The Federalist Papers
Can a people establish good government from reflection and choice? This is the important question Publius raises in the first Federalist essay. The Federalist essays were written in 1787 and 1788 during the debates over ratification of the proposed Constitution of the United States. The eighty-five papers that comprise this text deal not only with the powers and structure of the various branches of government, but also argue that the new Constitution will be a vast improvement over the Articles of Confederation.
Publius argues that with a well-founded Constitution, republican self-government by the American people is possible without the need for despotic rule by kings. If ratified, the Constitution would be the first founded upon a proper understanding of human nature – though men are not angels, Publius argued, they are capable of the kind of virtue necessary for republican citizenship.