January 10-16, 2021
New York, NY; EverScholar at Columbia
Join with your fellow scholars, Sunday to Saturday, in residence, to assess a world-changing event: the American Founding, in historical, legal, philosophical, political, and social perspectives. As the title also contemplates, the notion of subsequent “American Foundings,” and the notion that the Founding was a beginning, perhaps an unfinished one, will be central to the study. What was new? Where did it come from? What did it mean? How did it happen?
This is the story, in part, of the epic cast of characters that is at the heart of the American Founding. Washington, Hamilton, Franklin – the three greatest of the Big Six – are joined by Madison, Jefferson, and Adams. James Wilson, John Jay, Abigail Adams, James Otis, Thomas Hutchinson, John Marshall – a host of fascinating figures – will parade before us.
This course will locate the founding moment in a broader, wider slice of time than have most historians who have told the story of the Revolution. We will explore the period from 1760, through the Declaration and Revolution, through the early state constitutions, through the convention and the ratification, into the Washington presidency and the adoption of a bill of rights, the peaceful transfer of power from one party to another, and through the founding period to perhaps 1805.
Close readings of texts including the Federalist, Constitutional Convention and Ratification Conventions transcripts, British and other traditions, “big philosophy” from Locke and Montesquieu to Tocqueville, Paine, Emerson, and more, “smaller philosophy” from newspapers, congressional debates, and popular society, will all inform our discussion.
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