The Federalist: A Collection of Essays, Written in Favour of the New Constitution, As Agreed Upon by the Federal Convention: September 17, 1787.


The Federalist: A Collection of Essays, Written in Favour of the New Constitution, As Agreed Upon by the Federal Convention: September 17, 1787.

HAMILTON, Alexander; James Madison; John Jay.

Item Number: 131486

New York: Printed and Sold by J. and A McLean, 1788.

First edition of The Federalist, one of the rarest and most significant books in American political history, which “exerted a powerful influence in procuring the adoption of the Federal Constitution.” 12 mo, two volumes bound in full contemporary tree calf with elaborate gilt tooling to the spines, morocco spine labels lettered in gilt, Greek key ruling to the front and rear panels, gilt turn-ins and inner dentelles, marbled endpapers. From the library of William Bedlow with his bookplate to each pastedown and ownership signature dating back to the year of publication, and subsequently his descendant, William Bedlow Crosby (1786-1865) with his ownership signature to each flyleaf and stamp to each title page. The original owner of the book, William Bedlow (1722-1798), was a resident of New York and involved in the American Revolution from its outset. He was appointed to the Committee of Secrecy and Inspection in 1775 to supervise the enforcement of the decrees of the Provincial Congress. In that same year, he was appointed Commissioner for the Erection of Fortifications in the Highlands on the Hudson River which became the most important strategic location in the defense of New York in the Revolutionary War. Even before the April 1775 Battles of Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts both the Americans and British knew that passage on the Hudson River was strategically important to each sides’ war effort. The Americans were desperate to control the river, lest New England be divided from the rest of the colonies by the river falling into British hands. Colonial forces eventually constructed three obstacles across the river: a chevaux-de-frise at northern Manhattan between Forts Washington and Lee in 1776; at the lower entrance to the Hudson Highlands, from newly constructed Fort Montgomery on the west bank at Popolopen Creek just north of the modern-day Bear Mountain Bridge to Anthony’s Nose on the east bank in 1776–1777; and between West Point and Constitution Island, the Great Chain (1778–1782). A fourth, a Cheval de frise started in 1776 between Plum Point on the east bank and Pollepel Island north of West Point, was begun but abandoned. One of the most decisive American battles of the Revolutionary War, the Battle of Saratoga ended British general John Burgoyne’s attempt to control the Hudson River Valley. The outcome convinced the Court of King Louis XVI that the Americans could hold their own against the British Army, sealing the alliance between America and France. Bedlow later served as Postmaster of New York City from 1784 to 1789. In near fine condition. Housed in an elaborately gilt half morocco clamshell box. An exceptional copy with fine provenance of one of the most important works of Americana with contemporary ownership dating back to the year of publication.

“When Alexander Hamilton invited his fellow New Yorker John Jay and James Madison, a Virginian, to join him in writing the series of essays published as The Federalist, it was to meet the immediate need of convincing the reluctant New York State electorate of the necessity of ratifying the newly proposed Constitution of the United States. The 85 essays, under the pseudonym ‘Publius,’ were designed as political propaganda, not as a treatise of political philosophy. In spite of this, The Federalist survives as one of the new nation’s most important contributions to the theory of government” (PMM, 234). The Federalist “exerted a powerful influence in procuring the adoption of the Federal Constitution, not only in New York but in the other states. There is probably no work in so small a compass that contains so much valuable political information. The true principles of a republican form of government are here unfolded with great clearness and simplicity” (Church 1230). “A generation passed before it was recognized that these essays by the principal author of the Constitution and its brilliant advocate were the most authoritative interpretation of the Constitution as drafted by the Convention of 1787. As a commentary and exposition of the Constitution, the influence of the Federalist has been profound” (Grolier American 100, 56). Of the only 500 copies published, Hamilton is said to have sent nearly 50 copies to Virginia for the ratifying convention. The remaining 450 copies sold poorly, and “the publishers complained in October 1788, long after New York had ratified the Constitution, that they still had several hundred unsold copies” (Maggs, 815).

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