The Federalist Papers
by Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison

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General Introduction
For the Independent Journal.
Saturday, October 27, 1787


To the People of the State of New York:

AFTER an unequivocal experience of the inefficacy of the subsisting
federal government, you are called upon to deliberate on a new
Constitution for the United States of America. The subject speaks its
own importance; comprehending in its consequences nothing less than the
existence of the UNION, the safety and welfare of the parts of which it
is composed, the fate of an empire in many respects the most interesting
in the world. It has been frequently remarked that it seems to have been
reserved to the people of this country, by their conduct and example, to
decide the important question, whether societies of men are really
capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and
choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for their
political constitutions on accident and force. If there be any truth in
the remark, the crisis at which we are arrived may with propriety be
regarded as the era in which that decision is to be made; and a wrong
election of the part we shall act may, in this view, deserve to be
considered as the general misfortune of mankind.

This idea will add the inducements of philanthropy to those of
patriotism, to heighten the solicitude which all considerate and good
men must feel for the event. Happy will it be if our choice should be
directed by a judicious estimate of our true interests, unperplexed and
unbiased by considerations not connected with the public good. But this
is a thing more ardently to be wished than seriously to be expected. The
plan offered to our deliberations affects too many particular interests,
innovates upon too many local institutions, not to involve in its
discussion a variety of objects foreign to its merits, and of views,
passions and prejudices little favorable to the discovery of truth.

Among the most formidable of the obstacles which the new Constitution
will have to encounter may readily be distinguished the obvious interest
of a certain class of men in every State to resist all changes which may
hazard a diminution of the power, emolument, and consequence of the
offices they hold under the State establishments; and the perverted
ambition of another class of men, who will either hope to aggrandize
themselves by the confusions of their country, or will flatter
themselves with fairer prospects of elevation from the subdivision of
the empire into several partial confederacies than from its union under
one government.

It is not, however, my design to dwell upon observations of this nature.
I am well aware that it would be disingenuous to resolve
indiscriminately the opposition of any set of men (merely because their
situations might subject them to suspicion) into interested or ambitious
views. Candor will oblige us to admit that even such men may be actuated
by upright intentions; and it cannot be doubted that much of the
opposition which has made its appearance, or may hereafter make its
appearance, will spring from sources, blameless at least, if not
respectable -- the honest errors of minds led astray by preconceived
jealousies and fears. So numerous indeed and so powerful are the causes
which serve to give a false bias to the judgment, that we, upon many
occasions, see wise and good men on the wrong as well as on the right
side of questions of the first magnitude to society. This circumstance,
if duly attended to, would furnish a lesson of moderation to those who
are ever so much persuaded of their being in the right in any
controversy. And a further reason for caution, in this respect, might be
drawn from the reflection that we are not always sure that those who
advocate the truth are influenced by purer principles than their
antagonists. Ambition, avarice, personal animosity, party opposition,
and many other motives not more laudable than these, are apt to operate
as well upon those who support as those who oppose the right side of a
question. Were there not even these inducements to moderation, nothing
could be more ill-judged than that intolerant spirit which has, at all
times, characterized political parties. For in politics, as in religion,
it is equally absurd to aim at making proselytes by fire and sword.
Heresies in either can rarely be cured by persecution.