H301, Founding of the American Republic: Syllabus, 2014

Syllabus, H301: Founding of the American Republic

Spring 2014

Instructor: Brad Birzer

email: bbirzer@hillsdale.edu

Office: Delp 403; Office hours: TBA

Classes Meet: Lane 333, Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, 10-10:50AM

A standing military force, with an overgrown Executive will not long be safe companions to liberty. The means of defense against foreign danger, have always been the instruments of tyranny at home. Among the Romans it was a standing maxim to excite a war, whenever a revolt was apprehended. . . . armies kept up under the pretext of defending have enslaved the people.–James Madison, June 29, 1787, debate at the Constitutional Convention, Philadelphia.

Required Readings

  • Edmund Morgan, Birth of the Republic (3d or 4th edition is fine—kindle or tangible)
  • Multiple Documents: You can most of the documents, in several formats, at the Online Library of Liberty (http://oll.libertyfund.org).
  • Handouts, timelines, quotes, and misc. items.
  • Notices, additional documents, etc. for class at: https://stormfields.wordpress.com.  See below for list of documents to use.


  • Semester-long Research Paper: 30%
  • Midterm Examination: 30%
  • Final Examination: 40%

Research Paper

Worth 30% of your grade, your research paper can cover any topic—biography, expedition, settlement, military battle or campaign, Congress, administration, idea(s), debate, etc.—between 1754 and 1807.  Final paper, due to me no later than April 4, 2014, 5pm.  The paper should be 10-12 pages in normal 12-point font (Cambria, Times, etc.), double spaced, footnoted, and with 1 inches margins on the top, bottom, and sides.  For footnote format, please use either Turabian or Chicago Manual of Style formats.  I encourage you to own a (real; tangible—not just e-version) of a good dictionary and thesaurus.  As to computer programs/apps, I suggest Endnote as the best for bibliographical reference and formatting, and Scrivener as the best writing program.  Our library possesses excellent primary document collections, on the shelves as well as online.  While I do not mind you using secondary sources, I would encourage you strongly to use as many primary sources as possible.  Frankly, it is very difficult to find satisfactory secondary sources on almost any aspect of the founding, as almost every author comes at the topic with some agenda.  Every writer (especially American writers)—left, right, above, below, next to—desires to co-opt and use the founders for personal goals.  Hence, the desire to teach and learn almost exclusively from primary documents.

Laptops and other electronic note taking devices

You’re more than welcome to use a laptop or equivalent to take notes during class.  Please, however, do not turn on the wireless or anything to connect to the world outside of this classroom!  Thank you.

Documents to read before midterm: 

  • John Adams, Dissertation on Feudal and Canon Law
  • Cato’s Letters: 15, 17, 18, 25, 27, 31, 35, 42, 59, 62, 66, 84, 94, 106, 114, 115
  • Thomas Gordon, “A Discourse of Standing Armies”
  • Demophilus, “The Genuine Principles of the Ancient Saxon, or English Constitution”
  • Addison, Cato: A Tragedy
  • Hamilton, “Remarks on the Quebec Bill”
  • Dickinson, Letters from a Pennsylvania Farmer: 1, 3, 8-10, 12
  • Edmund Burke, “Speech on American Taxation”
  • Edmund Burke, “Speech on Conciliation with the Colonies”
  • Samuel Sherwood, “The Church’s Flight into the Wilderness”
  • CX Letters (will be emailed to you)
  • Articles of Confederation
  • Declaration of Independence (Jefferson’s version; will be emailed to you)

Documents to read before the final:

  • George Washington, “Circular to the States” (1783)
  • Northwest Ordinance, Articles 1-6
  • Farrand, ed., Records of the Federal Convention: May 29-June 8, June 18, June 26, June 28-29, July 26, August 7-9, August 13-14, August 21-22, August 30-31, September 17
  • Federalist Papers: 1, 10, 39, 45-51, 63, 70, 78, 84-85
  • Anti-Federalist Papers:
  • James Wilson, “Speech to the Pennsylvania Convention” (December 1787)
  • John Dickinson as “Fabius,” letters 10-3
  • Noah Webster, “A Citizen of America”
  • Tench Coxe, “An American Citizen”
  • James Wilson, “Of the Law of Nature”
  • James Wilson, “Of the Natural Rights of Individuals”
  • Burke, “Reflections on the Revolution in France,” pp. 87-176
  • Burke, “Further Reflections on the Revolution in France,” (1791), pp. 75-124, 160-201
  • George Washington, First Inaugural Address
  • George Washington, “To the Hebrew Congregation in Newport”
  • George Washington, “To the Roman Catholics”
  • George Washington, Farewell Address

Dates of the Semester

1.  January 15-17

2.  January 20-24

3.  January 27-31

4.  February 3-7

5.  February 10-14

6.  February 17-21

7.  February 24-28; Midterm: Feb. 28

8.  March 3-7 (Vernal Frolick Break—March 7-16)

9.  March 17-21

10.  March 24-28

11.  March 31-April 4 (Research Paper due—April 4, 5pm)

12.  April 7-11

13.  April 14-18 (April 18 (noon)-April 21: Easter Break)

14.  April 22-25

15.  April 28-29

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