Better Than a ‘Hamilton’ Shout-Out? John Jay Manuscript Surfaces

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John JayCredit Library of Congress

John Jay may have written only five of the 85 articles in the Federalist Papers, as students of early American history — and the legions who have memorized the “Hamilton” cast album — know. But Jay was also the only one of the authors known to have kept his manuscripts, all but one of which have been studied by scholars.

Now, the long-missing manuscript for Federalist No. 2 has been located at the Brooklyn Historical Society, in time to be included in Volume 4 of the Selected Papers of John Jay, whose publication was celebrated last month at an event at Columbia University.

“This is the first time that all the manuscripts of Jay’s Federalist essays have been brought together in an edited edition,” Elizabeth M. Nuxoll, the editor of the papers, said in a phone interview.

The Federalist Papers, written by Jay, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison and published anonymously in newspapers in New York State in 1787 and 1788, urged ratification of the proposed Constitution, which had come under fierce attack. Hamilton and Madison, working at a breakneck pace, are believed to have not gotten back the manuscripts they sent to the printer, or at least not saved them.

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Part of the Federalist No. 2, from the collection titled, “New York Customs House accounting records and John Jay copy of Federalist Paper No. 2.”Credit Brooklyn Historical Society

The manuscript for Jay’s Federalist No. 2, which argued for the importance of a strong union in protecting against the “dangers of foreign force and influence,” seems to have entered the Brooklyn Historical Society’s collection at some point after 1864, when John Jay II, Jay’s grandson, put it on display at the New York Metropolitan Fair, an event that raised money for hospitals treating wounded Union Army soldiers.

“John Jay II was a strong Unionist,” Ms. Nuxoll said. “And the importance of a strong union was the theme of the Jay Federalist…

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