Michael I. Meyerson

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Liberty’s Blueprint is a biography of a great book, the past, present, and future of the Federalist Papers — how they were written, how they were read, and what we can use in the twenty-first century.”

—Richard Brookhiser, author of What Would the Founders Do? and George Washington on Leadership


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Liberty’s Blueprint is a biography of a great book, the past, present, and future of the Federalist Papers — how they were written, how they were read, and what we can use in the twenty-first century.”

—Richard Brookhiser, author of What Would the Founders Do? and George Washington on Leadership

Liberty's Blueprint

Liberty’s Blueprint: How Madison and Hamilton Wrote the Federalist Papers, Defined the Constitution, and Made Democracy Safe for the WorldAside from the constitution itself, there is no more important document in American politics and law than The Federalist — the series of essays that James Madison and Alexander Hamilton [with a little help from John Jay] wrote to persuade the American people to ratify the Constitution. Today, in an age of angry, polarizing debate over what the Constitution means and how to determine the relevance of the framers’ “original intent,” the “Federalist Papers” are once again essential reading.

Liberty’s Blueprint: How Madison and Hamilton Wrote the Federalist Papers, Defined the Constitution, and Made Democracy Safe for the World, explains how a careful reading of these essays leads to realistic solutions to manycontemporary legal and political issues. The primary lesson of The Federalist, that those who possess power tend to lust for more, or, in the words of Madison, “power is of an encroaching nature,” is neither liberal nor conservative, but is fundamental foranyone participating in today’s political debates. The wisdom of Hamilton and Madison shows how the Constitution, created in the 18th century in a time of sailing ships and single-shot muskets, can be applied to a 21st century world of stealth aircraft and dirty bombs. Properly understood, The Federalist can provide important lessons for resolving a wide range of controversial issues, from warrantless wiretapping to medical marijuana.

Liberty’s Blueprint also reveals, for the first time, the complexity of the personal relationship between the philosophical and cautious Madison and the charismatic and reckless Hamilton. Spanning the turbulent years from the end of the Revolutionary War through the administration of George Washington, Liberty’s Blueprint shows how Madison and Hamilton’s collaboration evolved from a volatile political alliance into an unexpected friendship, only to disintegrate into estrangement and animosity.

“This beautifully written book vividly describes how the Federalist Papers were written and why they are profoundly relevant for the constitutional issues of our times. Professor Meyerson describes how two very different individuals, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, collaborated to produce a brilliant work of political philosophy and elaboration of the Constitution’s meaning. Meyerson has written a book that all students of the Constitution and American history will enjoy and learn from.”

— Erwin Chemerinsky, Alston & Bird Professor of Law and Political Science, Duke University

What were the Federalist Papers?

The Federalist Papers were a collection of newspaper articles, written primarily by Alexander Hamilton and James Madison [with a little help from John Jay] from 1787-1788.  They were originally designed as a propaganda piece to influence the debate over ratification of the Constitution.  For a modern audience, however, reading The Federalist, as they were officially titled,is like have a private meeting with the savviest political and legal minds America has ever produced.  The Federalist not only serves as the single most important resource for interpreting the Constitution, it provides a wise and sophisticated explanation for the uses and abuses of governmental power from Washington to Baghdad.

Notable Quotations on the Value of The Federalist

Thomas Jefferson called The Federalist: “the best commentary on the principles of government which was ever written.”

Theodore Roosevelt stated that The Federalist was, “on the whole the greatest book dealing with applied politics that there has ever been.”

Chief Justice John Marshall in 1821 wrote that The Federalist was “a complete commentary on our Constitution, and is appealed to by all parties.”

George Washington declared that The Federalist  “will merit the Notice of Posterity; because in it are candidly and ably discussed the principles of freedom and the topics of government, which will be always interesting to mankind so long as they shall be connected in Civil Society.”

Chancellor James Kent, in his classic work Commentaries on American Law (1826) wrote: “I know not, indeed, of any work on the principles of free government that is to be compared, in instruction and intrinsic value, to the small and unpretending volume of The Federalist; not even if we resort to Aristotle, Cicero, Machiavelli, Montesquieu, Milton, Locke, or Burke. It is equally admirable in the depth of its wisdom, the comprehensiveness of its views, the sagacity of its reflections, and the fearlessness, candor, simplicity, and elegance, with which its truths are uttered and recommended."

Alexis de Tocqueville wrote in Democracy in America:
“I shall often have occasion to quote The Federalist in this work. When the draft law, which has since become the Constitution of the United States, was still before the people and submitted for their adoption, three men, already famous and later to become even more celebrated–John Jay, Hamilton, and Madison–associated together with the object of pointing out to the nation the advantages of the plan submitted to it. With this intention they published in a journal a series of articles which together form a complete treatise… The Federalist is a fine book, and though it especially concerns America, it should be familiar to statesmen of all countries.”

Chief Justice Samuel Chase in Calder v. Bull (1798) praised The Federalist for its:
“extensive and accurate knowledge of the true principles of Government.”

From the “You can’t please everyone” department

Louis Otto, the French Charge d’Affaires during the ratification of the Constitution said of The Federalist: “The work is of no use to the well-informed, and it is too learned and too long for the ignorant.”

Robert Dahl, A Preface to Democratic Theory (1956) wrote:
“It must never be forgotten that the Federalist Papers were polemical and propagandistic writing, reflecting a highly partisan viewpoint.”