had given particular attention, and this may have been the reason that he fell into an error as to number 64, which is concerned with the treaty-making power of the Senate. As to every doubtful number outside of the ten from 49–58, Madison was in error, and this seems to me to be fatally against him as to 62 and 63.

In regard to the disputed ten, I have been able to come to no confident conclusion. Before I knew of the Washington list, and before I had discovered a curious addition to No. 56 in the edition of 1802, I felt that the probabilities were in favor of Madison, and I was inclined to assign those numbers to him, although not so confidently as in giving 62 and 63 to Hamilton.

The Washington list, both from its date and the character of its author, seems to me to tell very strongly against Madison. The other point to which I have just alluded in regard to number 56, has never been noticed before, so far as I am aware. When the edition of 1802 was in preparation, Hamilton was asked to revise it, but declared, in the strongest terms, that the Federalist must be printed as it was written, and he also insisted that full credit should be given to Mr. Jay and Mr. Madison in the preface for the excellence of their work. The edition was revised, unquestionably, I think, as Mr. Dawson has shown, by William Coleman, the editor of the New York Evening Post. Many changes were made, but, with one exception, they were utterly unimportant, effected no improvement, and were nearly all purely verbal. In number 56, however, in treating of the regulation of the militia, a sentence is inserted, as may be seen by referring to that number in this edition, which relates to the need of local knowledge in dealing with such troops. This sentence is a bit of military criticism, and could hardly have been written by any but a military man, for it would not have occurred to a civilian. It is very unlikely indeed that it would have occurred to Coleman, and he certainly would not have inserted it without Hamilton’s approbation. On the other hand, there is little doubt that the proof-sheets of this edition were seen by Hamilton, and the sentence in question is very characteristic of Hamilton and of his mode of thought. He was rigidly scrupulous as to changes in the Federalist and was extremely particular as to the work of his fellow-writers. Hopkins, the publisher of the edition of 1802, wrote to Mr. J. C. Hamilton that the most scrupulous delicacy was observed in regard to the essays of Madison and Jay, and that a portion of the work was reprinted because a single favorite word of Madison had been changed in one passage. It is therefore in the highest degree improbable that Hamilton would have added such an important sentence himself, or permitted any one else to add it, to an essay which he did not know to be his own. The insertion of this sentence, therefore, points very strongly to the conclusion that Hamilton, in 1802, considered number 56 his own, not in a moment of agitation and hurry, but when coolly examining proof-sheets. If this was his opinion at that time and under such circumstances as to number 56, it is difficult to believe either that he was mistaken as to that number or as to the other twelve in dispute. At the same time, the Washington list and the sentence in number 56 are not, of course, conclusive, and while these two bits of evidence have almost removed my inclination to believe in Madison’s authorship of the disputed numbers, I am not even yet completely satisfied that they are not his work.

The outcome of it all is that the evidence in regard to the twelve disputed numbers is so conflicting that, although the balance is strongly in Hamilton’s favor the best which can be done is to present the plain facts and all the arguments as simply and clearly as possible, and then leave every one to draw his conclusions to suit himself. No one is entitled to assign the disputed numbers to either Hamilton or Madison with absolute confidence. They were surely written by one or the other, and with that unsatisfactory certainty we must fain be content.

II

bibliography of the “federalist”

Protracted and minute search, supplemented by widespread advertisements, and by the obliging aid of many kind correspondents, has enabled me to add only two editions to the list of editions of the Federalist already given by Mr. Dawson. In a few instances where Mr. Dawson was able to speak of an edition only from hearsay, I have succeeded in finding a copy and in obtaining a full description of it. This, however, is all, and the bibliography of the Federalist which follows is in the main that of Mr. Dawson’s edition of 1863, to which the reader may be referred for much minute bibliographical information which it did not seem necessary to reproduce here.

I. The first edition was that of 1788, published by J. and A. McLean, of New York. The first volume appeared March 22, 1788, and the second followed on May 28th. When the second volume appeared the essays were still running in the newspapers, and numbers 78 to 85 inclusive were therefore first given to the world in this edition. The title-page is as follows:

“The Federalist: / A Collection / of / Essays, / written in favour of the / new Constitution, / as agreed upon by the federal convention / September 17, 1787. / In two volumes / Vol. I or Vol. II / New York: / Printed and sold by J. and A. McLean, / No. 41, Hanover-Square. / M.DCC.LXXXVIII.”

