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America's Founding Fathers

America's Founding Fathers

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America's Founding Fathers

In partnership with
Professor Allen C. Guelzo, Ph.D.
Gettysburg College
Share This Course
4.9 out of 5
40 Reviews
95% of reviewers would recommend this series
Course No. 8525
Streaming Included Free

What Will You Learn?

  • Get a clear new perspective on the complex story of the U.S. Constitution.
  • Discover why we still argue over the meaning and interpretation of the Constitution.
  • Learn the important role played by often overlooked Founders including Elbridge Gerry and Aaron Burr.
  • Examine the fierce political arguments between Founders like Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton.
  • Understand the key role played by committees during the Constitutional Convention.

Course Overview

The story of America’s founding—great men who debated, argued, persuaded, and negotiated their way to the U.S. Constitution—is as dramatic and instructive as any in the nation’s history. And there is no better way to tell the story of the Founding Fathers than by pairing an eminent U.S. historian with the very institution that is most synonymous with American history, the Smithsonian.

These men —Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton, and many others—are larger than life in our collective memory, having near-mythical status. Similarly, The U.S. Constitution is the oldest continually-operating instrument of government anywhere in the world serving as the backbone to the world’s most powerful democracy. Yet, few among us realize just how turbulent, contentious, even suspenseful the process was to draft and ratify it. That’s why The Great Courses and Smithsonian have joined forces to tell how this crucial drama in Western history unfolded.

Professor Allen C. Guelzo of Gettysburg College, whose Great Courses on U.S. history are among our most popular and highly rated, worked in close collaboration with the Smithsonian’s own curators of early American history to present a three-dimensional picture of the men who powered this unprecedented journey from colonies to nation and the resulting U.S. Constitution.

The truth is that the Founders were flawed, contradictory people with their own radical views on what America’s new government should look like. Through their lives, opinions, and deeds, one can see just how messy and rancorous a process was the formation of a “more perfect union.” By understanding this messiness, by seeing the creation of the Constitution as a process fraught with controversy and compromise, you can better appreciate just how much a miracle of government the U.S. Constitution is, and why we’re still arguing over it hundreds of years later. Now, more than ever, any well-informed citizen should understand how the Constitution lives, breathes, and endures.

America’s Founding Fathers is a deep dive into the creation of the U.S. Constitution as it actually happened – not as many are led to believe it happened. Professor Guelzo delivers 36 compelling lectures on the remarkable men who played their own unique role in the creation (and survival) of American democracy. Using the Founding Fathers as a lens through which to see powerful truths about the early political history of the United States, you’ll better understand both the document under which Americans live and the people who brought it into being.

Into the Forge of American Democracy

Designed as a chronological narrative and richly supported by images and artifacts from the Smithsonian’s unparalleled collections of historical Americana, giving you a multifaceted experience you can’t get without visiting the Smithsonian museums in Washington D.C., America’s Founding Fathers takes you from the closing days of the American Revolution to the opening decades of the United States under the newly created U.S. Constitution. While these 36 lectures are detailed, they are highly accessible for all learners, from high school students to retired history buffs.

Told like the dramatic, turbulent story that it is, each lecture uses an individual Founder as a doorway through which to examine the process involved in crafting the Constitution. Less a biography of individuals, Professor Guelzo’s course is instead a composite biography of one of the greatest political documents in history.

  • Struggling and Questioning: The Articles of Confederation, crafted during the chaos of the American Revolution, was fast becoming an out-of-touch document at the start of the American experiment. In a series of lectures on the men who questioned the Articles, you’ll learn how the Founders quickly understood just how untenable they were for solving serious crises facing the new nation, and how they worked both separately and in concert to replace the Articles with someone more solid and sound.
  • Convening and Ratifying: You’ll plunge into the forge of American democracy, namely the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. Professor Guelzo helps you make sense of the tempest of arguments waged and committees established over representation, a new national executive, the issue of slavery, and human rights. You’ll also learn about the struggle for state ratification of the proposed constitution, in some ways an even more arduous task than drafting a new government.
  • Governing and Evolving: The story doesn’t end with the official ratification of the U.S. Constitution. The new government had to adjust to a new set of rules – and, in some cases, work tirelessly to change or adapt them. Once the U.S. Constitution was put into place, the nation saw the rise of political parties, the increasing connection of the new nation with Christianity, the dawn of a new national character, the creation of a national army, international conflicts, and domestic acts of treason.

