We the Teachers

American Controversies: Is the Modern Presidency Constitutional?

 

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Is the Modern Presidency Constitutional?

The last of the 14-15 school year’s Saturday Webinars, today’s program, was hosted as always by Dr. Chris Burkett of Ashland University, who moderated the discussion between professors Jeremy Bailey and David Alvis. The topic considered the Constitution itself, interpretations of the executive found in the Federalist Papers, and actions, laws, and events from throughout American history, in an attempt to differentiate between the ‘constitutional presidency’ and the ‘modern presidency.’ Some 65 teachers from across the country attended, who asked a wide variety of questions.

You can access a list of some of the documents used and a video archive on here.

Ashbrook Weekend Colloquium at George Washington’s Mount Vernon

Last weekend the Ashbrook Center hosted a group of teachers from across the country at Mount Vernon for an in-depth discussion of George Washington’s role as president. Topics included his actions that helped to shape the office itself and the Cabinet, his handling of the growing split between Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson, and his management of foreign affairs. These discussion sessions on Saturday and Sunday were all supported by a wide and diverse selection of Washington’s letters and other correspondence.

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The weekend began with a reception and dinner on Friday night, May 1st, during which teachers were treated to a visit from Nellie Custis, portrayed by one of the professional historical interpreters at Mount Vernon. Her knowledge of Washington’s granddaughter was encyclopedic, and through her participants were able to learn about what life was like at Mount Vernon for family members, and how Washington was when at home and among family.

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Outside of discussion session time, attendees were able to explore the grounds of the estate and spend time with some of the 500 Revolution-era reenactors who were taking part in a massive encampment there over the weekend. Teachers also had the opportunity to take part in a special wreath-laying ceremony at George Washington’s tomb while on a guided tour of the mansion and grounds, and watch fireworks over the Potomac on Saturday night.

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Check on our schedule of summer programs at TeachingAmericanHistory.org for future professional development opportunities.

Peter W. Schramm commentary: Lincoln earned the many tributes he’s receiving

On April 29, 1865, the Lincoln Funeral Train from Washington arrived in Columbus. It was on its way to Springfield, almost exactly retracing the route Lincoln had taken to Washington for his inauguration in 1861. The nearly 1,700-mile trip would take 13 days and was met at every stop with grieving Americans. Fifty thousand Ohioans welcomed Lincoln’s remains in Columbus on that cold and rainy day.

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This Wednesday, April 29, the Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board will re-create the memorial decoration that the state of Ohio installed in 1865. All Ohioans are invited to pay their respects to the 16th president of the United States, and are encouraged to bring fresh flowers to the Statehouse Rotunda. We can view a replica of his casket between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., and we can do this until May 4.

Abraham Lincoln, the first president ever assassinated, died on Good Friday, April 15, just two weeks after Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox. The truth is, Lincoln did not think he would live to see the end of the war. Many months earlier, Lincoln had said to Harriet Beecher Stowe: “ Whichever way the war ends, I have the impression that I shan’t last long after it’s over.” And he said this to his friend Owen Lovejoy: “This war is eating my life out; I have a strong impression that I shall not live to see the end.”

When Lincoln heard that the Confederates had abandoned Richmond, Va., on April 2, he said: “ Thank God I have lived to see this. It seems to me that I have been dreaming a horrid dream, and now the nightmare is gone. I want to see Richmond.”

So on April 4, Lincoln and his 12-year-old son, Tad, walked into Richmond, escorted by 10 Marines. Once recognized, he was fairly mobbed by thousands of newly freed blacks. One woman shouted: “I know that I am free for I have seen father Abraham and felt him.”

Some knelt before Lincoln, and he said to them: “Don’t kneel to me. That is not right. You must kneel to God only, and thank him for the liberty you will hereafter enjoy.”

The president was deeply moved by these events. He also took some satisfaction in sitting in Jefferson Davis’ chair in the Confederate White House only two days after Davis vacated it.

On April 9, Lee surrendered to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox, Va.

