“Dickinson Coledge will be a Choice nursery for Federal officers and rulers.” –William Petrikin, 1788

Required Books (College Bookstore or Library Reserve)

  • Beeman, Richard R. Plain, Honest Men.  New York: Random House 2010.

Journal Articles (JSTOR unless otherwise noted)

  • Amar, Akhil Reed. “How Women Won the Vote.” Wilson Quarterly (Summer 2005): 30-34.
  • Balkin, Jack M. and Sanford Levinson, “The Dangerous Thirteenth Amendment.” Columbia Law Review 112 (Nov. 2012): 1459-99.
  • Bosco, David. “Moral Principle vs. Military Necessity.” The American Scholar 77 (Winter 2008): 25-34.
  • Carson, Clayborne. “Two Cheers for Brown v. Board of Education.” Journal of American History 92 (June 2004): 26-31.
  • Cornell, Saul. “Aristocracy Assailed: The Ideology of Backcountry Anti-Federalism.” Journal of American History 76 (March 1990): 1148-1172.
  • Epps, Garrett. “The Antebellum Political Background of the Fourteenth Amendment.” Law and Contemporary Problems 67 (Summer 2004): 175-211.
  • Farber, Daniel A. “Completing the Work of the Framers: Lincoln’s Constitutional Legacy.” Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association 27 (Winter 2006): 1-12. [JALA]
  • Finkelman, Paul. “Story Telling on the Supreme Court: Prigg v. Pennsylvania and Justice
  • Joseph Story’s Judicial Nationalism.” Supreme Court Review (1994): 247-94.
  • Garrow, David J. “Privacy and the American Constitution.” Social Research 68 (Spring 2001): 55-82.
  • 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 [EBSCO]
  • Keyssar, Alexander, “Shoring Up the Right to Vote for President: A Modest Proposal.”Political Science Quarterly 118 (Summer 2003): 181-203.
  • Klarman, Michael J. “How Brown Changed Race Relations: The Backlash Thesis.” Journal of American History 81 (June 1994): 81-118.
  • LaFeber, Walter. “The Constitution and United States Foreign Policy: An Interpretation.” Journal of American History 74 (Dec. 1987): 695-717.
  • Leuchtenberg, William E. “The Origins of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s ‘Court-Packing’ Plan.” Supreme Court Review (1966): 347-400.
  • McCraw, Thomas K. “Louis D. Brandeis Reappraised.” American Scholar (1985): 525-36.
  • Pinsker, Matthew. “Lincoln and War Powers,” Lincoln’s Writings: The Multi-Media Edition. [WEB]
  • Pinsker, Matthew. “Did the End of War Mean the End of Slavery?” Smithsonian: What ItMeans To Be American, April 14, 2015, [WEB]
  • Pye, A. Kenneth. “The Warren Court and Criminal Procedure.” Michigan Law Review 67 (Dec. 1968): 249-268.
  • Strauss, David A. “The Irrelevance of Constitutional Amendments.” Harvard Law Review 114 (March 2001): 1457-1505.
  • Tushnet, Mark. “Some Legacies of ‘Brown v. Board of Education.’” Virginia Law Review 90 (Oct. 2004): 1693-1720.

Course Policies

For details on course policies, especially including those regarding attendance, participation, accommodations for disabilities, plagiarism and general learning objectives, please consult the course website:

Constitution Exhibit

By Friday, October 16, students are required to post a short multi-media exhibit on the framing of the US Constitution that draws upon Beeman’s Plain, Honest Men at its principal secondary source. The goal of each exhibit should be to translate some important theme or episode from Beeman’s work into a teachable resource for a typical high school or undergraduate classroom. Students should embed their exhibits in a blog post at the course website and may use any suitable multi-media platform, such as Prezi, Storify, WordPress, YouTube, or Google Maps. Ideas and models for such exhibits will be discussed in class. Late exhibits will be penalized 5 points per day.

Supreme Court Case Post

By MONDAY, NOVEMBER 9 (REVISED DATE), students are required to post a short case summary (1,200 words or less) of a major historic Supreme Court opinion issued between 1835 and 1986. These posts should be designed to help teachers and students who want to learn more about pivotal cases. They should include an array of links to supporting (and freely available) resources –especially primary sources such as the opinions of the court or news coverage of the case. All good summaries will abstract the case, explain its significance, and provide some key contextual details, such as information about justices of the court, attorneys, and (most important) the litigants themselves. Each summary should also provide a concise guide to further reading, which would help users assess the best secondary source material available for the subject.

