Federalist Papers – Essay #85 (The Last)

Essay #85, Concluding Remarks, is the concluding essay in the Federalist Papers collection. As you recall, the Federalist Papers were written primarily to the citizens of New York whose approval for the ratification of the Constitution was critical.

Alexander Hamilton points out that the New York State constitution contained as many “supposed defects,” and many of the same kind, as those complained about in the proposed national constitution, and yet no great clamor had been raised about these.

Hamilton contends that a “perfectly written Constitution” was an impossibility and that what has been presented should be ratified with the clear understanding that it provides for amendments which can be added later.

He writes that delay in ratification is useless and will only prolong the precarious situation of the nation. Hamilton contends that “a country without a national government is, in my view, an awful spectacle,” and states bluntly, “I never hope to see a perfect work for imperfect men.”

Hamilton writes: “I dread the more the consequences of new attempts, because I KNOW that POWERFUL INDIVIDUALS, in this and in other states, are enemies to a general national government, in every possible shape.”

This statement wasn’t exactly true. Many venerable patriots of greater stature and longer standing than Hamilton at the time — Patrick Henry, George Mason, Richard Henry Lee, Governor George Clinton of New York, Sam Adams of Massachusetts, among others — did not object to a national government, but raised fundamental questions about whether the proposed constitution was as well designed as it might be to achieve that end.

Hamilton was clearly a nationalist – more so than James Madison and John Jay – but he tries to assure both the nationalists and the advocates of states’ rights alike that the Constitution and its Union offered some common ground for them to meet, He writes, “the compacts which are to embrace thirteen distinct States in a common bond of amity and union, must as necessarily be a compromise of as many dissimilar interests and inclinations. How can perfection spring from such materials?”

Throughout his essays, Hamilton had given a highly nationalistic version of the Constitution, but in the end he not only admits that the more perfect Union would come into existence through a compact, but even goes so far as to say that it would be created through a whole number of compacts —­ a clear concession to the states’ rights concept of a contract theory of the nature of the Union!

Credit for the summary and analysis of Essay #85 is given to Brittany Nelson and Christopher Higgins (second revision 09/15/2011). Weinbloom, Elizabeth ed. “The Federalist Papers Essay #85 Summary and Analysis”. GradeSaver, 30 December 2011 Web. 20 February 2019.

You can read a summary and analysis of Essay #85 by clicking HERE.

You can read the entire text of Essay #85 by clicking HERE.

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