American Political Thought (GO236)Skidmore College, Spring 2005
Office Hours: Wednesdays, 1:00-4:00 and by appointment
The United States of America is often referred to as a liberal democracy. It is also rightly described as a constitutional republic or a democratic republic. The various descriptions given to the American form of government suggests the complex nature of our political life. This course will examine the republican and the liberal philosophic principles, which inform American politics, beginning with the Founding and continuing today.
The following books are available for purchase in the Skidmore Shop:
Joseph Addison, Cato: A Tragedy and Selected Essays. Liberty Fund
Hamilton, Madison, and Jay, The Federalist. Edited by George W. Carey and James McClellan. Liberty Fund
Adams, Henry, The Education of Henry Adams. The Modern Library
Kenneth M. Dolbeare and Michael S. Cummings, editors, American Political Thought, 5th edition. CQ Press
Readings from other sources will be assigned and will be made available as handouts. In the bizarre case that you are not in class on the day that handouts are distributed, you will be responsible for picking them up from the box on my office door prior to the next class meeting.
All students are required to attend and to participate in class. In order to make a meaningful contribution to the class discussion, you are must be prepared to for class. The reading should be completed by the date that it is listed on the syllabus. In addition, you should make a note of at least one question and one interesting point from the reading. You may be called upon to offer your question or comment in class or I may collect them at the start of class. 10% of your grade will be determined by your preparedness.
If for some reason you are unable to attend class, please notify me as soon as possible. Simply notifying me of your absence does not necessarily warrant an excused absence. Early departure/late arrival from spring break is not considered an excused absence. You may enjoy two unexcused absences. For each additional unexcused absence, 2% will be deducted from your final grade.
In addition, you must write two short papers on assigned topics. Due dates for these papers are listed on the reading schedule. Each of these papers is worth 20%.
There will be a midterm and a final exam. Each exam is worth 25% of your final grade.
Completion of the papers and exams is required to pass the course.
Any attempt to represent someone else's (be it a classmate's, a scholar's, or a webmaster's) work as your own is a violation of Skidmore Honor Code. In particular, it is inconsiderate of the rights of others. By cheating on a quiz, paper, or exam, you violate the trust and the respect that I, and your classmates, accord to you. Such an affront will not be tolerated. If you turn in work or thoughts that belong to someone else, I cannot possibly accept the paper or the exam as completion of the assignment. You will receive an incomplete for that assignment. Because completion of all the assignments is necessary to pass the class, you will earn an "F" for the course by cheating.
January 25 Introduction to Course
The Philosophical Foundations of the American Revolution
January 27 Introduction to liberalism (handout)
The Declaration of Independence (APT, 49)
February 1-3 Cato: A Tragedy, Joseph Addison
Please read the entire play for Tuesday, February 1, although our discussion will continue on Thursday.
The Natural Rights Republic
February 8 The Constitution of the United States (APT, p. 68)
The Federalist, numbers 1, 6, 9, 10, 14, 15, 16, 17
February 10 The Federalist, numbers 27, 28, 31, 35, 37, 48, 48, 51
February 15 The Federalist, numbers 55, 58, 70, 71, 72, 78, 84
February 17 Arguments Against Adoption of the Constitution (APT, pp. 114-127)
Individualism, Commercialism & Society
February 22 Working Draft of First Paper Due
Introduction to Ralph Waldo Emerson
February 24 Emerson's Essays, "History" and "Self-Reliance" (handouts)
March 1 Emerson's Essays, "Nature" and "Politics" (handouts)
Slavery & the Crisis of the Union
March 3 Final Draft of First Paper Due
Begin reading Angelina Grimké's "Appeal to the Christian Women of the South" (handout)
March 8 Continue reading Grimké's "Appeal"
Sojourner Truth, "Aint I a Woman" (handout)
March 10 Midterm Exam
Please note that your midterm will cover the material from the start of the course up to and including the essays by Emerson.
March 12-20 Spring Break
March 22 A Disquisition on Government, John C. Calhoun (APT, 212-224)
Cannibals All! George Fitzhugh (APT, 224-232)
March 24-29 Selected Writings and Speeches of Abraham Lincoln (APT, 233-247)
March 31 –April 1 The Education of Henry Adams, Henry Adams (particular chapters to be announced)
April 7 The Souls of Black Folk, W.E.B. Du Bois (APT, 329-341)
The Rise of the Positive State & Its Critics
April 12 Second Paper Due
The Public & Its Problems, John Dewey (APT, 397-405)
"The Common Wealth Address", FDR (APT, 405-413)
April 14 The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand
We will be discussing the film adaptation of this novel. I will schedule a screening for our class (most likely during the week of April 10). If you are unable to attend, you will be responsible for watching it on your own.
The New Left & Neo-Conservativism
April 19 "Port Huron Statement", Students for a Democratic Society (APT, 440-449)
"Our Revolution is Unique", Betty Friedan (APT, 450-455)
April 21 "The Campus Crucible: Student Politics and the University", Nathan Glazer
"A Letter to the Young (and to their parents), Midge Dector (handout)
April 26 "'When Virtue Loses All Her Loveliness'? Some Reflections on Capitalism and
'The Free Society'", Irving Kristol (handout)
"The Politics of Liberty, the Sociology of Virtue", William Kristol (handout)
"Neo-Natural Rights Theory"
April 28 First and Second Inaugural Address of President George W. Bush (handouts/video)
May 3 Last Day of Class
Your final exam will be taken on the date and at the time determined by the registrar. No Exceptions will be made.