We the Teachers

Session 10: The Federalist Papers – The Sum of Power and the Separation of Powers

Dr. Lucas Morel:  

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Focus

What is “delicate” about the two questions raised at the end ofFederalist 43? “The time has been when it was incumbent on us all to veil the ideas which this paragraph exhibits. The scene is now changed, and with it, the part which the same motives dictate.” What does Publius mean by this last sentence in the penultimate paragraph of 43? What articles and clauses of the Constitution are discussed in 43 and 44? How, in Federalist 43, does Publius defend the Convention’s proposal to supersede the Confederation “without the unanimous consent of the parties to it”?
Why, in the American representative republic, should the people “indulge all their jealousy and exhaust all their precautions” against the legislative branch? What are Publius’ criticisms of Thomas Jefferson’s suggestions for maintaining the separation of powers? Why does Publius think that it is necessary to have the “prejudices of the community” on the side of even the most rational government?  What kinds of prejudices is he thinking of? “[I]t is the reason of the public alone that ought to controul and regulate the government. The passions ought to be controuled and regulated by the government.” How does Publius reconcile this principle with the republican principle that government “derives all its powers directly or indirectly from…the people”? Why would “an extinction of parties necessarily [imply] either a universal alarm for the public safety, or an absolute extinction of liberty”? What is the principle of separation of powers? What is the greatest threat in the American republic to separation of powers, and why is this the greatest threat?
Readings

The Constitutional Convention as a Four-Act Drama: Act 1

 

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This course consists of four session, each rooted in a video presentation by Dr. Lloyd in front of a teacher audience, focused on a specific topic and drawing from a selection of relevant documents.
Each session’s post includes a list of Scenes within the given Act, with dates listed within each Scene – this helps expand on the metaphor of the Constitutional Convention as a drama. Most every day includes a link to information about what happened on that day, mostly drawn from Madison’s Debates, the most comprehensive and accurate record of the Convention.
As you watch the video for each session, take notes on Dr. Lloyd’s insights about the Convention, the contributions of different delegates, topics discussed, and decisions made. Then expand on your notes by going through the different documents linked from the post. This way, you’ll learn directly from Dr. Lloyd, and you’ll clearly see where his ideas are found in the documents.
Scene 1: Prologue
  • May 14 Constitutional Convention lacks necessary quorum
  • May 21 Connecticut selects three delegates (William Johnson, Roger Sherman, and Oliver Ellsworth)
  • May 25 Constitutional Convention meets quorum requirement
  • May 28 Committee on Rules Reports rules for Convention
Scene 2: The 15 Resolutions of the Virginia Plan
  • May 29 Virginia Plan introduced and defended by Edmund Randolph
Scene 3: First Discussion of the Virginia Plan
  • May 30 Resolution 1 amended
  • May 31 Resolutions 2 – 6 discussed and 5a defeated
  • June 1 Debated and postponed Resolution 7 on the Presidency
  • June 2 Further lengthy deliberation of Resolution 7
  • June 4 Council of Revision clause of Resolution 8 postponed
  • June 5 Consideration of Resolutions 9 – 15
Scene 4: Madison-Sherman Exchange
  • June 6 Are people “more happy in small than large States?” Should Resolution 4a be adopted?
Scene 5: Second Discussion of the Virginia Plan
  • June 7 How to fill “the chasm” created by defeat of Resolution 5a
  • June 8 Resolution 6 and the negative on State laws
  • June 9 Reconsideration of Resolution 7
Scene 6: The 19 Resolutions of the Amended Virginia Plan
  • June 11 Popular representation in both branches? Sherman’s compromise
  • June 12 The specifics of representation
  • June 13 Virginia Plan amended
Scene 7: The 9 Resolutions of the New Jersey Plan Discussed
  • June 14 John Dickinson to Madison: “you see the consequences of pushing things too far.”
  • June 15 New Jersey Plan introduced
  • June 16 The plan is “legal” and “practical”
Scene 8: The 11 Resolutions of Hamilton’s Plan Presented
  • June 18 Neither the Virginia Plan nor the New Jersey Plan is adequate to secure “good government”
Scene 9: Decision Day: Adoption of the Amended Virginia Plan
  • June 19 New Jersey Plan rejected (3 – 7 – 1)

Session 9: The Proposed Constitution of 1787 and Its Defense in The Federalist Papers

Dr. Chris Flannery:  

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Focus
What is the structure of the argument of The Federalist? What improvements in “the science of politics” did Publius think necessary to make the republican form of government defensible? What isFederalist 10’s republican remedy for the problem of faction? What are the defects of the Confederation, according to Publius? Why is there “an absolute necessity for an entire change in the first principles of the system”? What “inducements to candor” and to the “spirit of moderation” does Publius present in Federalist 37-38? What were the difficulties “inherent in the very nature of the undertaking referred to the [constitutional] Convention”? What are (some of) the ingredients of republican government? Of good government? How is the proposed government both federal and national according to Publius in Federalist 39? How, in Federalist40, does Publius answer the question of “how far the conventions were authorized to propose such a government”?
Readings

Session 8: The Constitution and American Self-Government

Dr. Lucas Morel:  

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Focus

How does the Constitution work? How do constitutional means produce constitutional ends? How do the principles of the regime work their way into the mechanisms of the federal government? What role does public opinion play in constitutional self-government?

Saturday Webinar: George Washington

 

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We kicked off the 2015-16 season of TAH.org’s Saturday Webinars with George Washington, father of our country, and a discussion of his person, times, and the challenges America faced in its first years as a republic. Read the documents and view a YouTube archive of the discussion – attended by over 100 teachers right here.