The 36 Men Who Made America

What makes America’s Founding Fathers such an interesting way to probe the story of the U.S. Constitution is Professor Guelzo’s use of the perspective of these historic figures as fresh angles on unknown or often unconsidered perspectives. Familiar or unfamiliar, these 36 individuals were each, in their own way, integral to what makes the Constitution the complex document it is today. Each profile of these significant figures and their contributions is supplemented with images from Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery and the National Museum of American History, giving a human dimension to near-mythic figures such as:

  • Thomas Jefferson: Enlightenment philosophers like Locke, Montesquieu, and Adam Smith were crucial to the political ideology of Thomas Jefferson, and helped him see the glaring inadequacies of the Articles of Confederation.
  • Elbridge Gerry: As head of the Constitutional Convention’s Grand Committee, Elbridge Gerry helped to settle the question of what America’s new Congress would look like and how representation would be distributed among the two branches.
  • Alexander Hamilton: The Federalist Papers were so named by Alexander Hamilton as a daring act of aggression to give him the high ground over the anti-Constitutionalists, who saw themselves as defenders of federalism.
  • John Marshall: A veteran of the Continental Army, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall did not hesitate to use the federal judiciary, in landmark cases like Marbury v. Madison, to save the republic from the dangers of Republicanism.
  • James McHenry: As Secretary of War under John Adams, James McHenry put the nation’s army and navy into play for the first time. His aim was to dispel the fantasy that professional armies were the enemy of the republic and militias its only salvation.
  • Aaron Burr: The case that resulted from the “assassin” Aaron Burr’s infamous duel with Alexander Hamilton (in which the latter was killed) actually highlighted the willingness of the Constitution to protect the liberties even of those who meant it harm.
  • James Madison: The last Founder to serve as president, James Madison’s tenure was subsumed by the War of 1812, a national catastrophe that history now looks on as an obscure conflict for which the United States of America was ill-prepared.
  • Alexis de Tocqueville: In his Democracy in America, the French writer Alexis de Tocqueville found that the glue holding the American republic together was not virtue so much as self-interest (which also made equality more important than liberty).

A Battle Still Being Waged

Professor Guelzo is acclaimed by Great Courses customers for his engaging, dramatic delivery. And as a New York Times bestselling author whose books have won numerous awards, including the Lincoln Prize, he knows how to craft a story. One of our most highly rated professors, he transforms stories of meetings, arguments, and committees into a grand narrative of political intrigue, philosophical dilemmas, and international tension.

Professor Guelzo’s lectures are packed with information and insights you won’t find in a cursory reading of a history textbook. And this course offers something few other historical surveys can: the combination of a dynamic professor with the unrivaled American history collections and expertise of the Smithsonian. Thanks to unprecedented access to their archives and expert guidance, the video version of this course features historic portraits from the National Portrait Gallery, important historical documents and artifacts from the National Museum of American History, and highlights some of the most eminent quotes in American history.

Free government, according to Professor Guelzo, is an awkward, constantly-adjusting dance between liberty and power that doesn’t take efficiency into account. “But the Founders were not concerned with efficiency,” he says. “They were concerned with liberty. And they knew that its life was always precarious.”

America’s Founding Fathers invites you to experience this precarious, tense battle between power and liberty – a battle that’s still being waged, and that will be waged for decades to come.

