Political Science | American Political Ideas I
Y383 | 0506 | Smith
Following his journey through the United States, Alexis de
Tocquesville wrote that America occupied a singular place in history. Here
the people braved the wilderness, struggled with order, and endured the
"inevitable sufferings of exile" not to win glory or power, but, "for the
triumph of an idea." This course is the first in a two-part series that
looks at these ideas that have defined the American identity. The first
semester covers those debates that justified rebellion, shaped our
government, guided our society, and almost led to our self-destruction.
Readings will be drawn from those who best knew these issues.
Course requirements include weekly readings, a mid-term and final
exam, and a writing assignment. Course readings will come from The
FEDERALIST, the Anti-federalist, a collection of Thomas Jefferson's
writings, two short stories by Herman Melville, Tocqueville's DEMOCRACY IN
AMERICA, and some reserve readings. Primary focus in the course will be on:
assumptions of human nature and governance, the problems of the Articles of
Confederation, the debates surrounding the ratification of the 1787
constitution, the changing nature of law, the self-governing society, and
the coming conflicts over slavery and continued union.