Session 7: The Constitutional Convention pt3 – The Committee of Detail Report and the Close of the Convention

Prof. Gordon Lloyd:  

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Focus

Who was elected to the Committee of Detail and what has been their position so far with respect to the republican and federal issues? How does the Committee on Detail Report differ from the original and amended Virginia Plans and what significant recommendations did it make? Who was elected to the Slave Trade Committee and what had they said about slavery up to that point? How did the slavery provisions undergo changes during the deliberations?

The Bill of Rights: A Comprehensive Course

TeachingAmericanHistory.org’s Dr. Gordon Lloyd, author of the Online Exhibits on the American Founding, is the presenter of six one-hour lectures on the Bill of Rights, from its historical roots to ratification. TAH.org now offers these lectures, and associated primary documents, as an iTunes U course, which you can access here. You’ll need an iOS device to experience the interface as it’s been designed; however, you can access the videos and all of Dr. Lloyd’s online content at the Bill of Rights exhibit on TAH.org.

Religious Liberty and the American Founding

 

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George Washington’s Letter to the Hebrew Congregation in Newport, RI is perhaps the best expression of the spirit of religious liberty that shaped the new American republic.  August of 2015 is the 225th anniversary of its composition, and our webinar on 22 AUG was in celebration of this important moment in American history.

In addition to Washington’s letter, scholars and teachers discussed Madison’s “Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments” and the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom.  All three documents may be found in 50 Core American Documents: Required Reading for Students, Teachers and Citizens.

For the story behind the letter and additional information about it, please visit the web site of the George Washington Institute for Religious Freedom.

Session 6: The Constitutional Convention pt2 – The Connecticut Compromise

Prof. Gordon Lloyd:  

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Focus

What accounts for the persistence of the New Jersey Plan supporters despite their defeat earlier? What are the arguments against the “legality” and “practicality” of the Amended Virginia Plan? When and how did the Connecticut Compromise emerge as a viable alternative? How did the “partly national, partly federal” concept enter the discussion? Why did Madison argue that the issue facing the delegates was not small states vs. large states but the slavery question? What is the significance of who was elected to the Gerry Committee? Who changed their minds and why during this month long discussion over representation? Who favored and who opposed the Connecticut Compromise? What else, besides the representation issue, was discussed during this part of the Convention?

Session 5: The Constitutional Convention, pt1 – The Alternative Plans

Lecture, Prof. Gordon Lloyd:  

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Focus

Of what significance were the rules adopted by the Convention? In what respects did the Virginia Plan represent a new constitution rather than a mere revision of the Articles? What were delegates’ initial reactions and questions concerning the Virginia Plan? What parts of the Plan were rejected or amended? What did the delegates mean when they spoke of a national government as opposed to a federal government? What different principles animate the New Jersey and Virginia Plans and the Hamilton Proposal? Why were they even introduced? What are the arguments for representation of the states, as opposed to the people, in the federal government? Consider the discussions of the executive power, bicameralism, and the role of the judiciary in the context of “republican principles.” What do “republican principles” say about the sources of power, the powers, and the structure of the federal government? Is Madison’s extended republic argument a departure from republican principles?

Session 4: The Revolutionary Era

Lecture, Dr. David Hackett Fischer:  

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Focus

How did the American colonists define liberty and freedom as they sought to secure their independence from mother England? During the Revolutionary War, what difficulties did the Americans face in fighting for liberty while maintaining the supremacy of civilian over military authority?
Readings
  • Fischer, Washington’s Crossing

Session 3: The American Mind, Part 2

Lecture, Dr. Lucas Morel:  

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Focus

The political logic of the argument of the Declaration, continued: Further reflections on the course of human events, people, the laws of nature and of nature’s God, decent respect for the opinions of mankind, self evident truths, equality, rights, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, consent, prudence, the ends of government, the right to abolish government and institute new government, facts submitted to a candid world, sacred honor, and more.

The 15th Amendment: Providing the Vote

 

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On 21 July, NCSS and TAH.org hosted the last of three episodes in their joint Summer Webinar Series about the Reconstruction amendments. Professor Scott Yenor discussed with a group of teachers the reasoning behind the 15th Amendment, different ideas about how to achieve its goal, and the resulting impact of access to the vote – real or imagined – by African-Americans over time. You can download a copy of the slideshow here, and the reading packet for the entire series here.

Session 2: The American Mind, Part 1

Lecture, Dr. Chris Flannery:  

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Focus

Thomas Jefferson wrote that in drafting the Declaration of Independence he meant to give expression to “the American mind.” What does the Declaration tell us about the American mind as it related to the foundations, forms, and purposes of the newly sovereign United States? What is the political logic of the argument of the Declaration? What is the philosophical and historical heritage on which the Declaration draws? Reflections on the course of human events, people, the laws of nature and of nature’s God, decent respect for the opinions of mankind, self evident truths, equality, rights, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, consent, prudence, the ends of government, the right to abolish government and institute new government, facts submitted to a candid world, sacred honor, and more.
Readings

Session 1: Intro and the “Apple of Gold”: – The Centrality of the Declaration of Independence in American Political Life

Introduction, Dr. Peter Schramm:  

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Part 1, Dr. Chris Flannery:  

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Part 2: Dr. Lucas Morel:  

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Focus

Why is it important to understand the Declaration of Independence? What does the Declaration say, and why and how does it say it? What does the Declaration not say, and why and how does it not say it? What is the significance of Jefferson’s draft of the Declaration? What does the Declaration mean, and what does the Declaration not mean?

50 Documents That Tell America’s Story

Required reading for students, teachers, and citizens.

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