Syllabus

“Every word … decides a question between power & liberty.”
–James Madison, January 18, 1792

Books

  • Eric Foner, The Second Founding: How the Civil War and Reconstruction Remade the Constitution (New York: W.W. Norton, 2019)
  • John A. Garraty, ed., Quarrels That Have Shaped the Constitution (New York: Harper Perennial, 2009, rev. ed.)
  • Gordon S. Wood, Power and Liberty: Constitutionalism in the American Revolution (New York: Oxford, 2021)

 Additional Readings & Resources

  • Avalon Project at Yale Law School, various documents [WEB]
  • Saul Cornell, “Aristocracy Assailed: The Ideology of Backcountry Anti-Federalism,” Journal of American History76 (March 1990): 1148-1172. [JSTOR]
  • Founders Online, National Archives [WEB]
  • Nikole Hannah-Jones, ed. The 1619 Project, New York Times, August 19, 2019 [WEB]
  • Knowledge for Freedom (KFF) seminar, various text pages [WEB]
  • Walter LaFeber, “The Constitution and United States Foreign Policy: An Interpretation,” Journal of American History 74 (Dec. 1987): 695-717. [JSTOR]
  • Landmark Cases: Historic Supreme Court Decisions, C-SPAN [WEB]
  • Lincoln and War Powers, Lincoln’s Writings [WEB]
  • “Lincoln” movie guide, Emancipation Digital Classroom, House Divided Project [WEB]
  • Joseph Locke and Ben Wright, eds., American Yawp, 2020-21 ed. [WEB]
  • Matthew Pinsker, “After 1850: Reassessing the Impact of the Fugitive Slave Law,” in D.A. Pargas, Fugitive Slaves and Spaces of Freedom (2018), 93-115. [WEB]
  • Jennifer Schuessler, “The Complex History of the Women’s Suffrage Movement.” New York Times, August 15, 2019 [WEB]
  • Shall Not Be Denied: Women Fight for the Vote, Library of Congress [WEB]
  • David A. Strauss, “The Irrelevance of Constitutional Amendments.” Harvard Law Review 114 (March 2001): 1457-1505. [JSTOR]
  • US Constitution, National Archives [WEB]

First Essay  –1787 Constitution

On Monday, October 10, students will submit a 3-5 page typed, double-spaced essay on a topic about the formation of the 1787 Constitution provided to them in class on Thursday, October 6. All essays must use Gordon Wood, Power and Liberty (2021) properly cited with Chicago-style footnotes. Outside research is allowed but not required. Additional information will be available on the annotated assignment guidelines at the course site. Essays will be graded on depth of analysis, use of evidence, and quality of prose. Late essays will be penalized up to 5 points each day.

Second Essay –Second Founding

On Monday, October 31, students will submit a 3-5 page typed, double-spaced essay on the Reconstruction era constitutional amendments provided to them in class on the previous Thursday, October 27. All essays must use Eric Foner, Second Founding (2019), properly cited with Chicago-style footnotes.  Outside research is allowed but not required. Additional information will be available on the annotated assignment guidelines at the course site. Essays will be graded on depth of analysis, use of evidence, and quality of prose. Late essays will be penalized up to 5 points each day.

Final Project –Landmark Cases

By Friday, December 2, students will submit a 6- to 8-page narrative paper that analyzes a landmark case from the US Supreme Court (prior to 2001), one that helped reshape the meaning of the US Constitution.  Students should use the essays from John Garraty’s Quarrels That Have Shaped the Constitution (1987 ed.) as an inspiration for an approach that humanizes their topics. All essays should be typed and double-spaced as Word or PDF documents with title page and Chicago-style footnotes (no bibliography required).  Papers will receive provisional grades (based on research effort, analysis, and prose) that will be updated following submission of the final website project.

By Wednesday, December 14, students should transform their landmark case essays into a Weebly site.  Each website project should be designed as an online teaching exhibit, revised and improved from the originally submitted essay, but now focusing on using various multi-media tools to help further humanize the case while also bringing key historical insights to life for high school and college classrooms.  Students should especially strive to find ways to provide full-text access to relevant primary sources.  Each website should also include an array of properly credited and captioned images as well as at least one embedded short video (about 1 to 2 minutes) that brings to life a key passage from the court decision (including both majority and dissenting opinions where relevant). Additional information will be available on the annotated assignment guidelines at the course site. Projects will be graded on depth of analysis, research and design effort, and quality of prose. Late research submissions will be penalized 5 points per day.

Grade Distribution

Class Participation                              30 percent

First Essay (1787 Constitution)          20 percent

Second Essay (Second Founding)     20 percent

Final Project                                        30 percent

 

Day Date Discussion Topic Reading Assignment
Tuesday 8/30 Methods & Expectations
Thursday 9/1 The Constitutional Text Constitution (7,591 words) ( Archives)
 
Tuesday 9/6 Revolutionary Thinking Wood, Intro + chaps 1-2
Thursday 9/8 Critical Period Wood, chap 3 + Vices (Founders)
Tuesday 9/13 1787 Convention Wood, chap 4
Thursday 9/15 Judicial Review Wood, chap 6
Thursday 9/15 Constitution Day conversation with Pres. Jones & Dr. Rachel Shelden ATS, 7pm
Tuesday 9/20 Slavery and the Constitution Wood, chap 5 + Jones essay
Thursday 9/22 Convention debates Madison’s Notes (Avalon)
Tuesday 9/27 NO CLASS –ROSH HASHANAH
Thursday 9/29 Ratification debates Federalist Papers #10, #68, #78
Tuesday 10/4 Carlisle and America’s Future Wood, chap 7 + Cornell article
Thursday 10/6 Revolution of 1800 Yawp. chap 6
Monday 10/10 Constitutional essays due By 5pm
 
Tuesday 10/11 Sectionalism and the Constitution Foner, Intro + Pinsker essay
Thursday 10/13 Thirteenth Amendment Foner, chap 1 + Lincoln movie
 
Tuesday 10/18 NO CLASS –FALL PAUSE
Thursday 10/20 Fourteenth Amendment Foner, chap 2 + KFF (Reconstruction)
Tuesday 10/25 Feminism and the New Departure Yawp, chap 15 + KFF (Anthony)
Thursday 10/27 Fifteenth Amendment Foner, chap 3 + KFF (Reconstruction)
Monday 10/31 Second Founding essays due By 5pm
Tuesday 11/1 Nineteenth Amendment Schuessler article + LoC exhibit
Thursday 11/3 Questioning Amendments Strauss article
 
Tuesday 11/8 Marshall Court Garraty, pp 7-55
Thursday 11/10 Dred and Harriet Scott Case Garraty, pp 87-100 + KFF (Scott Case)
Tuesday 11/15 ZOOM: Civil Liberties in Wartime Garraty, 101-118 + Lincoln site
Thursday 11/17 ZOOM: Segregation and Jim Crow Garraty, 139-174
Tuesday 11/22 ZOOM: Progressives to New Dealers Garraty, pp 193-208, 233-252
Thursday 11/25 NO CLASS –THANKSGIVING
Tuesday 11/29 Presidential Power cases Garraty,pp 253-65 + LaFeber article
Thursday 12/1 Brown v Board of Education Garraty, pp 307-33 + CSPAN
Friday 12/2 Landmark Case essays due By 5pm
 
Tuesday 12/6 Roe v Wade Garraty, pp 351-79 + CSPAN
Thursday 12/8 Your Constitutional Text Draft Amendments
Wednesday 12/14 Final Projects due By 5pm

 

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