Course Readings/Proto-Syllabus, History 301: American Founding

A couple of students have asked about the spring 2016 course on the American Founding (H301). Here’s a rough description and list of readings. I’ll also be adding Gordon Wood’s short history of the Revolution.

We’ll go straight through the chronology of the time, from the French and Indian War (the North American theater of the Great War for Empire) to the Lewis and Clark Expedition. That is, we’ll move from ca. 1753 to ca. 1806. Along the way, we’ll look at the Founding Fathers (and Mothers) of the period, especially exploring their own understandings of the world, intellectually, culturally, and religiously.

In many ways, the founding era is a time period without equal in all of modern history, as a dedicated group of citizens attempted to create and sustain the first republic on any large scale since the collapse of the Roman republic with the assassination of Senator Marcus T. Cicero (43B.C.). They did so with an astounding amount of bravado and audacity, though certainly not without error and, at times, gut-wrenching compromise.

The founding generation—one of the single most literate generations in the history of the world—wrote much and, usually, for public consumption. Indeed, they considered the writing out, the debating of, and the transmission of ideas, a crucial component of their own cherished republicanism and Protestantism. Thus, I’ll only assign primary documents in this class (and Gordon Wood). Thanks to the beauty and decentralization of the web, every source you’ll read is available online. Please see semester dates (below) for actual assignments. Unless otherwise stated, all readings are available at N.B.: the readings may or may not correspond perfectly to the lectures of the week. That is, you might very well be reading the Constitution, even though I’ve only reached 1779 in course lectures.

I encourage you to study in groups throughout the semester. I tend to talk quickly and cover a lot of material in a semester, and I firmly believe that you should use any ethical means possible to learn a subject. Feel free to trade notes, idea, etc. with one another. Obviously, during each examination, you’ll be tested individually. But, leading up to each exam, feel free to work with as many other students as you’d like.

Course schedule
Readings: Cato Letters, Letters 84, 94, 106, 114-115
Readings: Adams, Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law

Readings: Mercy Otis Warren, History of the Rise, vol. 1, chapters 1-4

Readings: Stephen Hopkins, The Rights of the Colonies Examined, 1764
Readings: Richard Bland, An Inquiry into the Rights of the British Colonies, 1766

Readings: Demophilus: The Genuine Principles of Ancient Saxon Constitution

Readings: J. Adams, Instructions of the Town of Braintree to their Representative, 1765

Readings: Letters from a Pennsylvania Farmer, 1-3, 12

Readings: Continental Congress, Appeal to the Inhabitants of Quebec, 1774
Readings: Samuel West, On the Right to Rebel

Readings: CX Letters (handout; emailed to you)
Readings: Declaration of Independence
Readings: Novanglus, Letters 1-4

Readings: Hamilton, Continentalist Letters 1-3
Readings: Washington, Speech to the Officers of the Army, March 15, 1783

Readings: Northwest Ordinance of 1787
Readings: Federalist Papers 1, 10, 37-39, 45-51

Readings: Anti-Federalist Papers, Brutus (handout; emailed to you)
Readings: Anti-Federalist Papers, Old Whig (handout; emailed to you)
Readings: U.S. Constitution

Readings: Bill of Rights

Readings: Washington, First Inaugural Address
Readings: Washington, Farewell Address

Readings: Thomas Jefferson, Inaugural Address

Lewis and Clark Toasts (handout; emailed to you)

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