Washington Center

The Federalist Papers

Day and Time: 
Thursday, 6:30 p.m. - 9:30 p.m.
Semester Dates: 
January 11 to April 19, 2018
Semester Elective

This course is devoted almost exclusively to reading The Federalist Papers. Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay wrote these papers in order to persuade the people of New York to ratify the Federal Constitution that had been adopted at the “federal” convention held during the steamy summer of 1787 in Philadelphia. Their significance for us lies in the effort to articulate the theoretical foundations underlying the proposed new regime. The challenge the authors of the Constitution faced was how to establish a popular government, based on the consent of the people institutionalizing the principles of freedom that had emerged during the period of the European Enlightenment, and yet create a government that was strong (“energetic”) enough to rule but would not oppress.  The Federalist Papers explore how the particular provisions of the proposed constitution try to meet those often competing ends.  We are not reading The Federalist Papers to discover the much talked about “original intent,” but rather to understand the theoretical grounding of a particular political regime that happened to be instituted in 18th century America. 


Draft Syllabus

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