This first edition is now very rare, and copies, especially if they are in good condition, command a high price.

II. The second edition was a French translation, published in 1792, with the following titles:

“Le Fédéraliste, / ou / Collection de quelques Écrits en faveur de / la Constitution proposée aux États-Unis / de l’Amérique, par la Convention convoquée / en 1787; Publiés dans les États-Unis de l’Amérique par / MM. Hamilton, Madisson e Gay, / Citoyens de l’Etat de New York. / Tome Premier. (or Tome Second.) / A Paris / Chez Buisson, Libraire, rue Hautefuille, / No. 20. / 1792.” The translator was M. Trudaine de la Sabliére, who added a few explanatory notes, an introduction of about eighteen pages, and a translation of the Constitution. This edition was reissued by the same publisher in the same year. The second issue was identical with the first, except that the introduction was omitted, probably for political reasons. Neither Brunet (Manuel du Libraire) nor Graesse (Trésor des Livres rares) mentions the Federalist. Barbier (Dictionnaire des Anonymes) mentions this edition of 1792, but not the second French edition of 1795. Both issues of this first French edition are of the utmost rarity. I have heard of but one example of the first issue, the imperfect copy in the library of Harvard College, referred to by Mr. Dawson. The second issue is almost equally rare. There is one copy in the New York State Library (mentioned by Mr. Dawson), another in the library of Yale College, and a third was sold at auction not long since, in Boston, for twenty-five dollars a volume. I am indebted to Mr. Addison Van Name of Yale College for proof of the identity of these two issues of 1792, which Mr. Dawson correctly conjectured to be the case. I am also indebted to Mr. Henry A. Homes, State Librarian of New York, in addition to many other kind suggestions, for much exact information as to the French editions.

III. A second French edition was published in 1795. It was identical with the second issue of 1792, omitting, like that, the introduction. There were three slight changes in the title-page: “Seconde Edition” is inserted before “Tome Premier,” Jay’s name is spelled correctly, and at the bottom, instead of the usual date, appears “An 3e de la République.” This edition also is of the utmost rarity.

IV. All that Mr. Dawson could say of the fourth edition of the Federalist was that “it is said that in the year 1799 a new edition of the Federalist was published in New York.” Mr. Dawson, after the most exhaustive search, failed to find a copy, and only heard of one, or what appeared to be one, in the collection of Mr. Force, while his own volume was passing through the press, and he was therefore compelled to leave the existence of such an edition largely a matter of conjecture. This gap can now be filled. There is a copy of this edition, probably unique, for the Force copy seems to have disappeared, in the possession of the Long Island Historical Society, and I am indebted to the kindness of Mr. George Hannah, the librarian of the Society, for my knowledge of its existence and for the following copy of its title-page:

“The / Federalist / A Collection of / Essays / Written in favour of the / New Constitution / As agreed upon by the / Federal Convention / September 17, 1787 / In two volumes / Vol. I / Vol. II / New York / Printed and sold by John Tiebout / No. 358 Pearl St. / 1799.” It was simply a reprint of the edition of 1788.

V. The fifth edition of the Federalist was published, in two volumes, by George Hopkins, of New York, in 1802. In this edition many changes, nearly all verbal, were made in the text. As has been stated above (“Authorship of the Federalist,“ p.xix.) the reviser of this edition was probably William Coleman, the editor of the New York Evening Post. It was represented at the time and afterwards that this edition had the benefit of Hamilton’s supervision. The one certain fact is that Hamilton in the strongest terms forbade any alterations. The result, due perhaps to this prohibition, was that the changes and omissions were, with one marked exception already alluded to, quite immaterial. It seems probable that Hamilton saw the proof-sheets, but whether he thoroughly approved the changes must remain a matter of conjecture. This edition of 1802 is not rare.

VI. The sixth edition was published in 1810 by Williams and Whiting of New York, and formed the second and third volumes of the Writings of Hamilton. It was edited by John Wells, a distinguished member of the New York bar, and one of Hamilton’s personal friends. With but few and unimportant changes it followed the Hopkins edition of 1802, although the text was said to have had the benefit of the marginal notes made by Hamilton in his own copy. The principal and the only new feature of this edition was that the names of the respective authors were appended to each essay. This assignment of authorship corresponds with the Benson list, except that No. 54, as well as No. 64, is given to Hamilton. It is not a rare edition.

