Week 12 Schedule:
Constitution as Culmination or Creation?


Monday (03/28)

No Meeting: Easter


Wednesday (03/30)

The Constitution as an Historical Problem

Before class: From the Outline of U.S. History chapter on The Formation of a National Government read from section 1: "State Constitutions" through section 6: "Ratification and the Bill of Rights." Read James Madison's letter on the Vices of the Political System of the U.S.
Then consider some leading historians' competing interpretive viewpoints about the motives and consequences of the Constitution. Start by reading the short article by Robert Livingston Schuyler, Forrest McDonald's Critique of the Beard Thesis," Journal of Southern History 27 (Feb. 1961), 73-80. As you read, carefully itemize the main points of Beard's controversial and influential position and of McDonald's rebuttal. Then read the short article Scalia Defends Originalism as Best Methodology for Judging Law on the U.Va. Law School site. Finally, read constitutional scholar Jack Rakove's brief book review essay American Ratification: The Great Experiment in Constitution-Making. You may optionally preview this Map of Ratification Votes by County.

Members of the Shamrock (Parker Cecil, Richard Hayes, Zack Kanter, Charles Morgan, Libby Robinson, Mike Sharpe) team will need to contribute comments. These summaries and reflections will be posted to the course discussion forum. Please refer to the discussion forum guidelines as needed before posting.

Before class, today's team members will want to reflect on the causes, actions, and results of the American constitution-making moment. (a) Why did the previous governing structure fail? To what were the primary motivations of the framers in moving toward a new constitution?
(b) What does the ratification process tell us about how the Constitution was seen by competing political leaders at the state and local level?
(c) Then consider the impact of the Constitution in your own life. Does America's national governing structure succeed in adequately representing you? In your own life are the agreements or disagreements over the meaning of the Constitution more significant? Consider how deeply Americans disagree about the 1st, 2d, 4th, 5th, 6th, 10th, 14th, and 16th amendments, (to name just a few)? Is the Constitution still relevant to you?


Friday (04/01)

Second Preliminary Exam

This examination will cover all material since the first preliminary exam, including the assigned Outline of U.S. History textbook subsections, all assigned scholarly articles, primary documents and biographies, and each chapter from the Clayton book on Las Casas, the Van der Donck New Netherland book, and Young's book on the Shoemaker and the Tea. You will be asked to examine at least one primary source and describe how you would go about understanding its content and placing it in historical context. Use the course themes and our working lists of top aspects in the period before 1800 to guide your studies. It will include short answer questions similar to the first exam, a primary document review, several two sentence response questions and at least one real world style application scenario.

Members of the All participants team will need to contribute comments. These summaries and reflections will be posted to the course discussion forum. Please refer to the discussion forum guidelines as needed before posting.

After the exam: post a comment about how the exam went for you. Share your best practices. Thinking about one or two questions that you felt most confident answering, explain how you knew the answer and what techniques you used to study it so effectively. For other things, what you do differently on the final? Make reference to the 8 tips for studying smarter as needed when describing either things that went well or things that could be approached differently.

Note: The instructor reserves the right to change any provisions, due dates, grading percentages, or any other items without prior notice. All assignments on this schedule are covered under the university's policy on plagiarism and academic integrity. See the syllabus statement for further details. This page was last updated on 03/10/2016.