Course Syllabus

Books

  • Beeman, Richard. Plain, Honest Men: The Making of the American Constitution.  New York: Random House, 2010.
  • Foner, Eric.  The Second Founding: How the Civil War and Reconstruction Remade the Constitution. New York: W.W. Norton, 2019.
  • Engel, Jeffrey A., Peter Baker, Jon Meacham and Timothy Naftali. Impeachment: An American History. New York: Modern Library, 2018.

 

Articles & Websites

  • Amar, Akhil Reed. “How Women Won the Vote.” Wilson Quarterly(2005): 30-34 [JSTOR]
  • Arguing Over Slavery in Constitution. History 404. Dickinson College. 2015.  [WEB]
  • Civil War & Reconstruction Online Course. House Divided Project, 2013-20.  [WEB]
  • Cornell, Saul. “Aristocracy Assailed: The Ideology of Backcountry Anti-Federalism.” Journal of American History76 (March 1990): 1148-1172. [JSTOR]
  • Gilder Lehrman Institute. History Now:  Women’s Suffrage, essays by Judith Wellman and Ellen DuBois, 2006. [WEB]
  • Huebner, Timothy B. “Roger B. Taney and the Slavery Issue: Looking Before –and Beyond—Dred Scott.”  Journal of American History 97 (June 2010): 17-38 [JSTOR]
  • Klarman, Michael J. “How Brown Changed Race Relations: The Backlash Thesis.” Journal of American History 81 (June 1994): 81-118.[JSTOR]
  • LaFeber, Walter. “The Constitution and United States Foreign Policy: An Interpretation.” Journal of American History 74 (Dec. 1987): 695-717.[JSTOR]
  • Pinsker, Matthew. “Lincoln and War Powers,” Lincoln’s Writings, 2015. [WEB]
  • Schuessler, Jennifer. “The Complex History of the Women’s Suffrage Movement.” New York Times, August 15, 2019. [WEB]
  • Strauss, David A. “The Irrelevance of Constitutional Amendments.” Harvard Law Review 114 (March 2001): 1457-1505. [JSTOR]
  • van Kuilenburg, James. Bowers v. Hardwick. Dickinson College, 2019. [WEB]

Founder Essay

By Thursday, Feb. 27th, students will submit a 6 to 8 page biographical essay on a framer of the US Constitution.  Each essay should provide background on the figure (either one of the 55 delegates who attended the federal convention in Philadelphia, or an influential contemporary “founder” who did not –such as Thomas Jefferson or Elizabeth Powel), describe their position on key issues during the summer of 1787, and then assess his or her significance to the framing of the original text of the Constitution.  All essays should use a wide-ranging combination of high quality primary and secondary sources. All essays should be typed and double-spaced while including a title page with descriptive title and Chicago-style footnotes (no bibliography required).  In addition to the essay, students should also submit a custom-made TimelineJS on their chosen subject as an appendix.  Well-designed timelines can receive up to 5 extra-credit points.  Both essay and timeline link should be submitted by email to Prof. Pinsker.  Student work will be graded on research effort, depth of analysis and prose quality. Late essays will be penalized up to 5 points per day.

 

Amendment Essay

By FRIDAY APRIL 3 [REVISED], students will submit a 6 to 8 page narrative essay on an amendment to the US Constitution.  Each essay should provide background on the amendment (either one of the 27 ratified amendments or one of handful of others sent to the states but not ratified), describe the struggle for approval and ratification, and then assess the significance of this particular change to the constitutional text.  All essays should use a wide-ranging combination of high quality primary and secondary sources.  All essays should be typed and double-spaced while including a title page with descriptive title and Chicago-style footnotes (no bibliography required.  In addition to the written essay, students should also submit a custom-made Google Map on their chosen subject as an appendix.  Well-designed maps can receive up to 5 extra-credit points.  Both essay and map link should be submitted by email to Prof. Pinsker.  Student work will be graded on research effort, depth of analysis and prose quality.  Late essays will be penalized up to 5 points per day.

 

 

Landmark Case Essay

By Friday, April 24th, students will submit a 6 to 8 page analytical essay on a landmark constitutional case decision from the US Supreme Court.  Each essay should provide background on the case and its key participants (regarding any major decision from 1789 through 2000), describe the court’s judicial make-up and the text of its opinion(s), and assess the significance of this decision for constitutional interpretation.  All essays should use a wide-ranging combination of high quality primary and secondary sources.  All essays should be typed and double-spaced while including a title page with descriptive title and Chicago-style footnotes (no bibliography required.  In addition to the written essay, students should also submit a short video or podcast on their chosen subject as an appendix.  Well-produced videos or podcasts can receive up to 5 extra-credit points.  Both essay and map link should be submitted by email to Prof. Pinsker.  Student work will be graded on research effort, depth of analysis and prose quality.  Late essays will be penalized up to 5 points per day.

