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Susan Nintzel
Susan Nintzel, Financial Advisor
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Experience:  MBA in Finance and Accounting
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Why authors of Federalist Paper write them anonymous under a pseudonym

Customer Question

Why did the authors of the Federalist Papers write them anonymously under a pseudonym? And why did they later reveal their identities?
Submitted: 11 years ago.
Category: Legal
Expert:  Susan Nintzel replied 11 years ago.
During the period from the drafting and proposal of the federal Constitution in September, 1787, to its ratification in 1789 there was an intense debate on ratification. The principal arguments in favor of it were stated in the series written by Madison, Hamilton, and Jay called the Federalist Papers, although they were not as widely read as numerous independent local speeches and articles. The entire purpose of The Federalist main purpose was to gain popular support for the then-proposed Constitution. Thats why they were written anonymously.

During the debate over the proposed constitution, however, the nationalists became known as federalists (since they wanted a stronger federation), and the Anti-federalists (who wanted to keep the weaker confederation) became known as anti-federalists. The Anti-Federalist Party was formed because of opposition to the centralized federal controls proposed by Alexander Hamilton and the Federalist Party in the original United States Constitution. The anti-federalists believed that the Constitution was a threat to the rights of individuals and argued that the president would become a king. In addition, many of the anti-Federalists objected to the federal court system created by the proposed constitution. Many anti-Federalists believed that the central government in the Articles of Federation was too weak, but believed the Constitution had given the central government too much power.

The Federalists’ conception of human nature as essentially selfish and depraved is also important to note, since Federalists relied on such conceptions to justify their call for a mildly interventionist national government. Further, many scholars have contended that the Federalists were basically conservative upper-class supporters of the status quo, and that the Anti-Federalists were considered to be more "populist".

The Federalists won because they had better debating skills than that of the Anti-Federalists. The Federalists won the debate and the new Constitution was adopted, but the Anti-Federalists attacks forced the Federalists to sharpen their arguments, weaken the power of the federal government and adopt the Bill of Rights.
Customer: replied 11 years ago.
Reply to Susan Nintzel's Post: Thank you for your informative reply. However, I'm still not sure why Hamilton, Madison, and Jay felt they had to write anonymously in order to persuade the general populace. My question stems from a recent debate with some friends about anonymity in political debate. Was it that Hamilton, Madison & Jay feared their identities would be perceived as elitists by the broader populist population? Certainly the pseudonym they used would seem to suggest they wanted to be perceived as humble leaders.
Expert:  Susan Nintzel replied 11 years ago.

Think about it in current times. If you were associated with this group and there was a very big opposing position, would you want your real name listed? It is almost like a hurding effect. Here is a brief summary on what went on. I am a history fan, so I can help you here.

In The Federalist Papers, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay argue in support of the Constitution. One of the more influential articles is Federalist 51 by Madison. In the article Madison discusses the separation of powers and the theory of checks and balances. He contends, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.” In stating this, Madison says that men are not angels and are therefore subject to wrongdoing and poor decision making. He continues to say that because men are governed by other men there must be controls on government. Madison’s assertion can be summed up; since we are a nation governed by other men, internal and external controls must exist to prevent leaders from making improper and inadequate decisions.

Madison’s assertion refers to the concepts of federalism, separation of powers, and checks and balances. Federalism is the division of power between a central government and regional units. The Constitution divides power between the states and a central government, but it put more power with the national government at the expense of the states. According to the Constitution, the powers given to national and state governments are derived from the people, who are the ultimate sovereigns. The two governments can regulate the people and property within their jurisdiction, but the people can also restrain both national and state governments “if necessary to preserve liberty.” The principle of federalism exemplifies Madison’s belief that internal and external controls must exist toward the government. The ability of the people to restrain the use of power by the national and state governments represents the controls that Madison described.

The principle of separation of powers also represents Madison’s view on the role of government in the Constitution. Separation of powers is the division of government into the law-making (legislative) branch, the law-enforcing (executive) branch, and the law-interpreting (judicial) branch. Technically meant to prevent one branch from exercising the powers of the other branches, separation of powers has come to safeguard liberty by ensuring that all government power cannot be put with the few or one individual. The policy of separation of government pertains to Madison’s first statement, that men are not angels. Madison assumed that men are corrupt and that a minority may try to rule over a majority or vice versa. The division of power into three separate branches prevents a group of people from taking control of the government.

The third principle, checks and balances, gives each branch of government some control over the others. Checks and balances are to make sure that branches of government do not ignore one another nor overpower each other. The theory of checks and balances works parallel to theory of separation of powers. “Separation of powers divides government responsibility among the legislative, executive, and judicial branches; checks and balances prevent the exclusive exercise of those powers by any one of the three branches.” The theory of checks and balances reflects Madison’s belief that external and internal controls must exist. While separation of powers prevents any group of individuals from getting control of government as a whole, checks and balances prevents groups of individuals from getting control of individual branches. A corrupt Congress can try to enact laws, but the President can veto them, and the courts can nullify them. Through the Constitution and the implementation of these principles Madison’s beliefs have been enacted into law.

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