Since the time of the Constitution’s framing, our intellectual canon has shifted so that the classical era is no longer central to our learning. This shift may impede our understanding of the Framers and their work. We may fail to grasp a historical analogy and, even more, fail to appreciate the full meaning of a core document in our history. This Article assists today’s reader in gaining the knowledge necessary for an informed understanding of The Federalist’s references to ancient Rome. The Article explains each significant reference to Rome by providing a richly textured historical background for the reference. The four primary themes are the need for a national government, the need for a single executive, the best way to structure a government, and the need for a standing army. The Article concludes by discussing three issues: were these classical references persuasive to Publius’ readers, what do the references tell us about how the Framers viewed ancient Rome, and in light of our fading familiarity with the classical era, on what political references do modern commentators rely.
Date of this Version
Sirico, Louis J. Jr., "The Federalist and the Lessons of Rome" (2007). Working Paper Series. 80.