VII. The seventh edition of the Federalist was a single octavo volume of some 477 pages, published by Benjamin Warner of Philadelphia and William Greer of Harrisburg, and is now not often met with. It was a simple reproduction of the Williams and Whiting edition of 1810.

VIII. The eighth edition, in one volume, was issued in 1818 by Benjamin Warner of Philadelphia, the publisher of the seventh, with which it was identical, the only new feature being an appendix containing the articles of Confederation and the Constitution of the United States with the amendments. This edition is rare.

IX. The ninth edition was a large octavo of 671 pages, and was published in 1818 by Jacob Gideon, in Washington. It was claimed that this edition had the sanction and approval of Madison. It certainly had the benefit of the notes made by him on his own essays, and it contained his assignment of the authorship of the various numbers. The text is that of the Williams and Whiting edition of 1810, and the changes in Madison’s essays are verbal and unimportant. It contained, besides the Federalist, prefatory remarks, and in the appendix, Hamilton’s “Letters of Pacificus,” Madison’s “Letters of Helvidius,” the articles of Confederation and the Constitution of the United States. Copies of this edition are not common.

X. The tenth edition was published by Jacob Gideon at Washington in 1821. It is a reprint of his edition of 1818.

XI. The eleventh edition was the first of a series of editions published at Hallowell, Maine, by Glazier & Co., and their successors, who purchased the Gideon copyright. Some of these editions are now very rare, while others are not infrequently to be met with. The first appeared in 1826. It is a single volume octavo, of 582 pages, and is identical with the Gideon editions of 1818 and 1821.

XII. The twelfth edition has no existence that Mr. Dawson could discover, except in the pages of the catalogue of the New York State Library. If it existed, it was a Hallowell edition, and identical with that of the preceding year. Mr. Homes, the librarian, suggested to Mr. Dawson that the entry was a misprint for 1837, the date of an undoubted Hallowell edition which was in the New York Library. Mr. Homes writes me that no edition of 1827 has since been found, and that the question stands as it did in 1863, when Mr. Dawson discussed it. It seems improbable that any such edition of 1827 ever existed.

XIII. The thirteenth was another Hallowell edition, identical with the Gideon edition and with that of 1826. Mr. Dawson mentions the existence of this edition, but had never seen or heard of a copy. Mr. Hannah informs me that there is a copy in the possession of the Long Island Historical Society, and I have heard of one other. It was published in 1831 by Glazier, Masters, & Co., and is apparently as rare as one of the French editions.

XIV. The fourteenth edition was published in a single volume, duodecimo, at Washington, in 1831. Except for a few trifling changes and the addition of an alphabetical index by Philip R. Fendall, a member of the Washington bar, this edition was an exact reprint of the Gideon edition, and was considered by the Hallowell publishers a violation of their copyright.

XV. The fifteenth edition was published in one volume, at Hallowell, by Glazier, Masters, & Smith, in 1837. It was a reprint of the Gideon edition of 1818.

XVI. The sixteenth edition was a Portuguese translation published by J. Villeneuve & Co. at Rio de Janeiro in 1840. No copy is known to exist in this country. The title-page, which is given by Sabin, is as follows: “O Federalista, publicado eminglez por Hamilton, Madisson e Jay cidadaos de Nova-York, e traduzido emportuguez por…. Rio de Janeiro: Typ. Imperial e Const. de J. Villeneuve & Co., 1840.” I am indebted for my knowledge of this and the tenth edition mentioned above, neither of which are given by Mr. Dawson, to Mr. Paul Leicester Ford, author of the excellent Bibliotheca Hamiltoniana, which has just appeared in a handsome octavo volume.

XVII. The seventeenth was another Hallowell edition, a reprint of the others from the same press, and appeared in 1842.

XVIII. The eighteenth edition was published in one volume by J. & G. S. Gideon, in Washington, in 1845. It was a reprint of the edition of 1818, with the addition of the index of the Washington edition of 1831, with some improvements. Mr. Dawson failed to discover a copy of this edition, but I am informed by Mr. P. L. Ford that there is a copy, from which he has taken the title-page in his Bibliotheca Hamiltoniana (p. 27), in the possession of his father, Mr. Gordon L. Ford, of Brooklyn.

