James Madison: Federalist 51

(1788)

Audience

The original aim of the Federalist Papers was to elect pro-Constitution delegates to the New York state ratification convention. The intended audience was the merchants of New York City, whose support was essential if the upstate Antifederalists were to be defeated. This effort ultimately failed. Only nineteen Federalists were elected from New York City, while forty-six Antifederalists were elected from upstate, led by Governor George Clinton. The papers were printed in only a dozen papers outside of New York, and their influence on the overall vote was minimal.

Although Publius's abstract style was well received by urban merchants and lawyers, his complex argumentation was lost on most Antifederalists. The typical Antifederalist, steeped in the plain-speech discourse of Thomas Paine, was bewildered by the avalanche of words of the Federalist Papers. One perplexed Philadelphian spoke for most Antifederalists in complaining that Publius had “mistaken sound for...

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James Madison (Library of Congress)

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