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Documents in Detail: Bill of Rights

 

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Our Documents in Detail episode for 14 NOV 18 focused on the Bill of Rights: the politics behind its proposal and adoption; interpretations over time; and place in our history, government, and society. Among the many questions asked during the lively 58-minute program included those about James Madison and Alexander Hamilton, and why they initially did not support an enumeration of rights, but in Madison’s case, eventually went on to promote the legislation that led to the Bill of Rights. Also considered was the notion that to understand the Bill of Rights today, one must understand the original arguments against it.

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Documents in Detail: Brutus I

 

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The 24 OCT 18 episode of Documents in Detail took a look at Brutus I, one of the essential Antifederalist writings, dated 18 OCT 1787. The program opened with a question from the moderator about why it’s worth reading an argument for one of the “losers” of the ratification debate that waged from 1787-88. Most of the program dug into and drew conclusions and observations based on the root of Brutus’ argument, which was about his concerns over consolidation, and the creation of a single, large republic that would eventually trample the rights of individuals and would be distant and separate from the people it existed to represent.

We experienced a software glitch while recording this program, resulting in the last 12 minutes being muted. We are working to recover this block of audio, and will replace the current, incomplete audio file with the full one if we are able to do that.

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Documents in Detail: Madison’s Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787

 

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Today’s episode of Documents in Detail focused on excerpts from James Madison’s Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787 – the Constitutional Convention. James Madison was the only delegate to attend every day of the convention, and to take notes of all the proceedings, to include summaries of speeches and vote tallies throughout the proceedings. The Debates, published after his death, provide scholars, students, and those interested in American constitutional government an insider’s view of the process by which the Constitution was considered, debated, and eventually signed, and then released to the states for ratification.

An authoritative, contemporary edition of the Debates, edited and prefaced by Professor Gordon Lloyd, is available electronically and in print from Amazon.

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Documents in Detail: James Madison’s Memorial and Remonstrance

 

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James Madison authored a powerful defense of religious liberty while serving in the Virginia state government, arguing that there should be no tax collected to support any established – that is, state-supported – church or other religious group. Seen as one of the seminal discussions of the topic in American political thought and discourse, Madison’s multi-point argument expressed both the belief that the mind is free, and that no man’s conscience can be dictated by the state.

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And thanks to the U.S. Army Blues Band for providing their excellent music online for free use.

Documents in Detail: A Time for Choosing

 

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The last episode in TAH.org’s 2017-18 Documents in Detail webinar series, focused on Ronald Reagan’s 1964 “A Time for Choosing” speech. Often referred to as “The Speech,” is was a persuasive, articulate, and powerful endorsement of then-Republican presidential candidate Senator Barry Goldwater, and despite Goldwater’s loss that November, helped to propel Reagan to the forefront of national politics, keeping him in the public eye as he sought and won the governorship of California, went on to unsuccessfully challenge sitting Republican President Gerald Ford for his party’s nomination in 1976, and eventually win the presidency in 1980.

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Documents in Detail: MLK’s “I Have a Dream” Speech

 

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Today’s Documents in Detail webinar focused on Dr. Martin Luther King jr.’s “I Have a Dream Speech,” which was delivered on the heels of a Congressional filibuster that had been started to block civil rights legislation. With input from our two scholars and moderator, we explored the ideas expressed in the speech, language employed, reception and meaning of the seminal piece, and took a number of interesting questions from our teacher audience.

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Document in Detail: The Long Telegram

 

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Wednesday 21 March’s webinar focused on the Long Telegram, the famous George Kennan communique from Moscow in 1946, on which so much of American foreign policy after World War 2 was based. Scholars discussed the origins of the telegram, the context around events in Moscow and Washington in the year after the war, and why Kennan wrote it in the first place. They discussed how the U.S. government received the news from Kennan, as well as how Kennan framed and explained himself over time, even to the point of seemingly contradicting commonly-held views of the meaning of his point.

 

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Documents in Detail: FDR’s Commonwealth Club Address

 

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TeachingAmericanHistory.org’s Documents in Detail webinar for Wednesday, 21 FEB 2018 focused on FDR’s Commonwealth Club Address, seen as his closing argument to America late in the 1932 election campaign, and as the foundational document for understanding his policies and actions as president.

