Virtual Session One: Debating the Constitution

fed.jpg (70334 bytes) cover page to the Federalist Papers

Last class was a little haphazard, but--and I didn't get a chance to say so at the end--it produced a great discussion. Thanks for going through so thoroughly what is some quite theoretical material. When thinking about the events of the Convention, the Rakove book provides a perfectly good summary of what exactly occurred.  But also keep in mind the key areas of dispute at the Convention:
The nature of representation
The role of the Senate
The foreign affairs power of the Constitution
The issue of federalism--that is, the balance of power between the states and national gov't.
The reasons for increasing executive power

After that stirring introduction, welcome to our first of five virtual sessions for the term. Please begin by reading the guidelines and expectations for the virtual sessions.

Now, read Rakove's summary of the debate over ratification (pages 131-160), followed by pages 87-110 from the Kyvig book. The key portion is Rakove, pages 148-160.

But budget your time accordingly. If you only have time just to read the key portion of Rakove, that's fine. By far the most important part of this assignment is the documents--I want you to get a sense of what the debate really was like.

This week's primary sources includes debates first from Pennsylvania, and then from New York. With the exception of Wilson's speech (which is already excerpted), I have edited the other documents, each of which contain internal notes to "click here" that will guide you through them to the key sections. Again, if you have time, read each document in full. But, if you don't, make sure that you have gotten through the key material.


James Wilson, Pennsylvania ratifying debate, speech on behalf of ratification

James Madison, Federalist no. 10

Alexander Hamilton, Federalist no. 78


Letter from a Federal Farmer, numbers 1 and 2
Brutus, number 1


You are the most influential newspaper columnist in New York City in the weeks before the state's constitutional convention is to vote on the Constitution. What do you see as the critical issues distinguishing the Federalists from their Anti-Federalist opponents? And which side is getting the better of the debate? Post your thoughts on the course's caucus site. Your first post should occur by Sunday night; your second by Tuesday night. Try to post more often if you can. Remember, you should be responding to your classmates' arguments as well as offering your own; this is a virtual DISCUSSION, not a virtual MONOLOGUE.

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