Aristotle's Legacy in the Federalist Papers

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Aristotle's Legacy in the Federalist Papers

While the government of the United States owes its existence to the contents and careful thought behind the Constitution, some attention must be given to the contributions of a series of essays called the Federalist Papers towards this same institution. Espousing the virtues of equal representation, these documents also promote the ideals of competent representation for the populace and were instrumental in addressing opposition to the ratification of the Constitution during the fledgling years of the United States. With further reflection, the Federalists, as these essays are called, may in turn owe their existence, in terms of their intellectual underpinnings, to the writings of the
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If the question were posed as to whether the writers of the Federalist Papers were in some way influenced by Aristotle, one would only have to look as far as the educational background of the authors. Madison studied under John Witherspoon, president of the College of New Jersey at Princeton. Although there is no explicit suggestion that Aristotelian political theory was an integral part of Madison's education at the New Jersey College, there is evidence that Witherspoon incorporated an analysis of government along lines very close to that found in Aristotle's Politics.1 Alexander Hamilton and John Jay were both students at King's College in New York (now Columbia University) and, while there is no particular indication that they studied Aristotelian philosophy any more than Madison did, they were both well read, reading the likes of Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Hugo Grotius, a fraction of the diverse literature concerning political, economic, and social thought to found in the library of King's College.2 A simpler means of answering this question can also be found by examining the ample evidence seen throughout the Federalists.

The most prominent of Aristotle's views apparent within the Federalists is his attention

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