The Federalist Papers

The Federalist Papers Summary and Analysis of Essay 82


Hamilton addresses concerns that the proposed constitution would deprive state judicial systems of their authority. Hamilton argues that the states will “retain all pre-existing authorities which may not be exclusively delegated to the federal head.” That is, the default is that state courts will have the same powers under the proposed constitution as they did under the Articles. It is only particular powers, explicitly listed in the Constitution, that are granted solely to the federal government and denied to the states.

Hamilton furthermore discusses the doctrine of “concurrent jurisdiction,” i.e. legal cases that both federal courts and state courts have the authority to decide. Essentially, unless a case falls into a category specifically listed in the Constitution as falling under the sole authority of the national courts, all cases fall under the jurisdiction of the state courts. The only power the federal courts have over the states is the power of appeal; that is, citizens can appeal state court decisions to federal courts.

Hamilton stresses throughout this paper the importance of conceiving of the state and federal courts as part of “one whole.” The Constitution sought to create a coherent legal system that would ensure laws would be enforced uniformly throughout the country. Thus, the Constitution would not take away the powers of the state courts, as the anti-federalists feared, but rather integrate them into a cohesive national system.


One of the central arguments of the anti-federalists was that the proposed constitution would undermine the authority of the state courts: “The Judiciary of the Unite States is so constructed and extended, as to absorb and destroy the judiciaries of the several States; thereby rendering law as tedious, intricate and expensive, and justice as unattainable, by a great part of the community, as in England, and enabling the rich to oppress and ruin the poor” (Mason 174). The state courts were seen as less of a threat to the liberty and rights of the people than federal courts.

Hamilton addresses this concern by painting a picture of a cohesive, harmonious judicial system that gives state courts a specific role within the national system of government. He contends that state courts will retain most of their powers. Only in specific, limited respects does the proposed constitution deny jurisdiction to state judiciaries.