On April 11, revelers outside the White House demanded a short speech from Lincoln.

Instead of giving them a celebration of victory speech, Lincoln talked about reconstruction. He focused especially on Louisiana, where a new anti-slavery constitution had been passed and some 10,000 men had pledged their allegiance to the Union. Lincoln looked favorably on these developments, revealed how liberal his reconstruction policy would be, and also said he also hoped that newly freed blacks, either the educated or those who served in the military, would be allowed to vote.

John Wilkes Booth was in the audience, but he wasn’t cheering. He turned to a friend and said: “ Now by God, I’ll put him through. That is the last speech he will ever make.” And it was. Four days later Abraham Lincoln was dead.

On April 19, the funeral train left for Springfield. About a million Americans came out to pay their respects along the way, including thousands in Columbus. The grieving was heartfelt. Lincoln saved the Union, what he called “the last, best hope” of republican liberty. Even while waging an all-out war, he knew that the rebels were Americans and would be brought home. He once said: “I shall do nothing in malice. What I deal with is too vast for malicious dealing.”

This was a self-educated man, learned only in the Bible and Shakespeare. He was deeply thoughtful, spoke and wrote with grace and exceptional eloquence. His judgments were spot on and he inspired confidence and trust. When he signed the Emancipation Proclamation, he said, “My whole soul is in it.” The Second Inaugural, a meditation on the Divine will, sold briskly at every train depot and state house on the long way home.

The Lincoln biographer, Michael Burlingame, writes that the greatness of Lincoln’s character was the secret weapon in the Civil War. He had a kind of psychological maturity and honesty about him that is truly rare. He was full of moral clarity and unimpeachable integrity. Perhaps we should not wonder why more books have been written about Lincoln than any other person in history, save Christ.

The invitation to bring flowers to the Rotunda in memory of this great American is an opportunity for us to remind ourselves how and why Abraham Lincoln rendered himself worthy of our esteem.

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Peter W. Schramm is senior fellow at the Ashbrook Center.

ConstitutingAmerica.org – We The Future Contest

Our friends at Constituting America, A Republic for Which It Stands – Constituting America – “Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people.” John Adams, 1765, have an amazing website filled with resources and materials for students, teachers and citizens. One that has especially caught our eye is their We The Future Contest. This contest is for Patriots of all ages and lets you use your creativity to showcase your love for our great Nation. Check it out!

Also, check them out on Facebook!

 

American Controversies: Are Congress and the Courts Too Strong or Too Weak?

 

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Are the Courts and Congress Too Weak or Too Strong?

11 April’s webinar,  Are Congress and the Courts Too Strong or Too Weak? is now available for podcasting. You can also view the video archive on this page at TeachingAmericanHistory.org. You can also subscribe to the audio here.

Register Now for this Saturday’s “American Controversies” Webinar

Join teachers from across the country for our next web discussion this Saturday, April 11th at 11:00 AM EST. This month our topic of conversation is, Are Congress and the Courts Too Strong or Too Weak? Prof. Christopher Burkett will be moderating the discussion between Prof. Joseph Postell of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and Prof. Kevin Portteus of Hillsdale College.

Register Now

Gainesville Seminar in American History & Government

On Saturday, March 14th, the Ashbrook Center held another One Day Seminar in American History and Government in Gainesville, Florida with Dr. John Moser on the topic of the Origins of the Cold War.

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Participants discussed the complex relations between the Soviet Union and the United States that spanned a period of six decades. As one participant stated, “These two countries virtually held the world hostage as they jockeyed for position and tried to one up each other in the nuclear arms race.”

