Steven Smith: “Learning from Publius”

Steven Smith
September 11, 2023

Alfred Cowles Professor of Political Science and Professor of Philosophy Steven Smith has a new article on the National Affairs website entitled “Learning From Publius.”


The greatest obstacle to reading The Federalist Papers is that we all think we know what the book is about before we even open it. It contains 85 articles, mostly written by James Madison and Alexander Hamilton, designed to persuade the ratifying convention of New York state to support the new Constitution. Much of the text is given over to defending the institutional innovations proposed by the Philadelphia convention, such as a bicameral legislature, two-year terms for members of the House of Representatives, six-year terms for members of the Senate, a Supreme Court with judges appointed for life, an Electoral College for choosing the chief executive, and a single rather than a dual executive power. Most of these issues are so deeply settled that it might seem little is gained from attempting to relitigate them.