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Documents in Detail: Theodore Roosevelt’s New Nationalism speech

 

 

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TR’s New Nationalism speech was the focus on 24 January’s Documents in Detail webinar. The importance of the political context around the speech – trends in Republican politics, recent electoral results – were discussed, as well as the meaning of the location of TR’s speech. Roosevelt’s rhetoric and attempts to take hold of the ‘mantle of Lincoln’ in the speech were also discussed in detail. Also discussed were TR’s audience, and how his message and wording were tailored for them.

Questions included those about TR’s views of Woodrow Wilson’s presidency and the place of the Panama Canal in popular opinion, taken alongside this speech and its message.

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Documents in Detail: Gettysburg Address

 

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The last TAH.org Webinar for 2017 took place on December 13th, with a discussion of the Gettysburg Address. Drs. John Moser, Jon White, and Dan Monroe discussed the words and ideas in Lincoln’s most famous speech. The place of Gettysburg, as a site of national reconciliation, helped to solidify Lincoln’s words in American history and myth, was introduced as location of the famed, pivotal battle. Lincoln’s singular place in American history was also discussed, and when and how the words of the Gettysburg Address contributed, in the years close after his death, to his central position in our story.

The panelists also brought Lincoln’s response to the Dred Scott case, and other addresses and writings over time, into the discussion, demonstrating consistency by Lincoln on several key issues over time.

A books mentioned is Awaiting the Heavenly Country: The Civil War and America’s Culture of Death, by Mark Schantz, which delves into significant changes in American traditions related to death, burial, and memorial wrought by the Civil War.

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Documents in Detail: What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?

 

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15 November’s Documents in Detail webinar was about Frederick Douglass’s What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?, his oration delivered on 5 July 1862. There were some technical difficulties in the first minutes of the program, which resulted in one of the panelists being a few minutes late. Otherwise, it was an interesting discussion of the occasion on which Douglass spoke, his place as one of the leaders of the abolition movement in the 19th Century, and the importance of the ideas he expressed in the speech.

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Documents in Detail: Monroe Doctrine

 

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18 October’s Documents in Detail program focused on the Monroe Doctrine – that which gave rise to the politics that led to it, what it said and meant, and how it represented a growing sense of American identity in the world and a guide for relations with other countries at the time, throughout the rest of the 19th Century, and even to today.

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Documents in Detail: Federalist 51

 

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One of the most famous of The Federalist, number 51, penned by James Madison in February 1788, tackles the issue of how to build a system of government that is forced to check itself in order to prevent it from becoming tyrannical. Along with Federalist 51, the panelists discussed specific Antifederalist writings that addressed the same issue, bringing together an array of documents that orbit the same concerns.

About 30 minutes into this program, Dr. John Moser was dropped by the Webex system, and was able to rejoin a few minutes later. The panelists continued the discussion uninterrupted.

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Documents in Detail: Declaration of Independence

 

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The first Documents in Detail session for the 17-18 school year took place on 30 August 2017, with a discussion of the Declaration of Independence. Among the many topics and questions discussed were Jefferson’s idea of an “American Mind,” the issue of Jefferson’s authorship – which was no widely known for years after the document was written – and the many local declarations of independence, hundreds of which were written by towns, churches, and civic groups during the first half of 1776.

The panelists fielded questions about the choice of Jefferson as the primary author and the input and impact of other delegates to the Second Continental Congress, and pointed out that Jefferson’s use of Locke’s ideas and language acted as “18th Century hyperlinks,” which virtually any reader would recognize as important ideas, if not also as the works of John Locke. Also of interest was the discussion of the parts that were left out of the final, accepted draft and the first draft.

This program could work well with students as well as teachers and anyone interested in learning more about why the document was written, what it meant, and what it still means.

Books mentioned include Edmund Morgan’s American Freedom, American Slavery, Jay Fliegelman’s Declaring Independence: Jefferson, Natural Language, and the Culture of Performance, and Annette Gordon-Reed and Peter Onuf’s “Most Blessed of the Patriarchs”: Thomas Jefferson and the Empire of Imagination.

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Documents in Detail Webinar Archives

TAH.org has completed the pilot season of Documents in Detail, with five episodes now available in our archives. Teachers, students, and citizens from around the country have downloaded podcasts or watched the YouTube videos from these five episodes a combined total of over 1200 times since January. Consider looking back at this last season and listening to or watching some of the programs you missed, or even ones you attended. Think about how you could use the documents for each with your students. Many teachers from around the country are using archived webinars with their students, in some cases flipping their classrooms by having students read some of the documents and watch the programs themselves outside of class, reserving class time for Socratic discussions and other activities.

We will begin our 17-18 season of Documents in Detail on 30 August, with the Declaration of Independence.

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