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36 lectures
 |  29 minutes each
  • 1
    George Washington's Doubts
    Could the American experiment succeed? George Washington, one of the most iconic Founders, had strong doubts. After explaining the importance of getting a well-rounded understanding of the Founders, Professor Guelzo explores Washington's fears about post-Revolutionary America and his concerns about how people could administer their own affairs. x
  • 2
    Thomas Mifflin's Congress
    Before the ratification of the Constitution, there were presidents not of the United States but of the Congress created by the Articles of Confederation. As you'll discover, the failures of one president, Thomas Mifflin, offer a window into the potent problems facing the United States of America in 1783. x
  • 3
    Robert Morris's Money
    Money issues abounded in the new United States. Why was the abundance of land (and the lack of hard coin) such a problem? What compelled states to print so much of their own unsecure paper money? How did Robert Morris attempt to restore the links between commerce, agriculture, and government finances? x
  • 4
    Benjamin Franklin's Leather Apron
    No one in the 1780s defined the idea of an “American” as much as Benjamin Franklin. Here, explore the many roles Franklin played in the formative years of the republic: as independent printer, public “gentleman,” nobleman of nature, and tradesman cynical of the wealthy and powerful. x
  • 5
    Thomas Jefferson's Books
    Explore how books by Enlightenment thinkers like John Locke and Adam Smith influenced Thomas Jefferson's political philosophy. Also, consider Jefferson's fierce critiques of religion and commerce, and the ways he nevertheless betrayed (as a large-scale slave owner) the Enlightenment principles he held so dear. x
  • 6
    Daniel Shays's Misbehavior
    Shays's Rebellion would spark unease not just about tax increases and their impact on landowners - but on the entire Confederation. As you follow this dramatic insurgency and its fascinating leader, you'll learn how Shays's Rebellion prompted many to consider a strong government as essential to liberty and property. x
  • 7
    Alexander Hamilton's Republic
    Professor Guelzo takes you inside Alexander Hamilton's views about the American Republic: the fictions of hierarchy and aristocracy; the voluntary compact between rulers and ruled; the division of power into small packets; and his suspicions of the behavior of the Confederation Congress. x
  • 8
    James Madison's Conference
    How did James Madison become the prime mover of the United States Constitution? The key, it turns out, is a 1786 conference he organized between several states. Originally intended to discuss commercial regulations, the assembly would transform into a deliberation over how to put the Confederation out of business. x
  • 9
    Patrick Henry's Religion
    Come to see Patrick Henry in a new light: as the most self-contradictory—and most often defeated—Founder. Topics include the influence on Henry of the Reverend Samuel Davies, how the Awakeners shaped his brilliant oratorical skills, the public funding of Christianity, and his unremarkable accomplishments as governor of Virginia. x
  • 10
    James Madison's Vices
    In a private study, James Madison detailed what he called “the vices of the political system of the United States.” Here, explore these vices, including state failure to comply with constitutional requisitions and the provincial nature of state legislatures. Also, examine his most important suggestions for a new frame of government. x
  • 11
    Edmund Randolph's Plan
    Go inside the start of the Constitutional Convention, where you'll learn how and why the Founders assembled to craft a new, improved system of government. Central to this was the plan set out by Edmund Randolph, which aimed at stopping a jealous Congress or greedy state legislatures from destroying it. x
  • 12
    William Paterson's Dissent
    One speech by William Paterson, a member of the New Jersey delegation, halted the Randolph Plan from sailing smoothly to adoption. What were Paterson's arguments? Why did he support a simple amendment to the Articles of Confederation instead of a rewrite? What did his alternative plan look like? x
  • 13
    Roger Sherman's Compromise
    Turn to a moment of great exhaustion at the Constitutional Convention: a deadlock between the New Jersey and Virginia plans for a national government. Roger Sherman's compromise of two branches of government (one equal, one proportional) would play an important role in moving the debate forward. x
  • 14
    Elbridge Gerry's Committee
    Discover how the report by the Convention’s Grand Committee, chaired by Elbridge Gerry, ended the first great battle over the U.S. Constitution. As you’ll find out, it settled for good what the American Congress would look like – but also raised an issue that would soon dominate the debates: slavery. x
  • 15
    James Wilson's Executive
    Turn now to the next great issue facing the Convention: the shape of the new national executive. After pondering some of the concerns and fears the delegates had about executive power, you'll focus on James Wilson's argument for the need of an executive chosen not by Congress but by national election. x
  • 16
    John Rutledge's Committee
    John Rutledge’s Committee of Detail answered the call to help answer unresolved questions about the role of the national executive. Here, learn how “Dictator John” helped develop a working document that included a number of features now seen as the cornerstone of American constitutionalism. x
  • 17
    Rufus King's Slaves
    It was Rufus King who, at the debates, questioned the admission of slaves into the rule of representation. First, explore the dissonance between liberty and slavery in the new United States. Then, come to see how Rufus King predicted the angry tiger slavery would become in America. x
  • 18
    David Brearley's Postponed Parts
    The Committee on Postponed Parts, headed by David Brearley, was the Convention's most effective committee. Its business, as you'll learn, was to reconcile demands about the shape of the new national president. You'll also learn about the Committee on Style, whose sole task was to wordsmith the Convention's agreements into a single document. x