As Dr. Moser mentioned, “The Cold War extends far beyond the basic tenets of Capitalism versus Communism.” Lively discussion permeated the day and continued into the lunch hour as well. The first session “Wartime Alliance” focused on several wartime documents such as Roosevelt’s Message to Congress on the Atlantic Charter and Protocol of the Proceedings of the Crimea (Yalta) Conference. Session two explored “The Origins of Containment”, George Kennan writings on Soviet policy and the US response to the Soviet provocations. The third session focused on “the Practice of Containment” and post World War II policies. Participants discussed the effectiveness of Truman’s administrative policies, why did the US join NATO, the Marshall Plan and the division of Germany. The effects of the Cold War still resonate today and debate still continues over Truman’s decision to use the atomic bomb.

Happy Birthday, James Madison

James Madison, our fourth president, architect of the Constitution, and author of the Bill of Rights, was born today in 1751. In that spirit, we highlight two discussions of Madison and his spirit of civic compromise.

Professor Gordon Lloyd, Senior Fellow at the Ashbrook Center, and Dr. Jason C. Ross, Ashbrook’s Director of Programs, discuss Madison’s belief in the importance of conversation and civil discourse in the Wisconsin State-Journal.

Separately in the Columbus Dispatch, Dr. Ross further explores Madison’s philosophy as a means of engaging civic education in the classroom.

 

Saturday Webinar: Do American Principles Require American Interventionism?

Listen to the audio here.

14 March 2015′s American Controversies webinar focused on foreign policy, and how American principles impact the decision to get involved overseas, where, and how. Scholars David Tucker and Stephen Knott discussed examples from Washington’s administration to the Obama presidency,  unpacking events and decisions including the War of 1812, Indian Removal, the annexation of Florida, the Spanish-American War, and more recent interventions in the Balkans, Africa, and elsewhere. 80 teachers from across the country attended and posed excellent questions, digging at the issue of where principles and pragmatism meet – and either clash or complement one another.

You can access a video copy of this webinar, along with the core documents used by the scholars, on this TeachingAmericanHistory.org archive page.

Join us for next month’s American Controversies webinar, the guiding question behind which will be “Are Congress or the Courts Too Strong or Too Weak?

Ashbrook Weekend Colloquium in Colonial Williamsburg, VA

The Ashbrook Center hosted a group of teachers at Colonial Williamsburg this past weekend, to discuss the topic of slavery as it is related to the Constitution. Teachers from across the country – as far away as North Dakota – engaged in a discussion about how the treatment of slavery evolved during the Convention of 1787, how the 3/5 clause was added and where the number really came from, and how the Founders wrestled with slavery as an institution with political and economic aspects and impacts.

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Professor Gordon Lloyd led our discussions, helping participants dig deeply into a diverse collection of documents, including notes from individual states’ ratifying conventions in 1787 and 1788, as well as from the Philadelphia Williamsburg 2 2015.03Convention itself. Along with 9 hours of outstanding discussion, participants were given a guided tour of Colonial Williamsburg, led by a resident scholar in the history of slavery and African-Americans at the historic settlement, and viewed a dramatic presentation of the lives of three African-American women who lived in Williamsburg in the 18th, 19th, and 20th Centuries.

Following in Ancient Footsteps: The Hopewell in Ohio

Our friends at the Ohio Historical Society are pleased to present an exciting summer program for teachers. The Creative Learning Factory at the Ohio History Connection is inviting applications for a grant-funded Summer Scholars workshop studying the ancient American Hopewell culture in Ohio. The workshop will be run twice, July 12-17 and July 19-24, 2015. From a home base in Columbus, Ohio, we will visit the key sites of the Hopewell culture: Fort Ancient, Hopewell Culture National Historical Park, and the Newark Earthworks, which is being considered for nomination as a World Heritage Status site.

Summer Scholars will experience these sites with expert scholars who will bring the sites to life; and learn about archeological methodology and teaching historic sites from practicing archaeologists and site educators. The program is free for accepted applicants and includes a stipend to aid in covering travel and other expenses.

This program, part of the National Endowment for the Humanities’ Landmarks of American History and Culture teacher workshop series, is open to all teachers in US public, private, parochial, and charter schools, as well as American schools located abroad.

