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The Federalist Papers

Lynne Cheney, author of “James Madison: A Life Reconsidered” in conversation with Walter Isaacson of the Aspen Institute.  Created by Aspen Institute.

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Video transcript

I'm Walter Isaacson of the aspen institute and i'm here with lynne cheney the author of james madison a life reconsidered so after the Constitutional Convention it takes my mama tour to to say this is the best document we're going to get and he joins with somebody who's sort of different in philosophy to write a series of papers urging ratification of it explain that to me well I don't think at the beginning that Madison understood how different his philosophical approach was from Hamilton's and it was Hamilton who had the idea for the Federalist Papers Alexander Hamilton and there's no parties back then we know George Washington's gonna be present there's not a Democrat Republican or Federalist Party so Hamilton and Madison sort of think they're on the same page right and they don't have much time to think philosophically about the Federalist Papers they are writing at breakneck speed at first they edit one another's or they look at one another's entries under the Federalist Papers which were being published in newspapers in New York but after a while they haven't got time to do that and the main point of these papers is to convince people that they need to ratify the constantly the state of New York convince the voters in New York though Madison I think understood that the Federalist Papers would have a secondary value in Virginia right right and they write all of them including J sort of helps a little bit John out of the 85 I think right but they write under the name Publius right why are they writing anonymously and do people actually know who they are some few insiders do but no it's not generally known and the idea of course is that Madison is a Virginian and people in New York aren't going to be too impressed about his view of the Constitution Madison secondarily thinks that Virginians won't be too impressed by a New Yorker so keeping an anonymous is important but i love the description of these two brilliant man writing the federalist papers at this amazing speed and they're finishing up the last of them the last of the essays while the first part of its getting set into print I've described this to college students it's the equivalent of writing an essay every other day for a couple of months you could do that but these became immortal and it is just astonishing the feet that it was one of the ones that's truly immortal is one of the ones that Madison rights which is federalist 10 explaining federalist 10 to us well federalist 10 describes why it would be possible for a republic to succeed you know before people had thought that a republic just would have too many different interests involved and people would be fighting from day one what Madison saw was that if you created a large and extended Republic that the interest would be so many and so varied that no one could come to dominate and so that was his notion that in a great Republic an extended Republic such as never had been seen before on earth interest would compete with one another and the Republic could thereby succeed and keep itself from falling underneath the monarchy and that's part of a Madison's legacy to us is not just the Constitution but explaining exactly what was the thinking behind the Constitution you know and before Madison talked about this people had not really understood that a republic could be possible and he suddenly opened the way you know not immediately of course but eventually for people around the world to understand that it was possible for people to govern themselves this is a whole new thing on the face of the earth right exactly in Madison even defends that fact in the Federalist Papers saying just because it's new doesn't mean it's bad look we're about to inaugurate something that will benefit people for generations and it's new and that's why it will be something that we will be remembered for he didn't say that but you know it was so important to the founders that they would be the givers of laws that people for generations after would be affected by and we still refer back to the Federalist Papers sometimes when we want to understand why do they write it this way in the Constitution right exactly mm-hmm thank you very much