Monthly Archives: November 2014

Securing Wisdom & Virtue in Government One-Day Seminar in Ft. Lauderdale, FL

Florida Atlantic University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida hosted the Ashbrook Center Seminar on the Federalist Papers last Saturday, November 14th, 2014. The esteemed Prof. David Foster provided his scholarly knowledge to local high school teachers who joined us for the day.

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The Federalist Papers are considered some of Americas most important documents as written by James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay. They are complex and often difficult for a student (and adult) to comprehend, however, local teachers came together and discussed some of the basic ideas of the Federalist Papers. What is virtue, or energy and how are these concepts necessary to good governance? Madison and Hamilton acknowledge the vices of human nature such as factions and passions as well and wrote about the mechanisms needed to keep those elements in check.

Teachers enjoyed profound conversations and discussed not only the intent of Framers when writing these Papers, but also their relevance today. Participants discussed at length Federalist 57 with particular attention to, “I answer, the genius of the whole system, the nature of manly spirit which actuates the people of America, a spirit which nourishes freedom, and in return is nourished by it.” What does “manly spirit” mean and how does it nourish freedom?

Laurie M. from Weston stated “this seminar helped me to better focus my understanding and appreciation of the Federalist Papers.  I am energized by new and different (and much more interesting) ways to use the Federalist Papers in my classroom.”

Perhaps you would like to ponder these great texts yourself. Please visit the selected reading below to experience the writings of James Madison and Alexander Hamilton.

Session 1 – The House of Representatives:

Session 2 – The Senate

Session 3 – The Executive and the Judiciary

Reconstruction One-Day Seminar in Denver, CO

Last weekend ten teachers from around Colorado took part in a discussion about Reconstruction, led by Professor Scott Yenor of Boise State University. The three sessions and documents chosen for each helped participants focus on the justifications used by the South to account for secession fully understand the challenges that Lincoln and the country faced in trying to re-unite the country after the war.

Of particular interest during the discussion was the problem of self-government in the South: as a cornerstone of the American system, how could it be ensured if it meant that it would enable those states to undercut the goals of Reconstruction? Participants also unpacked and discussed in detail, through selected documents, the practical challenge of determining criteria for readmission to the Union for individuals and states, and the conciliatory tone struck by Lincoln’s original plans for Reconstruction.

Overall, we came away with a much greater appreciation for just how difficult was the challenge Lincoln faced in trying to win the war, and win it in a way that would enable him to rebuild the country – politically, economically, and socially.

To view a selection of readings discussed at this one-day seminar, please visit the links below –

Early Reconstruction and Union:

Reconstruction During the War:

Reconstruction at the End of the War:

Our John Adams Colloquium in Boston, Massachusetts

To end October, the Ashbrook Center hosted a group of American history and government teachers from around the country for a colloquium on John Adams.

Participants were able to explore the Adams National Historical Park in Quincy, Massachusetts, touring the home in which John Adams was born (in 1735); the home into which he moved as a young man with his wife Abigail (and in which John Quincy Adams was born); and the Old House at Peacefield into which John and Abigail moved in 1788 – and which was the home to four generations of the Adams family.

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We also had the chance to dig deeply into the life, ideas, and legacy of America’s second president. And while the second president cannot claim to have been “first in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of his countrymen,” perhaps Adams is justified in claiming to have been America’s first or primary advocate for independence from Britain.

Participants got to know the young John Adams, who preferred to be tilling fields than attending class under an uninspiring teacher, but who flourished when he found a teacher who challenged and encouraged him. We traced his career as a lawyer and explored his incendiary response to the Stamp Act, the (forbiddingly titled, but provocative) “Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law”. In this, Adams warned his fellow citizens not to permit the British empire to encroach further on their liberties, and claimed, “The true source of our sufferings has been our timidity.”

We explored his “Thoughts on Government” and the Constitution of Massachusetts, of which Adams was the lead author. The Massachusetts Constitution has the honor of being the world’s oldest continuously operating constitution, and participants were surprised to learn how much the Philadelphia Convention of 1787 drew from this source.

Throughout the weekend, though, conversation kept coming back to the question of why Adams has not received the credit that other leading American Founders have. Some participants concluded that Adams was simply overshadowed by the aristocratic Virginians, who were born and bred into positions of authority. Others thought that Adams, a product of Puritan New England, was simply too critical of democracy and too demanding of civic virtue to be warmly embraced by modern Americans. In any event, participants enjoyed exploring Adams’s life and legacy.

“The Revolution of 1800” One-Day Seminar in Jacksonville, Florida

This past Saturday, November 1st, the University of North Florida in Jacksonville hosted the Ashbrook Center’s latest seminar “The Revolution of 1800” with Professor Michael Schwarz as lead scholar. Florida educators arrived from around the state and engaged in conversations about Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton’s politics of the 1790’s. It was a tumultuous and oft forgotten decade of American politics for the tender and fledgling nation.

Through the use of primary sources, educators discussed the rise of political parties, questioned the motives of Hamilton and Jefferson, and pondered the political balance between national, federal and state roles in this developing new nation. How much power did Hamilton expect to grant to the national government with the “Necessary and Proper Clause”? What recourse and options did states have and what did Jefferson and Madison intend when they wrote the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions? Participants enjoyed a day of thoughtful conversations with documents that still have relevance in today’s current political debates regarding States versus National power.

To view a selection of readings discussed at this one-day seminar, please visit the links below:

 

“The American Founding” One-Day Seminar in Charlotte, North Carolina

Historic downtown Charlotte, North Carolina provided the venue of another great Ashbrook Center Seminar on Saturday, October 25th on the topic of “America’s Founding”.  Teachers explored the evolution from American Colonies, Independence,  The Articles of Confederation and the Constitution as written by Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, John Dickenson and Abraham Lincoln.

Seventy-five percent of the teachers in attendance were new to an Ashbrook Center Seminar and stated that they could utilize the documents and discussions in their classrooms.  The conversations between educators and the scholar provided insight on the difficult topics such as universal and natural rights, slavery, and structure of good government.

A lively discussion ensued over the recent academia shift from calling this critical war the American Revolution to the new term War for American Independence.   Was it so Revolutionary or merely a continuation of a British model?  Would you agree or disagree?  The Ashbrook Center would like to see you take part in such a thought provoking dialogue.

To view a selection of the readings that provoked these conversations please follow the links below.

 

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