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Think of a playground. It's filled with kids excited that they've just been let out for recess! Wahoo! There's a problem though. No one can agree on which game they should play. Some kids say tag. Others say hide and seek. They start to make small groups and argue about it. How do they make the most of their time outside? There, now that you have that image in your mind, think of America after the Revolution. They have just become a country! There's a problem though. They owe a lot of money to France. How do they pay it off? They are just like the kids on the playground . . . only instead, the people are playing at politics. And instead of a game, the well-being of almost four million people and a whole country is at stake.
The states spent a lot of money to win the war against Britain and become their own country. Now they needed a way to pay down the country's debt. Everyone did not agree on what the U.S. should do to make sure everything was paid back. Groups of people came together to try and come up with some ideas. A political party is group of people that have similar ideas about how a country should be governed. Over time, there have been many political parties that have come together, each with its own ideas. We are just going to look at one today.
Because the war cost so much money, some Americans believed that the states needed to live under strong rules made by the federal government to help pay it all back. The states would have rules so that they could start to save money and grow in power. One way you pay for a war is getting people to buy and sell a lot, while the government charges taxes on the the things bought and the things sold. The Federalists were a party that believed in a strong central government. This meant tighter control of how things were made and sold and traded and the taxes charged on them.
The Federalists were started and led by a man named Alexander Hamilton. (Grab the nearest ten dollar bill to see his face.) Each state in the new U.S.A. owed so much money, they could not do much else except pay it back. Hamilton said that the Federal government should be responsible for the money states owed so the states could get working again. They thought that the more goods we could produce, the more money we could make on taxes. Manufacturing is a way to make many things quickly with the use of machines. Using machines, they could start working faster and making more goods quickly to make the economy grow. There was just one problem . . .
Some people wanted to be in their own state, with their own laws, and stay separated from a big government. They had had enough of being told what to do when they were under the king. So Hamilton set to writing the Federalist Papers. He and a few other writers tried to talk New York, as well as other states, to agree to adopting the Constitution into their states. They wrote eighty-five letters and printed them in different newspapers. It took a while, but all of the states joined, and a big change began. Industrialization is how a country turns from a farming community into a power that makes many goods and services with machines. Our country still works this way today.
In order to pay off the war, Americans had to make some big choices. They made political parties, or groups of people who have the same ideas about how a country should be run. The Federalists believed in a strong central government. If the government paid off the money states owed and then they would be free to make more goods with machines and industrialization could begin, moving America from a farming country to one that was a big player in trade across the world. In order to talk the states into coming together under the Constitution and give the government more power, Hamilton (and some others) wrote the Federalist Papers. It worked. I hope you learned something today. If you ever want to talk the kids on the playground into playing the game you want to play, all you have to do is write eighty-seven papers! . . . What do you mean you don't want to?
U.S. History. "Hamilton's Financial Plan" ushistory.org, 2013. <http://www.ushistory.org/us/18b.asp>
Social Studies for Kids. "The Federalist Papers" socialstudiesforkids.com, 2015. <http://www.socialstudiesforkids.com/wwww/us/thefederalistpapersdef.htm>