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Toolbox Library, primary resources thematically organized with notes and discussion questionsOnline Seminars, professional development seminars for history and literature teachersLiving the Revolution: America, 1789-1820
Living the Revolution: America, 1789-1820
Topic: Predicaments of Early Republican LifeTopic: ReligionTopic: PoliticsTopic: ExpansionTopic: Equality
Topic: Politics
Overview of Living the Revolution
Resource Menu: Politics
Text 1. Government and Liberty
» Reading Guide
•  Link

Text 2. Agriculture and Manufacturing
Text 3. George Washington
Text 4. State and Federal Power
Text 5. Thomas Jefferson
Text 6. National Identity
Text 7. The Politics of Foreign Affairs
RESOURCE MENU » Reading Guide Link

Reading Guide
1.  On Government and Liberty in the New Nation
- The Anti-Federalist Papers, #1, 1787
- The Federalist Papers, #51, 1788
  The Declaration of Independence

Within weeks after the Constitutional Convention adjourned in September 1787, the articles now called the "Federalist Papers" and the "Anti-Federalist Papers" appeared in New York newspapers. Here was a day-by-day debate over the "most important question that was ever proposed . . . to the decision of any people under heaven." Will the proposed Constitution guarantee or destroy liberty? Where will power reside? Who will have it? who can give it? who can get it back when lost?

Writing the "Federalist Papers" in support of the Constitution were Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay. The probable author of the "Anti-Federalist Papers" was Robert Yates, one of New York's delegates to the Convention (and who, it is said, stormed out of the convention in protest). Writing under the pseudonyms "Publius" and "Brutus"—to allude to the founding of the Roman Republic—these men penned documents that are classics of American history. In these two selections we read Yates and Madison on whether the proposed Constitution will lead the fledgling nation to liberty or tyranny. (While the stated topic of Madison's article is checks and balances, he soon leads the reader to his philosophy of government and human nature). In excerpts, would be useful to pair in the classroom. 10 pages.

Discussion questions
  ·  What is the relationship of the individual citizen to the federal government under the proposed Constitution, according to each writer? Are individual liberties protected or threatened?
  ·  What is the relationship of the states to the federal government under the proposed Constitution? Which should be dominant to preserve the "United States"?
  ·  How do the men view the "multiplicity of interests" (factions) in a republic? Do factions safeguard or endanger the public good?
  ·  How does each writer argue that human nature and human history support their positions?
  ·  To what extent would Yates agree with Madison that a republic must "guard one part of the society against the injustice of the other part"?
  ·  To what extent would Madison agree with Yates that "when the people once part with power, they can seldom or never resume it again but by force"?
  ·  Will the Constitution lead to a "tyrannic aristocracy" or a "compound republic"?

» Link

Topic Framing Questions
  •  What core political issues defined themselves in the new republic?
  •  What caused the greatest optimism and anxiety among American leaders?
  •  What do the religious overtones in these political texts express?
  •  What national identity evolved in the three decades from 1789 to 1820?

Toolbox: Living the Revolution: America, 1789-1820
Predicaments | Religion | Politics | Expansion | Equality

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Revised: May 2003