XIX. The nineteenth edition was published in one volume, in Philadelphia, by R. Wilson Desilver. It was a reprint of the Gideon edition of 1818, with the alphabetical index of 1831 and the addition of the act of Congress of January 23, 1845, relating to the election of President. It would seem to have been a reprint of the preceding edition of 1845.

XX. The twentieth was a Hallowell edition, published in 1852 by Masters, Smith, & Co., and was a reprint of their other editions, with the addition of an analytical index.

XXI. The twenty-first was also a Hallowell edition, published in 1857, and was an exact reprint of its predecessor of 1852.

XXII. The twenty-second edition of the Federalist was printed for the editor, Mr. Henry B. Dawson, at Morrisania, New York, and published in 1863. This edition, which is the most valuable one hitherto published, was designed for two volumes, of which the first alone has appeared. The volume published contains the Federalist with the original notes of the authors, a most learned introduction discussing the history, bibliography, text, and authorship of the essays, and a most admirable analytical table of contents, supplemented by a comparative list, showing the authorship of the essays as claimed by the various original authorities.

XXIII. The twenty-third or “University” edition was published in one volume, at New York, by Charles Scribner’s Sons, in 1864. It was edited by Mr. Dawson, and was a reprint of the first volume of his larger edition, without the introduction.

XXIV. The twenty-fourth edition was published in one volume by J. B. Lippincott & Co., at Philadelphia, in 1864. This edition was edited by Mr. J. C. Hamilton, and contains, besides the essays, a table of contents, an historical notice, which discusses at length the history, text, and authorship of the essays, the six numbers of the Continentalist (1781), the resolution of New York (1782) for a general convention, a letter from Hamilton to Clinton, May 14, 1783, resolution for a general convention (1783), the address of the Annapolis convention (1786), Hamilton’s speech on the Impost grant, resolution for an act of Congress for a general convention, February 17, 1787, resolution for the appointment of New York delegates, February 26, 1787, the articles of Confederation, Hamilton’s first plan of government, the federal Constitution as agreed upon by the convention, a table of collated texts, three essays by Philo-Publius (William Duer), and an alphabetical index.

This concludes the list of editions of the Federalist so far as I have been able to discover them. It is quite possible that there have been others published in this country or in Europe in addition to the twenty-four described, but if this is the case, the most careful inquiry and wide advertising have failed to discover them.

III

the text of the “federalist”

The essays of the Federalist were first printed in the newspapers, and were then republished without substantial textual change in the McLean edition of 1788. In 1802, the Hopkins edition, described above, appeared with many textual changes in the essays written by Hamilton, and in 1818 the Gideon edition, with further changes in the Madison essays. The new text of these two editions was adopted in all subsequent editions, until the appearance of the one published in 1863 by Mr. Dawson, who reverted to the original text. Mr. John C. Hamilton, in his edition a year later, adopted the Hopkins and Gideon text. Thus it happens that there are two texts of the Federalist which contend for the honor of being the best and most authentic version of these famous essays.

I have had no hesitation in deciding as to the text to be adopted in this edition. Mr. Dawson’s argument in favor of the original text is unanswerable, and can be readily summarized. The essays of the Federalist were written at a special time for a special purpose. They formed an elaborate argument, intended to convince the people of the country of the value and usefulness of the proposed Constitution, and it is, therefore, historically essential that we should have them in the precise form in which they did their work.

The Federalist furthermore was the first authoritative interpretation of the Constitution, and was mainly written by the two principal authors of that instrument. It was the first exposition of the Constitution and the first step in the long process of development which has given life, meaning, and importance to the clauses agreed upon at Philadelphia. It has acquired all the weight and sanction of a judicial decision, and has been constantly used as an authority in the settlement of constitutional questions. The essays of Publius are undoubtedly a great work upon the general subject of political federation, and if they were nothing else, textual changes and improvements would be at least defensible, if not wholly desirable. But changes cease to be permissible when the writings in question are not only essays on the general subject of political federation and government under a written constitution, but are also arguments intended to serve a specific purpose at a particular time, which have assumed the weight and sanctity of judicial interpretation.