  • 19
    John Dunlap and David Claypoole's Broadside
    One day after the Constitutional Convention ended, the document was printed in 500 copies by John Dunlap and David Claypoole and shared with the general public. What happened next? How did George Washington use a cover letter to mitigate shock? How did the Founders brace themselves for the inevitable state conventions? x
  • 20
    Alexander Hamilton's Papers
    Chief Justice John Marshall would call the Federalist Papers the “complete commentary on our constitution.” Here, Professor Guelzo explains the daring act of aggression these lanmark political writings were, and outlines the six themes Hamilton (under the pseudonym “Publius”) believed would demonstrate the indispensability of the new constitution. x
  • 21
    Patrick Henry's Convention
    The fate of the new constitution depending on the state ratifying conventions. And because Virginia's consent was necessary to make the overall ratification process work, neutralizing Patrick Henry was the Federalists' most important task. Go inside the battleground of the ratifying convention at Richmond on June 2, 1788. x
  • 22
    George Washington's Inaugural
    First, examine hurdles to electing George Washington as the first president of the United States. Then, follow the story of how the Constitution finally got its bill of rights, and how this task was undertaken by the one man who most vehemently opposed such a bill: James Madison. x
  • 23
    Alexander Hamilton's Reports
    As the first Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton had the responsibility of handling the new nation's foreign, state, and domestic debts. In this lecture, learn how Hamilton saw debt not as a problem but an asset, and discover how he argued for the establishment of a national bank. x
  • 24
    Thomas Jefferson's Party
    In the past, Thomas Jefferson denounced political parties. Now, after the ratification of the Constitution, he began to form the nation's first political party. Discover how he did this by assembling allies, appealing selected individuals to run for Congress, and playing for control of the media. x
  • 25
    William Findley's Whiskey
    Whiskey, on the frontier of the early Republic, was a major business. So when the national government proposed an excise tax on whiskey, it led to the Whiskey Rebellion. Go back to the summer of 1794 and meet William Findley, a self-styled republican who saw Republican societies as vehicles for political strategy. x
  • 26
    Benjamin Banneker's Survey
    How was the location of the nation's new capital decided upon? How were the streets of Washington organized? What happened when Washington asked Congress for money? It all started, as you'll learn, with Benjamin Banneker's surveying mission of the iconic site on the eastern branch of the Anacostia River. x
  • 27
    John Jay's Treaty
    With a new nation came new international crises. In this lecture, go inside the 28 articles of John Jay's eponymous treaty with Great Britain, which addressed unfinished business from the Treaty of Paris, and the subsequent uproar that gave a boost to polarization between America's political parties. x
  • 28
    John Adams's Liberty
    According to Professor Guelzo, if George Washington was the heart of republic, John Adams was its brain. Follow the Founder as he becomes the first vice president, then the second president of the nation, where he suffers catastrophic blunders that sap him of any political advantages he once had. x
  • 29
    Hector Saint John de Crèvecoeur’s Americans
    Crevècoeur’s Letters from an American Farmer presented Americans at the end of the 18th century as a people unlike any other nation. From this starting point, explore the demographics of the early United Sates, witness the early stirrings of abolitionist and women’s suffrage movements, and probe America’s cultural fear of strangers. x
  • 30
    Timothy Dwight's Religion
    Timothy Dwight, a president at Yale University, played a pivotal role in cementing the early nation's ties with the Christian faith. Come to see how Christianity, when defined and defended as a virtue, was seen by Dwight and others as a necessary component of republican government. x
  • 31
    James McHenry's Army
    Meet another often-overlooked Founder, Secretary of War James McHenry, who was responsible for putting the nation's army into play for the first time. Despite political backstabbing, and against the backdrop of the Quasi-War with France, McHenry brought about military changes still with us today. x
  • 32
    Thomas Jefferson's Frustration
    Focus on some of the many conflicts between Thomas Jefferson’s political philosophies and the reality of American life. Chief among these was his belief that an economy based on the virtuous independent farmer had no need of imports or exports – which led to the controversial Embargo Act of 1807. x
  • 33
    Aaron Burr's Treason
    Aaron Burr's duel with Alexander Hamilton, resulting the latter's death, is one of the most infamous chapters in the history of the Founding Fathers. But, as you'll learn, what's equally important is what happened next: that the Constitution protected even the liberties of someone like him, who meant it harm. x
  • 34
    John Marshall's Court
    Explore the court of Chief Justice John Marshall. In major court cases like Marbury v. Madison and McCulloch v. Maryland, Marshall would devise a national judicial sovereignty to match the constitutional and economic sovereignty envisioned by Madison and Hamilton, and to save the United States from Jacobin Republicanism. x
  • 35
    James Madison's War
    The “age of the Founders” ends with the War of 1812 and James Madison at the helm of government. You’ll learn why the United States was disastrously unprepared for war, and you’ll get a closer look at the state of the nation as it was bequeathed to Madison’s successor, James Monroe. x
  • 36
    Alexis de Tocqueville's America
    In the first part of this last lecture, learn the fates of each of the Founding Fathers discussed in this course. Then, close with a look at Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America, which suggests the new nation's focus on self-interest instead of virtue (as well as a lack of art and culture). x

