HOME  >  Browse  >  Rare Books  >  Landmark Books  >  The Federalist: a collection of essays written in favor of the new constitution

The Federalist in Original Boards: A tremendous association copy of the greatest American book

[HAMILTON, ALEXANDER, JAMES MADISON & JOHN JAY]. The Federalist: a collection of essays written in favor of the new constitution

New York: John and Andrew M’Lean, 1788

Two volumes. Original boards, rebacked in paper, untrimmed. Title reinserted in volume one, light foxing, a few stains, minor repair to last leaf. An outstanding set.

First edition of The Federalist, the most sought-after of all American books. An exceptional copy in the original boards.


This is the most important book in American history and political philosophy.The Federalist represents the collected wisdom of Hamilton, Madison, and Jay concerning the principles of government as embodied in the proposed Constitution of the United States. Its eighty-five papers are published together here for the first time. The Federalist is “the classic exposition on Republican government” (R. B. Bernstein, The Making of the Constitution).

The significance of the Federalist Papers has been recognized for more than two hundred years. George Washington wrote, “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.”

Two centuries later, the leading constitutional historian Clinton Rossiter noted, “The Federalist stands third only to the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution itself among all the sacred writings in American political history.”

The Federalist is the fundamental document left by the framers of the Constitution as a guide to their philosophy and intentions. “These men saw a strong central government as essential to the maintenance of a stable economy. Their conservative views regarding property rights have had a lasting effect on U.S. constitutional law. As a commentary on the Constitution by some of its principal architects, The Federalist has been used . . . as an interpreter of the constitution not only by laymen but by lawyers and justices of the U.S. Supreme Court” (PMM).

77 of the 85 Federalist papers were printed in newspapers between October of 1787 and August 1788. The final eight papers first appeared in the second volume of The Federalist, published in two volumes in 1788 by John and Andrew McLean. The work was originally known as The Federalist; the title The Federalist Papers did not emerge until the twentieth century.


This is a splendid association copy from the library of Major Roger Alden. Alden enlisted as a soldier in Benedict Arnold’s expedition to Quebec in September 1776. He fought at Germantown in October 1777, and spent the winter at Valley Forge. He rose through the ranks, ultimately serving as aide-de camp, with the brevet rank of Major, to Brigadier General Jedediah Huntington. After the war Alden was elected deputy secretary of the Continental Congress, became deputy secretary of Foreign Affairs under Washington, and was the man entrusted with the original Constitution after its signing.

“On September 18, 1787, the morning after it had been signed, the [Constitution] was placed on the 11:00 a.m. stagecoach for delivery to the Congress in New York City. There all the papers of the Convention were entrusted to Roger Alden, deputy secretary of the Congress” (Kammen, A Machine That Would Go of Itself: The Constitution in American Culture, p. 72). Two years later, Alden was again entrusted with the great state papers, this time including the Declaration of Independence. When the new government was formed in 1789, President Washington ordered Charles Thomson, secretary of the Continental Congress, “to deliver the Books, Records, and papers and the late Congress, the Great Seal … to Mr. Roger Alden, the late Deputy Secretary of Congress; who is requested to take charge of them until farther directions shall be given.”

Alden was keenly interested in the debates surrounding the new government, and he evidently treasured his copy of The Federalist, signing each volume on the cover and on the title. “Few issues in American history have engrossed public attention like the debate about whether to adopt the Constitution. … Roger Alden joked to brother-in-law Samuel William Johnson [in a letter dated December 31, 1787] that ‘the report of the Convention affords a fruitful subject for wits, politicians and Law–makers-the presses, which conceived by the incubation of the Convention are delivered from the pangs of travail, & have become prolific indeed–the offspring is so numerous, that the public ear has become deaf to the cries of the distressed, and grow impatient for the christening of the first born’“ (Kramer, “Putting the Politics Back into the Political Safeguards of Federalism” in Columbia Law Review, January 2000, p. 251).

In July 1789, the First Congress under the new Constitution created the Department of Foreign Affairs and directed that its Secretary should have “the custody and charge of all records, books, and papers” kept by the department of the same name under the old government. When Washington wrote to Thomas Jefferson in Paris on October 13, 1789, offering him the post of Secretary of State, he suggested Roger Alden to be his assistant:

“Unwilling, as I am, to interfere in the direction of your choice of assistants, I shall only take the liberty of observing to you, that, from warm recommendations which I have received in behalf of Roger Alden, Esq., assistant Secretary to the late Congress, I have placed all the papers thereunto belonging, under his care. Those papers, which more properly appertain to the office of Foreign Affairs, are under the superintendence of Mr. Jay, who has been so obliging as to continue his good offices, and they are in the immediate charge of Mr. Remsen.”


This extraordinary survival, worthy of the most discriminating collector, combines excellent original condition with an outstanding Founding era provenance.

This is one of the most desirable examples of The Federalist remaining in private hands.


Provenance: Roger Alden (1754-1836), inscribed by him “R. Alden’s 1788” on front board and title-page of both volumes. Roger Alden was a major and aide-de-camp to Jedediah Huntington during the Revolutionary War. In 1781 he became deputy secretary to the Continental Congress under Charles Thomson. When the new federal government was formed in 1789, Alden was made deputy secretary of Foreign Affairs. In the latter capacities he was entrusted with the safekeeping of both the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

Grolier 100 American Books 19. Printing and the Mind of Man 234.