February 1: The Colonial Foundations of American Constitutionalism

montesquieu.jpg (10751 bytes) Montesquieu

This class, to a certain extent, picks up the story in midstream, so don't worry if things are a little tough to follow. A lot of what we're doing for this class is to set up the next two weeks of work

The Rakove book looks at the intellectual climate of the framers; focus on pp. 3-22. I've assigned the latter section for you to skim; it's a good cautionary message for examining the documents that we're going to be encountering. Kyvig can be skimmed, especially if you read the Rakove book first, but it's an excellent provider of context for the four documents.



Rakove, Original Meanings, pp. 3-22, 288-302.

Kyvig, Explicit and Authentic Acts, pp. 1-19.



Four documents for this class, all of which should be skimmed.   Starting for Tuesday's class, I'll be bookmarking the relevant sections of documents. You should all be vaguely familiar with Montesquieu from Core 4, or, if not, from the Kyvig reading. But make sure you know what his conception of balanced government entails.

One question each to ponder for the other three documents; read them only to get an answer to the question.

What was the most important element of the English Bill of Rights?

What was the most important implication of the MA House's declaration?

What kind of "union" did the Albany Plan envision?

English Bill of Rights (1689)

Massachusetts House on governor's salary (1728)
Albany Plan of union (1754)

Montesquieu on divided government


1.) Given the geographical separation between the colonies and Britain, could a constitutional system have been developed that would have successfully incorporated the colonies into the British body politic?

2.) How do you interpret the English Bill of Rights? What sort of society--and government--did the Bill of Rights envision? And how did the culture of rights play in America?

3.) If you were to establish a government based on Montesquieu's principles, how would it have looked? Do you see logical flaws in Montesquieu's theories?

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