The Federalist, or Federalist Papers, consists of a series of newspaper essays written in 1787-88 by James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay advocating New York's ratification of the Constitution. It remains the most thoughtful and thorough study of the Constitution ever written. The most essential essays to read are numbers 1, 9, 10, 11, 39, 49, 51, 70, and 78.
Records of the Federal Convention, (3 vols.) edited by Max Farrand
Farrand's Records gathers into three volumes all the records written by participants of the Constitutional Convention of 1787. It is essential in understanding the difficulties faced by the Framers, and the means by which they succeeded in constituting the world's longest-lasting democracy.
George Washington, George Washington: A Collection, edited by W. B. Allen
______., Writings, edited by John Rhodehamel
Washington's major speeches, letters and other writings are available in several editions, the best of which is edited by W.B. Allen. Another good collection of Washington's writings is the Library of America edition edited by John Rhodehamel.
Thomas Jefferson, Writings, edited by Merrill D. Peterson
Jefferson published little during his lifetime. Most often, he wrote official documents, speeches, or private letters. This collection includes his most important writings, public and private, as well as his only book, Notes on the State of Virginia. Jefferson's writings are essential reading for anyone who wishes to understand the Declaration of Independence.
The Adams-Jefferson Letters: The Complete Correspondence, edited by Lester J. Cappon
For the United States' first 50 years, two of the leading Founders and our second and third presidents, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, formed a personal and political friendship. Together they developed their ideas about representative government and the future of the new nation. Fifty years to the day after independence—and after a period of estrangement followed by a resumption of friendship—they both died on July 4, 1836.
James Madison, The Mind of the Founder, edited by Marvin Meyers
Madison, known as the “Father of the Constitution,” was one of the deepest thinkers of the American founding. This collection contains his writings on topics as varied as separation of powers, religious liberty, executive war powers and property rights.
______., Notes of the Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787
James Madison provided the most complete record of the Constitutional Convention. In the debates from May to September 1787, Madison recorded the speeches of the other delegates while adding his own comments on the major issues.
Alexander Hamilton, Selected Writings and Speeches of Alexander Hamilton, edited by Morton J. Frisch
Hamilton played a key role in the formation of the Republic as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention and the first secretary of the Treasury. His writings on the economy and the presidency helped shape the nation.
Benjamin Franklin, Writings, edited by J.A. Leo Lemay
Franklin was the senior figure at the Constitutional Convention and a voice of compromise. This collection brings together the many sides of Franklin, from his political writings such as the Albany Plan to his satirical journalism and his famous Autobiography.
Thomas Paine, Writings, edited by Eric Foner
______., Common Sense
Paine was a fervid advocate of democracy and the American Revolution's greatest propagandist. The volume of collected writing edited by Eric Foner brings together Paine's writing from his years in America, as well as The American Crisis and The Rights of Man, a defense of the French Revolution, and his most famous and influential pamphlet, Common Sense, published in 1776. The latter can also be purchased in a separate volume.
Colonies to Nation, 1763-1789: A Documentary History of the American Revolution, edited by Jack P. Greene
This collection of pamphlets, official government statements, and personal letters from the Revolutionary period shows how the colonists pressed for independence from English rule and finally established the union. Its emphasis is on the causes that prompted the colonists to take action against the British.
American Political Writing During the Founding Era, 1760-1805, edited by Charles Hyneman and Donald Lutz
This comprehensive and useful two-volume set contains essays, speeches, and pamphlets from little-known as well as famous leaders of the founding era.
Political Sermons of the American Founding Era 1730-1805, edited by Ellis Sandoz
Sermons played a large role in shaping the ideas of the Revolution, as ministers of the founding era united the themes of virtue, republicanism, religion, and liberty. An especially useful and eloquent entry is Samuel West's sermon on July 4, 1776: “Thus we see that both reason and revelation perfectly agree in pointing out the nature, end, and design of government....”
Debate on the Constitution (2 vols.), edited by Bernard Bailyn
This collection shows the energy and elegance of the debate over ratification of the Constitution. Speeches, newspaper articles, pamphlets and letters from 1787 and 1788 show the Federalist and Anti-Federalist arguments. Also included are the complete text of the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and the Constitution with all its amendments
The Founder’s Constitution (5 vols.), edited by Philip B. Kurland and Ralph Lerner
This massive set examines the political arguments in forming the Constitution. It includes much primary source material.
Friends of the Constitution: Writings of the 'Other' Federalists 1787-1788, edited by Colleen A. Sheehan and Gary L. McDowell
The Federalist is the authoritative defense of the principles of the Constitution. But there were writers other than John Jay, James Madison, and Alexander Hamilton who argued for the Constitution's ratification in 1787 and 1788. This book collects their best writings.
The Complete Anti-Federalist (7 vols.), edited by Herbert J. Storing.
The Anti-Federalist (1 vol. abridgement), selected by Murray Dry from the Complete Anti-Federalist
Those who opposed the Constitution, known as the Anti-Federalists, contributed to the dialogue of the American founding and pressed for a Bill of Rights to be added to the Constitution to address their concerns.