THE INTELLECTUAL WORLD OF THE
WHAT THE FOUNDERS WERE READING
This online summary of the syllabus includes only the general design of the course. It does not include detailed information such as the course calendar, which changes from semester to semester.
Prerequisites and Other Boilerplate
This course carries a writing flag and fulfills part of the basic education requirement in writing. Its Government field is Political Theory. Enrollment requires six semester hours of lower-division Government courses. The course number may be repeated, but only with a different course topic.
“This was the object of the Declaration of Independence. Not to find out new principles, or new arguments, never before thought of, not merely to say things which had never been said before; but to place before mankind the common sense of the subject, in terms so plain and firm as to command their assent, and to justify ourselves in the independent stand we are compelled to take. Neither aiming at originality of principle or sentiment, nor yet copied from any particular and previous writing, it was intended to be an expression of the American mind, and to give to that expression the proper tone and spirit called for by the occasion. All its authority rests then on the harmonizing sentiments of the day, whether expressed in conversation, in letters, printed essays, or in the elementary books of public right, as Aristotle, Cicero, Locke, Sidney, &c. The historical documents which you mention in your possession, ought all to be found, and I am persuaded you will find, to be corroborative of the facts and principles advanced in that Declaration.”
-- Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Henry Lee, 8 May 8 1825, Collected Works, Ford edition, Volume 10, p. 343.
“These are what are called revolution principles. They are the principles of Aristotle and Plato, of Livy and Cicero, and Sidney, Harrington, and Locke; the principles of nature and eternal reason; the principles on which the whole government over us now stands. It is therefore astonishing, if any thing can be so, that writers, who call themselves friends of government, should in this age and country be so inconsistent with themselves, so indiscreet, so immodest, as to insinuate a doubt concerning them.”
-- John Adams, Novanglus, No. 1.
We often read what the Founders of the country wrote. But what were they reading themselves? What were the intellectual influences on thinkers like Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, James Madison, James Wilson, Robert Yates, and Alexander Hamilton? The answers shed an unusual light on what they were trying to do when they initiated the American experiment in self-government.
The fifteen brief readings for this course are selected mostly from James Madison's famous reading suggestions to the Continental Congress (the "Report on Books.") I have also drawn from the favorites of John Witherspoon, "the schoolmaster of the republic," who was a university mentor to several of the Founders, as well as from political sermons which the Founders were known to admire. These controversial readings about politics, history, ethics, religion, and law provide an intriguing way to enter into the minds of the men who began the new nation.
For background, if you have never read the Founders, I recommend The Federalist, essays 1, 2, 6. 9, 10, 14, 15, 16, 23, 37, 39, 47, 48, 49, 51, 62, 63, 70, 78, 84, and 85. Perhaps the best of the Anti-Federalist writers is Brutus (probably Robert Yates), whose letters are contained in Herbert Storing, ed., The Anti-Federalist.
For Unit 1, the requirement is a set of analytical outlines (20%); for each of Units 2, 3, and 4, the requirement is a 4-page take-home essay (20% each). Fourteen short-answer-format quizzes are administered on scheduled dates (20%). There is no cumulative final examination. For final course grades, I do not use plusses and minuses, but attendance and participation do have significant effect in borderline cases.
Although analytical outlines are not required for Units 2, 3, and 4, I strongly recommend that you do them, and if you do, you get up to 5 points of extra credit per unit. Your grade for each of these three units will be your essay exam grade plus your extra credit points. To receive extra credit, you must submit a complete set of analytical outlines for the unt readings. In each unit, the final deadline for analytical outlines is the same as the final deadline for the essay.
During each of the first two units, there are two different deadlines. Deadline 1 is optional: If you want to turn in a first draft of your analytical outline or essay for critique, then you must turn it in by this date. Deadline 2 is required: This is the deadline for final drafts.
Further information can be found at my personal website. Go the following URL: http://www.UndergroundThomist.org/teaching. Scroll to the bottom section, “Other things my students may need.” Read all five items there, especially the FAQ. Don’t use the version of the syllabus at my website; instead use the version posted on Canvas.
Students with disabilities may request appropriate academic accommodations from Services for Students with Disabilities, 512-471-6259, http://www.utexas.edu/diversity/ddce/ssd .
Fourteen of the fifteen readings are online; the URLs are in the course calendar. One of the readings (by Langdon) is a handout. Even if you prefer to use the reserves room or read online, you must bring copies of the readings to class, even if only photocopies or printouts.
1. Classical Influences: Readings by Aristotle; Marcus Tullius Cicero; and Titus Livius.
2. Early Modern Influences: Readings by Niccolo Machiavelli; John Hall; Richard Hooker; and John Locke.
3. Nearly Contemporary Secular Influences: Readings by David Hume; Jean-Jacques Burlamaqui; Charles-Louis de Secondat (Baron de Montesquieu); and Richard Price.
4. Nearly Contemporary Religious Influences: Readings by Samuel Langdon; John Witherspoon; and Jonathan Edwards.