The Founding Fathers Unite (2:51 min)
Curator: Mark Dimunation
Week of: May 17, 2010
Thomas Jefferson received this first edition of The Federalist in book form while he was in Paris serving as minister to France. As the title page attests, this copy was originally a gift from Elizabeth Hamilton, wife of Alexander Hamilton, to her sister, Angelica Church, who was a close friend of Jefferson in Paris.
Now considered to be the most significant American contribution to political thought, these essays supporting the ratification of the new Constitution first appeared in New York newspapers under the pseudonym "Publius." Although it was widely known that the eighty-five essays were the efforts of Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay, the initial curious speculation about authorship of specific essays gradually developed into heated controversy. Jefferson, who rarely wrote in his books, could not resist the political parlor-room game of speculating which author wrote which essay. On the fly-leaf of his copy Jefferson has penned an authorship list. The Library also holds Madison's copy of the essays, and he too indicated authorship of the essays. However, the two lists do not coincide and, to this day, the authorship of several of the contributions is still under dispute.
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