Research Journal

Students are required to keep a research journal online for their final paper that includes at least five entries: (1) General constitutional reflections (2) Topic proposal (3) Secondary source literature review (4) Primary source finding aid and (5) Research Questions. Details on how to construct each post will be available at the course website and discussed in class. There is no minimum length or rigid format expectation, but each post should provide a clear snapshot of the student’s research process undertaken for the final paper. The posts should also be written with the expectation that they might eventually be shared with other students. The first post is due by Oct. 2; the next two posts (proposal and secondary source review) are due by Nov. 24. The remaining required posts (primary sources and research questions) are due by Dec. 7. Late journal entries will be penalized 5 points per day.

Final Papers

By Thursday, Dec. 17, students must submit a 20-25 page narrative paper that analyzes a significant moment of constitutional change after 1787. Topics might include accounts of constitutional amendments, landmark Supreme Court cases, or major battles over the separation of powers. Each paper should be typed, double-spaced with a descriptive title and cover page, Chicago-style footnotes, and a bibliography. Appendixes, including tables, charts or other forms of data visualization, are encouraged but not required. Good papers will demonstrate extensive research into primary and secondary sources, a clear understanding of how to write effective chronological narrative, and a thoughtful analysis rooted in the principles of historical inquiry. Late papers will be penalized 5 points per day.

Grade Distribution

Class Participation                  25 percent

Constitution Exhibit                20 percent

Supreme Court post                20 percent

Research Journal                    10 percent

Final Paper                              25 percent


Day Date Discussion Topic Reading Assignment
Tuesday 9/1 Methods & Expectations
Thursday 9/3 Constitution 2.0 Wikipedia entry and post
Part 1 Founding Constitution
Tuesday 9/8 The 1780s Beeman, chapters 1-2
Thursday 9/10 Convention Begins Beeman, chapters 3-4
Tuesday 9/15 NO CLASS
Thursday 9/17 Virginia and New Jersey Plans Beeman, chapters 5-8
Tuesday 9/22 Compromise Beeman, chs 9-11
Thursday 9/24 Drafting the Constitution Beeman, chs 12-17
Tuesday 9/29 Decisions Beeman, chs 18-19Constitution // Founders’ Constitution
Thursday 10/1 Ratification Beeman, chs 20-21Cornell article
Friday 10/2 Reflections post (Research Journal) due 5pm, course website
Part 2 Reconstructed Constitution
Tuesday 10/6 Slavery and Law: Prigg Finkelman article
Thursday 10/8 Slavery and Law: Dred Scott Huebner article
Friday 10/9 Field trip:   Philadelphia
Tuesday 10/13 A. Lincoln, Re-Framer Farber article
Thursday 10/15 Lieber and the Laws of War Bosco article and Pinsker exhibit
Friday 10/16 Constitutional exhibit due 5pm, course website
Tuesday 10/20 FALL PAUSE
Thursday 10/22 Thirteenth Amendment Balkin Levinson article & Pinsker essay
Tuesday 10/27 Legacies of Fourteenth Amendment Epps article
Thursday 10/29 Voting Rights and Fifteenth Amendment Keyssar article
Part 3   Modern Constitution
Tuesday 11/3 Woman’s Suffrage Amar article
Thursday 11/5 Progressive Reforms McCraw article
Monday 11/9 Supreme Court post due 9am, course website
Tuesday 11/10 National Security Constitution LaFeber article
Thursday 11/12 New Deal Constitution Leuchtenberg article
Tuesday 11/17 Brown v. Board of Education Carson, Klarman and Tushnet articles
Thursday 11/19 Warren Court & Criminal Procedure Pye article
Tuesday 11/24 NO CLASS // Proposal & Secondary source post due 5pm, course website
Thursday 11/26 THANKSGIVING
Tuesday 12/1 Privacy Garrow article
Thursday 12/3 Amendments Strauss article
Monday 12/7 Final research journal posts due 5pm, course website
Tuesday 12/8 Obama v. Roberts Op-Eds:  On war powers (Pinsker v. Ackerman) // On judicial review (Rosen v. Posner)
Thursday 12/10 Lessons & Legacies
Thursday 12/17 Final Papers due 5pm, via email