 

 

Final Project

By THURSDAY, May 7, students will submit a final website project on a key constitutional framer, amendment or landmark case from American history before 2001.  Students should build their websites in the free platform Weebly and design them with a classroom audience in mind, using an essential question to help organize their materials for teaching and learning purposes.  Students should try to build their web projects by revising one of their previously submitted essays.  All websites should include background, narrative and analytical content organized around at least three central web pages.  Text content should be cited using Chicago-style footnotes. The home page should include a brief abstract, an essential question which organizes the learning goals of the site and a brief “About the Author” section.    Public domain images should be captioned and credited.  Students should also attempt in incorporate into their site custom-made multi-media elements such as timelines, maps, videos or podcasts.  Students should submit their website URLs to Prof. Pinsker no later than 5pm on May 7th.  Student work will be graded on research effort, depth of analysis and prose quality.  Late projects will be penalized up to 5 points per day.

 

 

Grade Distribution

Class Participation                  20 percent

Founder Essay                       20 percent

Amendment Essay                 20 percent

Landmark Case Essay           20 percent

Final Project                            20 percent

 

Day Date Discussion Topic Reading Assignment
Tuesday 1/21 Methods & Expectations
Thursday 1/23 US Constitution:  Reading the Text US Constitution
PART 1  –1787 CONVENTION

 

Tuesday 1/28 Key Founders Beeman, chaps. 1-4
Thursday 1/30 Debating the Virginia Plan

Day-By-Day + Documents

Beeman, chaps. 5-8
Tuesday 2/4 Compromises at the Convention Beeman, chaps. 9-11
Thursday 2/6 Toward a First Draft  Beeman, chaps. 12-14
Thursday 2/6 REQUIRED LECTURE:  Ibram Kendi ATS, 7pm
Tuesday 2/11 Debating Slavery, Part 1 Beeman, chaps. 15-17
Thursday 2/13 Debating Slavery, Part 2 Arguing over Slavery
Tuesday 2/18 Toward September 17  // Who was Jacob Shallus?   Beeman, chaps. 18-19
Thursday 2/20 Ratification Beeman, ch. 20-21, Cornell article
 
Tuesday 2/25 Landmark Cases:  Dred Scott  // Roger Taney Huebner article + Civil War site
Thursday 2/27 NO CLASS // Founder Essay due By email at 5pm
PART 2 –SECOND FOUNDING

 

Tuesday 3/3 Toward Thirteenth Amendment // Lincoln movie & Emancipation site & Slavery By Another Name Foner, Preface, Intro, Chap. 1
Thursday 3/5 Toward Fourteenth Amendment Foner, chap. 2
 
Tuesday 3/10 SPRING RECESS
Thursday 3/12 SPRING RECESS
Tuesday 3/17 NO CLASS
Thursday 3/19 NO CLASS
Tuesday 3/24 Women’s Suffrage: Discussion 3-24-20

VIDEO:  Women in Civil War

Gilder essays (Dubois+ Wellman) + Amar article HANDOUT: Suffrage Timeline
Thursday 3/26 19th Amendment Centennial: Discussion 3-26-20

VIDEO:  19th Amendment

Schuessler article
Tuesday 3/31 Landmark Cases: Brown v. Board Klarman article + American Yawp, chap. 26
Thursday 4/2 Landmark Cases: Gay Rights van Kuilenberg site + American Yawp, chap. 29
Friday 4/3 Amendment essay due By 5pm via email
Part 3 –PRESIDENTIAL POWER

 

Tuesday 4/7 Limits of Presidential Power Engle, pp. 3-45, Lincoln & War Powers
Thursday 4/9 Impeachment:  Andrew Johnson Meacham, pp. 47-81
 
Tuesday 4/14 Richard Nixon and Watergate Naftali, pp. 83-115
Thursday 4/16 Richard Nixon and Watergate Naftali, pp. 115-153
Tuesday 4/21 Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky Baker, pp.155-204
Thursday 4/23 Trump and His Enemies in Context Engle, pp. 205-223, LaFeber article
Friday 4/24 Landmark Case Essay due By email at 5pm
 
Tuesday 4/28 Amending Our Constitution Strauss article
Thursday 4/30 Lessons & Legacies  
THURSDAY 5/7 Final Projects due 5pm

 

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