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Your professor

Allen C. Guelzo

About Your Professor

Allen C. Guelzo, Ph.D.
Gettysburg College
Dr. Allen C. Guelzo is the Henry R. Luce Professor of the Civil War Era and Director of Civil War Era Studies at Gettysburg College in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. He holds an M.A. and a Ph.D. in History from the University of Pennsylvania. Among garnering other honors, he has received the Medal of Honor from the Daughters of the American Revolution. He is a member of the National Council on the Humanities. Professor Guelzo is...
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Reviews

America's Founding Fathers is rated 4.9 out of 5 by 40.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from five stars are not enough! This is the best Great Courses class I have watched. I have always admired Guelzo--his discussion of the colonies and the American Revolution in the American History course was masterful. In this course, he makes intense and creative use of apt quotations from the writings of the Founding Fathers, and also employs the treasures of the Smithsonian in a very deft and subtle way. (In some other courses co-produced with the Smithsonian, the presence of that august institution has been overwhelmingly and obtrusively obvious--here it is subtle, very effective, and a tribute to the breadth of that collection.) Guelzo uses these quotes to demonstrate the deeply held beliefs and perhaps more importantly, the many points of difference held by many of our early leaders. The sometimes rancorous debates are very clearly brought out. These points make the fact that the Founders finally agreed on a Constitution close to a miracle. The lectures were very uplifting in a time that is also beset with rancorous argument. There is hope that reason and fairness will prevail. Very obvious in these lectures is Guelzo's deep respect for the Founders and what they wrote and believed in. A telling example is Guelzo's lecture on slavery discussions in the Congress. His reading of speeches against slavery by Rufus King, Gouverneur Morris and George Mason was moving. He also carefully explained the opposing positions by other members of the Congress. He ended with a very thoughtful discussion of where the Congress's position on slavery would eventually take the United States.
Date published: 2017-10-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from More of what this country needs There is so much that we don't learn about these great leaders in school. Their thoughts, their biases, their backgrounds. It is more than just a document we talk about. It came from people who lived anarchy and serfdom. It is a must listen to program for anyone interested in current events.
Date published: 2017-09-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Relevant for our own time! How I wish every high school -- and certainly every college -- student could take this course! It would also be very useful to anyone who feels certain that his/her political views are correct and that those who oppose them are certainly wrong, for Professor Guelzo has constructed a course that brilliantly presents the critical -- and ongoing -- questions faced by America's Founders in a way that not only allows us to understand the varying points of views held by that remarkable generation, but also to see the Founders in the context of their times, warts and all. It is easy to err in thinking that "the past" is settled, if not graven in stone, and that the major issues that confounded intelligent persons at the time have long been resolved. Easy, perhaps, but wrong! In each lecture, Dr. Guelzo presents relevant -- and usually quite fascinating -- biographical information about one or more of the figures central to that lecture, as well as sketching in the economic, social, and political context in which the particular challenge or dilemma occurred. He then gives us first-person arguments -- from the Founders as well as from others of their time -- that vigorously propose varying options for resolving that current challenge. It is to his credit that just as one feels one's self agreeing with the arguments that course "x" is the obviously wisest choice, he then presents an opposing viewpoint so powerfully that optional course "y" also seems to possess great merit. The great virtue of this method is that it allows us to see that the Founders -- men of wide learning and experience, as well as, almost without exception, persons of great moral standing and firmly held principles -- really had no obvious "right answers" but, rather, just like we in our own times, were confronted with considerable unknowns in which a wrong step could bring grave, if not even catastrophic, consequences. Furthermore, many of the questions that most bedeviled them could not, by their nature, be forever resolved. Yes, they came to decisions that set the country upon a certain course for the foreseeable future, but the most troubling issues -- racial inequality, the balance between seeking individual liberty and freedom while heeding the needs of all citizens, and how to best guard against despotism from above coming from the concentration of power in the few while also warding off tyranny that could swell up from below -- must always be readdressed again and again over time. Lastly, this course helps us appreciate -- in a most valuable lesson for our own fractured time -- how these strong men of great principle nonetheless were able to reason together, and compromise, in order to move forward. There is no more certainty in political affairs than there is in life in general; there is always the risk of a misstep. But, as the Founders' lives illustrate, perhaps the greatest risk is to do little if anything because an inability to compromise leads to stalemate. Simply put: a wonderfully rich course resulting from the ongoing fruitful collaboration between The Teaching Company and the Smithsonian! Highly recommended!
