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Skidmore College

Undergrad conference to explore principles, practices of American political life

March 25, 2014
Carl Scott, Christopher Newport University
Carl Scott

The sixth Undergraduate Conference on the American Polity, co-sponsored by the Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization (AHI) and the Franklin Forum at Skidmore College, is scheduled Friday and Saturday, March 28 and 29, at Skidmore.

The public is welcome to the keynote lecture by Professor Carl Scott, visiting assistant professor of American Studies at Christopher Newport University, at 8 p.m. Friday, March 28, in Davis Auditorium of Palamountain Hall, as well as the student panels on Saturday, March 29, on the second floor of Murray-Aikins Dining Hall. 

Partly as a way of getting past certain stale framings of our core political debates, and partly as a way of being true to what comprehensive study of the American political tradition reveals, Scott will argue that America has held five fundamental conceptions of liberty.  He has labeled them as follows:  natural rights liberty, classical-communitarian liberty, economic-autonomy liberty, progressivist liberty, and personal-autonomy liberty and asserts that all have a claim to be the correct conception of political liberty, as well as the most genuinely American one. Scott explains that over the course of America’s politics, these conceptions have been set against one another in various ways, and several have also cooperated with or in a sense have been combined with one another. He will introduce the five different conceptions and explore how the main partisan coalitions of today utilize them.

The conference features student papers that will address the principles and practice of American political life, and their roots in the Western tradition, from a variety of disciplinary perspectives, including philosophical and moral, historical, legal and constitutional, and religious and cultural inquiries. Work by students from Baylor University, Colgate University, City University of New York (Macaulay Honors College, The Hertog Scholars Program), Emory University (Program in Democracy and Citizenship), Hamilton College (The Alexander Hamilton Institute), Princeton University (James Madison Program for American Ideals and Institutions), and Skidmore College will be featured. 

Selected students from Cincinnati Country Day School in Ohio will also participate in conference as part of an AHI pilot program to evaluate the viability of the development of an extension of the program to the secondary level.

Conference sessions will begin at 9 a.m. Saturday, March 29, and all three panels will be held in banquet rooms 1 and 2, second floor, Murray-Aikins Dining Hall. Following the day’s panel discussions, the conference will conclude with a dinner (participants only) beginning at 6:30 p.m., banquet room 4, Murray-Aikins Dining Hall. Following dinner, at 8:00 p.m., Professor Scott will lead a concluding conversation with students on the meanings of liberty.

AHI is located at 21 W. Park Row, Clinton, New York, and was founded in 2007 to promote excellence in scholarship through the study of freedom, democracy, and capitalism. We create and support programs that provide for rigorous debate and the enhancement of civic and economic literacy. For more information please click here.

The Franklin Forum at Skidmore College is a student-led reading group that facilitates, through the discussion of closely read texts, the pursuit of knowledge of oneself and of one’s historical circumstances. The Franklin Forum is located in Saratoga Springs, NY. Please click here for more information.

2014 Undergraduate Scholars Conference on the American Polity
Skidmore College, March 28-29, 2014

Friday, March 28, 2014

RECEPTION: 5:30 p.m., Surrey-Williamson Inn (conference participants and invited guests)

DINNER: 6 p.m., Surrey-Williamson Inn (conference participants and invited guests)

8 p.m.: Keynote Lecture, Davis Auditorium, Palamountain Hall, Professor Carl Scott, Visiting Assistant Professor of American Studies, Christopher Newport University, “Five Fundamental Ideas of American Liberty.” (Open to the public.)

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Banquet rooms 1 & 2, second floor, Murray-Aikins Dining Hall (all panels)


Panel 1: 9-10:30 a.m.—Understanding and Freedom in American Literature

Panelists:  Marcella Jewell, Skidmore, ’15, “Tocqueville, Henry James, and the American Woman”; Thomas Flynn, CUNY, ’14, Macaulay Honors College, “Cetology and the Limits of Human Understanding in Melville’s Moby Dick”; Agneiszka Gugala, CUNY, ’14, Macaulay Honors College, “’Authority Issues’ in Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience.”

Discussant:  Flagg Taylor, associate professor of government, Skidmore

Panel 2: 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m.—Liberalism, Economics and Progress

Panelists:   Tyler Wiegert, Emory, ’16, “Elements of Classical Liberalism in the New Testament”; Max Schnidman, Hamilton, “Economic Epistemology & Naturalized Economics”; Daniel Pecoraro, CUNY, ’14, Macaulay Honors College, “The Erie Canal: A Brief History of American Progress.”

Discussant:  David Frisk, resident fellow, Alexander Hamilton Institute for Western Civilization

LUNCH: 1-2:15 p.m.

Panel 3: 2:30-4:15 p.m.—Political Obligation and Freedom, an American Dilemma

Panelists:  Matthew Saunders, Princeton, ’15, “The American Establishment Clause: Dissecting Original Intent from Federalism and Confusion”; David Poortinga, Colgate, ’14, “Lincoln’s Political Ideals”; Roz Rothwell, Skidmore, ’14, “Henry Knox, General of Cincinnati: Patriot Nationalism and Duty, 1765-1787.”

Discussant:  Douglas Ambrose, professor of history, Hamilton

DINNER: 6:30-7:30 p.m. (Banquet room 4, Murray-Aikins, conference participants and invited guests)

Discussion: 7:45-9 p.m. (Banquet 4, Professor Scott; Connor Mighell, Baylor; Dean Ball, Hamilton)

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