This course is an intense analytical investigation of social, political, economic, religious, and philosophical issues in the early years of the American republic. The course examines the people and events of the founding of the American republic from the revolution, through the creation of the American Constitution, and culminating in the election of 1800. This course is primarily an intellectual history course and the main scholarly work that we will read is the work of historians, but the course also delves deeply into issues in political theory, political economy, and political and social philosophy.
The course charts the development of American political ideas about constitutionalism, governance, political freedom, economic freedom, representative democracy, republicanism, and federalism primarily from the vantage point of the careers of two of the main figures from this period, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. The views of other figures will also be central to our investigation, particularly the views of James Madison and Alexander Hamilton. The student will be challenged to examine fundamental assumptions about these topics in order to rethink the intellectual origins of the American political tradition in its founding years.