Applications are due March 2, 2015. For more information and application instructions, visit the program website at www.creativelearningfactoryhopewell.org

Announcing Spring Ashbrook Weekend Colloquia at Historic Sites for Teachers

We would like to invite you to apply for Ashbrook Weekend Colloquia on American History and Government at Historic Sites, where you will:

  • Visit historic sites
  • Experience Ashbrook’s unique discussion-based format
  • Engage in thoughtful conversation with other teachers, guided by a historian/political scientist
  • Explore primary source documents
  • Increase your expertise
  • Reignite your passion for your subject area
  • Take ideas back to your classroom that inspire your students
  • Earn up to 8 contact hours, with the option to earn 1 graduate credit
  • Receive a stipend of $425 to defray the cost of travel
  • Be treated to complimentary continental breakfast, lunch and refreshments

These colloquia are being provided by the Ashbrook Center at Ashland University.

Spring 2015 Ashbrook Weekend Colloquia at Historic Sites:

  • George Washington as Founder

April 24-26, 2015

Mt. Vernon, VA

  • First in Peace: George Washington as President of the United States, 1789-97

May 1-3, 2015

Mt. Vernon, VA

  • James Madison: Statesman for Constitutional Government

May 1-3, 2015

Montpelier, VA

  • The Pennsylvania Ratifying Convention

May 8-10, 2015

Philadelphia, PA

  • Thomas Jefferson

May 29-31, 2015

Charlottesville, VA

  • Abraham Lincoln’s Political Choices and the Necessity of Eloquence

May 29-31, 2015

Springfield, IL

Apply Now

We look forward to meeting you at one of our programs.

Please direct any questions to:

Michelle Murray

Programs & Development Coordinator

MMurray@ashbrook.org

(419) 289-5411

Denver Seminar on American History & Government

The Ashbrook Center and Denver Public Schools partnered on February 17th, 2015 to present two one-day seminars to teachers from DPS and surrounding districts. The session for middle school teachers focused on Abraham Lincoln and his plans for Reconstruction, while the high school session focused on the role of religion in three different eras of reform in American history.

Our discussion about Lincoln dwelled in part on the difficulty he faced in trying to win the war while simultaneously planning for what was eventually called Reconstruction – how does one wage a war for victory, without doing so in a manner that alienates the enemy population, preventing amicable relations in the future? Unlike foreign wars, the American Civil War presented political and military leaders with unique challenges, all of which Lincoln needed to consider as he sought a resolution to the conflict.

The role of religion in American history is significant, and arguably no more so than in a number of reform movements throughout our history. Both the abolition movement, and the greater debate over slavery, and the temperance movement were fueled by perspectives themselves rooted in issues of faith. Participants discussed the role of religion in personal and corporate decision-making, and its impact on policy over time.

Take a look at our upcoming programs in various states on our programs calendar, found here on TeachingAmericanHistory.org.

Saturday Webinar: Has the Age of Enlightened Administration Come?

You can listen to the audio right here, and access the archive page – with the video – here.

Today’s webinar consisted of a fascinating discussion of the idea of governmental administration, and the ability and role of government – especially at the federal level – in exercising regulatory power. Panelists discussed the definition of ‘administration’ itself, as well as the difference between political perspectives on problem-solving versus ‘expert’ or ‘technical’ perspectives on the same. Specific examples from the early 20th Century – Roosevelt’s involvement in the coal strike and federal engagement with railroads – were discussed in detail, as well as presidential administrations from the late 19th through the early 21st Centuries.

Aside from the discussion itself, this session included a great deal of description and background information on the functions and organization of the executive bureaucracy, with detailed definitions of the different types of agencies that exist within it, how they function in relation to the president, and how this status impacts their ability to execute policy and regulations.

Saturday Webinar Tomorrow!

You can still register for Ashbrook’s American Controversies webinar for this month by signing up here. This month’s topic is “Has the day of enlightened administration come?” As with all our webinars, this program is free, and if you complete a short survey at the end you will receive a certificate for 2 hours of continuing education time.

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