The authority for the most extensive changes, moreover, is by no means clear. It is certain that Hamilton opposed any alterations, and indeed forbade them. It is conceded also that the changes in the edition of 1802 were not made by Hamilton, with the exception probably of the paragraph in No. 56, and the extent of his approval of them is a matter of conjecture. The further slight changes in the edition of 1818 have, it is true, the sanction of Madison, but what we desire now is not Madison’s arguments in the phrases which he preferred in 1818, but in the words which he actually used in 1787 and 1788.

Finally, the changes were, as a rule, unimportant, often trivial, with two or three exceptions, entirely verbal, and, in my opinion, made no improvement. The text of this edition, therefore, is the original text of the newspapers and the McLean edition of 1788 as adopted by Mr. Dawson. I have added a few notes giving the text of the subsequent changes in every case where they seemed of the slightest importance, or where, by any possible construction, they could be considered to affect the meaning of the passage.

In only one point is Mr. Dawson’s edition as it seems to me open to criticism, and in that point alone does this edition depart from his text. The McLean edition changed the original numbering of the essays as they appeared in the newspapers. No. 35 of the newspapers was put back in the series and numbered 29. This was a proper change, because it placed the original No. 35 where it belonged in the natural sequence of subjects and arguments. The original Nos. 29 and 30 thus became 30 and 31, respectively. Then the McLean edition divided the original No. 31 into two parts, and numbered them 32 and 33. This change has no apparent reason, but it is perfectly harmless and unimportant. The effect of these changes was to advance the McLean essays one number each over the newspaper originals up to 76, which became 77 in the book-form. The remaining essays, 78 to 85 inclusive, appeared first from the author’s manuscript in the McLean edition, and were reprinted in the newspapers from that edition probably with the newspaper numbering, so that no No. 85 ever appeared in the newspapers. It is obvious that the McLean edition must have had the approval of Hamilton, because the last eight numbers were printed from his manuscript; and if the edition had his sanction, of course the arrangement and numbering must have had it also, for these were the only points on which it differed from the newspapers. It is clear, therefore, that Hamilton thought the McLean numbering an improvement, and the changes then made in this direction have of course no effect whatever on the authority of the Federalist either as argument or interpretation.

Mr. Dawson shows by an ingenious bit of reasoning that there was no “original number 77,” and accordingly omits that number from his edition, and thus makes his last number 85. There is no ground, as I have pointed out, for thus adhering to an enumeration which omits one number because there was confusion in the differing forms of original publication, and which has no peculiar authority or sanction. There is, moreover, one fatal objection to Mr. Dawson’s system, in the fact that the numbering of the McLean edition has been universally adopted in all subsequent editions and has become the standard of reference. It is to be regretted that Mr. Dawson, in deference to rigid antiquarianism, should have marred his edition by a numbering which, for no substantial reason, differs from the accepted standard and which, on this account and by omitting one number altogether, makes intelligent reference to it difficult, if not impossible.

The text of this edition, therefore, is, as I have said, the untouched original text, and the essays are numbered according to what, in my opinion, is the original arrangement, and which is certainly the best, as it is the standard numbering, that of the first edition of 1788.

In conclusion, I have only to express my thanks to the many kind correspondents who have given me information as to the Federalist and its editions, and to state my obligations to the work of Mr. Dawson, to whose masterly introduction and admirable analytical table of contents this and all the subsequent editions of the essays of Publius must be largely indebted.

Henry Cabot Lodge.

[1]Hamilton’s error as to No. 64 would seem to have been of long standing, for in a note to the last number of Camillus (1796) he certainly suggests that he was himself the author of that essay. See vol. vi., p. 186.

[1]This copy is now in the possession of the Government in the library of Congress.

[2]The Granger list is now in the possession of the Hon. Robert C. Winthrop, of Boston.

[1]Writings of Madison, iv., 176.

[2]A careful search for this memorandum, which Mr. J. C. Hamilton alleges, in his edition of the Federalist (p. C), to have been in the State Department, has failed to reveal it. This is entirely unimportant, however, as the memorandum merely differs verbally from the argument in the letter to Paulding, which is of unquestioned authenticity.

Last modified April 13, 2016