The Prevalence of Lying in the Federalist Papers


Ad Honorem
Feb 2013
Coastal Florida
Interesting that Monroe, arguing against ratification, quoted the Constitution, ie, "according to the directions of the state legislatures" which doesn't mean anything since no one yet knew what the legislatures would legislate, while Edmund Randolph, arguing for ratification, repeated Hamilton (Elliot's Debates, vol. III, pg. 202). This tells me there was still a lively debate about how to choose electors.

Hamilton was consistent from Federalist 68 through his 1802 proposed amendment. He always believed the best way to choose electors was through popular voting. He may have been naive to think state legislatures would give up the power to choose electors themselves, but at the time of Federalist 68 he appears to have honestly thought that the legislatures would choose popular voting. If he wasn't completely honest, it was probably his way of influencing the debate - throw the idea out there and if it gets a positive reaction, it strengthens your position. "Separation of Church and state" doesn't appear in the Constitution, but while the First Amendment was being debated, Jefferson threw that phrase out there and it caught on. It's been part of our national dialogue ever since. Hamilton was probably hoping for a similar response - throw the idea of popular elections out there and hope it catches on. I wouldn't call that lying. The legislatures are supposed to be responsive to the wishes of the voters. Hamilton probably assumed the voters would demand popular elections. Incorrectly predicting the future is not the same thing as lying. At the time of Federalist 68, no one knew how electors would be chosen. None of the state legislatures had decided yet. Hamilton had (or thought he had) a reasonable basis to believe the legislatures would choose popular voting.

Saying that the Constitutional Convention never approved popular voting is beside the point. The Constitutional Convention took itself out of the picture when the founders passed the buck on to the state legislatures. The reason the first resolve was stripped in 1802 has nothing to do with what was decided at the Constitutional Convention. It was stripped because the state legislatures did not want to give up the power to choose the electors. There were also issues of partisan politics by 1802 that had not existed at the time of Federalist 68. Both major political parties saw the first resolve as a threat to their interests. That's why it was stripped.
And much of that may be another thread. Almost none of it is relevant to the question here. Whether anyone "yet knew what the legislatures would legislate" is irrelevant because it's not necessary to know that in order to determine the intent of the Convention. It appears to me the plain meaning of the language indicates the Constitution doesn't care how states select electors as it merely compels them to devise a means and do so. If the Convention intended for states to hold popular elections, why does the text specify that legislatures are to devise a means to select electors on their own? If, in Federalist 68, Hamilton essentially claims this provision of the Constitution says states are to hold popular elections to select electors, isn't that false any way you slice it?

Whether a debate over the best way to elect the president was still occurring in 1802 is likewise irrelevant to what the Constitution said about the matter when it was passed out of the Convention in 1787 and what Hamilton said about its meaning in Federalist 68. In 1802, the debate was over whether and how to change the Constitution, not what it said on the matter originally, the topic of this thread.

As for whether Hamilton lied, your position makes little sense. It makes no difference if he made these statements because he "honestly thought that the legislatures would choose popular voting". What he thought or hoped people would do in the future is irrelevant to the question here, which concerns his characterizations about the intent of the Convention, a historical reality of his past. You're propositions don't show he was honest about this. Rather, they're mere justifications for lying. And that's fine I guess but let's be realistic here.
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: Futurist


Ad Honoris
May 2014
@dreamregent Unfortunately, I don't feel informed enough to personally comment on your question here. However, I was wondering whether you would be willing to consider e-mailing a couple of law professors about this question of yours. I know that various law professors write for the Originalism Blog and that various Federalist Papers are sometimes mentioned on that blog:

The Originalism Blog

Maybe one of these law professors would be able to provide a thoughtful answer to your question here. Just some food for thought.