Essays & conversations about constitutional moments on the Net collected by the Berkman Center.

Inspiration

Between 1787 and 1788, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay wrote an extraordinary series of essays advocating the ratification of the US Constitution. The seminal source for understanding both the document itself and the historic “constitutional moment” in which it was created, their campaign of letters helped sway the public to embrace the nascent government. After their publication in The Independent Journal and The New York Packet, the 77 articles—each signed with the moniker "Publius"—were combined with eight additional pieces to form The Federalist Papers.

Relying on passionate essays that dissected both the overarching structure and the underlying beliefs animating the proposed Constitution, the Publius authors succeeded in generating public support for a strong national structure constituted of thirteen states. More than two hundred years later, The Federalist Papers remain an authority on the Constitution and provide an unparalleled view of the context that preceded its ratification.

In a similar way, by sharing these pieces both online and in print media (and ultimately in a book), we will map the broad and varied forces that shape the Internet. We refer back to The Federalist Papers, with the hope of matching perennial questions related to the formation of governance institutions with their net-based modern counterparts.