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The Federalist Papers in Contemporary Language by Doug Good

The Federalist Papers in Contemporary Language

by Doug Good

117 pages
The Federalist Papers rephrased for clarity and brevity.

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Category: Reference
About the Book
The Federalist Papers were newspaper articles written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay as commentary on the newly proposed Constitution of 1787. In the first decade of national government the United States had lived under the Articles of Confederation, a constitution written in wartime conditions by men with no previous national governing experience. The Articles served as a dry-run at a time when its weaknesses became quickly evident. Certain prominent citizens, men who had the prestige and connections to initiate credible action, became convinced that the dearly-earned gains of the War for Independence were in peril.

The new constitution composed at Philadelphia in 1787 was before the states for ratification when Hamilton persuaded Madison and Jay to join in an effort to convince the public to support the document.

The Papers are lively and ponderous, both at once. Lively because the essayists wrote as if on a public platform, assailing their challengers. Ponderous because they examined the new Constitution brick by brick. Full of flowery rhetoric the essays beg for reduction, the pronouns look around for their antecedents, the clatter of debate distracts from analysis. Yet the professor knows this is seminal stuff. The great experiment in republican government was at test, and the essayists were fighting for the constitutional medicine they felt would save the nation's life. The student must read these still vitally relevant arguments, for here is our heritage. These reflective but politically active writers hit all the bases as they dissected the constitutional plan. But 85 essays? "Yeah, right," thinks the student.

Struggling with turgid 18th century prose takes the fun out of reading. But this paraphrase treatment removes the struggle; and if it doesn't resuscitate fun at least it facilitates comprehension. This version is both brief (about 20% of the original) and inclusive. All the points the authors presented are here--just minus the inflated prose, the extra example, and the over-explanation.

How much influence the essays had on the ratification conventions is arguable. The Papers did not have the stature in their day they would eventually attain. But the classic quality of these papers is not now disputed. They do not form a systematic treatise, yet are a mine of political analysis. While other commentaries seemed too detached from political life to survive their first printing, The Federalist Papers is still the most-assigned political classic in college classes in this country today.

Be assured that this version is not an abridgement in the sense of a depriving or a chopping. It is a faithful excursion through the whole body of text, lifting the essence up for easy viewing. It is a reexpression that retains the flavor of the times and the passion and erudition of the writers by holding on to their quaint phrases and enquoting their apt terms. Where they said it best you get their words. We just don't need all of them to get the point.

The kite still flies here but on a shorter string.

 

 

About the Author
Doug Good is an adjunct professor in the San Francisco Bay area. He has graduate degrees in history and religious studies, and holds doctoral candidate status at Claremont Graduate University. In addition to his U.S. history textbook he is writing a series of paraphrase editions of classic writings.

 

 

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