Preface: An Audacious Task

Published date01 December 2011
Date01 December 2011
Preface: An Audacious Task S5
Paul C. Light, editor
New York University
The Federalist Papers were written between
October 1787 and August 1788 with a single
purpose—to promote ratif‌i cation of the new
constitution. Penned by three of the nation’s lead-
ing advocates of ratif‌i cation, Alexander Hamilton,
John Jay, and James Madison, the 85 pamphlets were
published as long opinion pieces by two of the leading
newspapers of the time, e Independent Journal (77
of the 85) and e New York Packet (the last eight).
Authored under the pseudonym “Publius,” the pieces
targeted the key opinion leaders of the time as a form
of advertising and explanation supporting ratif‌i ca-
tion in swing states, especially in the South. However,
unlike today’s 700-word op-eds, the pamphlets often
were long and discursive. Although now viewed as
a body of work, the 85 pieces moved through the
basic philosophy that framed the founders’ call for a
national government, the specif‌i c workings of the new
constitution, and the distribution of powers, checks
and balances, and sources of safety from tyranny.
is special issue asks a perfectly audacious question:
what might the authors of the Federalist Papers add to
their 85 pamphlets in light of
changes in the administration of
our government over the past 225
years? Although the authors cer-
tainly understood that the world
would change in coming years,
they “sold” the new constitution
as a palliative for the contempo-
rary divisions created after the
Revolutionary War and the deep
schisms that were left mostly
untouched by the Articles of
Confederation.  us, it seems reasonable to ask whether
the body of work is still relevant today, and how the key
pamphlets might be updated to ref‌l ect the authors’ reac-
tions to new realities. It is, indeed, an audacious task.
Twenty leading public administration scholars were
asked to tackle the question.  e list of authors
includes some of the most senior scholars in the f‌i eld,
as well as members of the next generation of leaders.
It includes a range of disciplines and perspectives from
the f‌i eld, and a range of conclusions regarding the
current state of public administration.
e papers at hand were selected because of their
relevance to contemporary governance in general, and
to the administrative operations of government in
particular. I made the decision about which pam-
phlets were of greatest import to ef‌f ective governance,
leaving many behind. Readers are encouraged to
read each article on its own in terms of the specif‌i c
Federalist Paper highlighted, but also to consider other
papers that deserve further review. Given the limits
on the length of this special issue, the authors here
were sharply constrained by length, even as they were
instructed to adopt the voice of Publius in drafting
possible appendices.  ere is plenty of room, there-
fore, for further consideration of both alternative
papers for review and appendices to the appendices.
Each article begins with an analysis of the current
state of public administration in the context of a
specif‌i c Federalist Paper. ese
analyses lead to a f‌i nal section
suggesting possible appendices
to the paper under review, and
one even includes a set of tweets
that might be issued in response
to changing conditions.
As the editor of this special
edition, I take full responsibil-
ity for pushing each author to
be bold. It is no small act to
suggest additions to the Federalist Papers, of course,
and many authors were reluctant to accept such an
audacious task. However, all rose to the occasion.
eir contributions are meant to stimulate debate in
contemporary context, not to undermine the contri-
butions of Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James
Madison to the ratif‌i cation of the Constitution.
Preface: An Audacious Task
is special issue asks a
perfectly audacious question:
what might the authors of the
Federalist Papers add to their 85
pamphlets in light of changes
in the administration of our
government over the past 225

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