Date published: 2017-09-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Informative and Entertaining! I'm an American History teacher, so this content is pretty familiar to me already, so it's a tribute to Alan Guelzo that his sense of detail and dramatic delivery make it a treat for me to listen to these lectures. It's very Constitutional-Convention-oriented, more so than the title might suggest, but that's ok with me. For me it's great to get this level of analysis and detail on material I need to know. For someone just wanting more knowledge of US history, this is a good choice. I"d love to see the video part that the Smithsonian provided, but the difference in cost is too great.
Date published: 2017-08-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Should be required for national office I have taken over 60 Great Courses; this may be the best. Professor Guelzo fills the lessons with fascinating stories, while always weaving them into the amazing "big picture" metamorphosis from confederation to constitution. All of the great issues are discussed here - state sovereignty, fear of the democratic mob, fiscal integrity and slavery. These issues reverberate today, and were all anticipated in Philadelphia. The professor is a gem!
Date published: 2017-08-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Could Not Have Come At A Better Time Professor Guelzo has the reputation of being one of the premier history professors in the nation and this course reinforces that fact. As the nation struggles with political turmoil, the time is ripe for a better understanding of the character and motivation of the Founding Fathers as they wrote and defended the Constitution of the United States. Although I profess to be somewhat of a history buff, and have taken many college courses in the subject, compounded by quite a few history courses presented by the Teaching Company, this course gained me a much better understanding of the difficulties and hard work that was necessary to achieve such a milestone in American History. Professor Guelzo superbly knits together the personalities of the Founders and their long tedious journey to create such a magnificent document. He discussed some of the Great issues of the day as why we have an Electorial College and why it is still as important today as it was back then. The subject of slavery was addressed forthrightly and in the context of the day. All in all a fabulous course and one I strongly recommend. It is especially relevant in today's political climate. Bravo.
Date published: 2017-08-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Lecturer I heard a snippet of his lecture style in a podcast. I purchased the dowwnload audio. Like Shelby Foote's Civil War books humanize that period, these lectures humanize the process of getting our Constitution written and placed into law. He is a bit irreverent at times, but he uses it to show the foibles of the al too human men who had great influence in founding the U.S.A. My knowledge of this period was basically "dates and dead people" so the format fit my desire to know the people better. Very enjoyable.
Date published: 2017-08-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Rest of the Story A famous commentator used to tell an interesting tale composed of little known facts and obscure details before bringing them all together and informing us that this was the story of a famous person or event. In a sense our Professor does the same thing but in reverse order. He grabs our attention with the name of a, generally, famous early American and uses this person to spin out a lecture about an important topic in American history. Sometimes the Founding Father really is at the heart of the story, though often he is just a hook to reel you in. Either way the lectures are amazing lessons about various aspects of early American History. The first half of this series is really about the story of one of the world's most famous documents, The Constitution. We start with the failure of the Articles of Confederation and make our way through the various struggles to create a document that was acceptable to enough of the states to form a union. It is fascinating to see resistance coming from such patriots as Patrick Henry and of course the sad truth that Slavery was an issue that almost kept some southern states from signing the document at all. Did someone say Committee Meetings? It was surprising to me how big a role finances played in these debates. Many of the former British colonies and the fledgling Union itself were in a dire financial state. A number of the confederated states printed vast amounts of currency and forced debts held by other states and even nations to be paid with this soon virtually worthless currency. This caused commerce to crash and was a leading driver behind the new Constitution. However some states wanted to retain the right to print their own currency. Did someone say Committee Meetings? The second half of the course is about the early Presidents and the building of America as Jefferson wanted an agricultural nation while Hamilton wanted to encourage business and trade. Along the way we bump into a whiskey rebellion, the XYZ Affair, a few almost wars and one catastrophic real war with a burning White House. In the end the Founders pass away and a Frenchman defines the USA. Like the Gilded Age and Before 1776, this course offers a superb in depth look at an important part of American History. In fact I suspect the watching Before 1776, the Revolutionary War and Founding Fathers in order is one of the best ways you could find to understand American History from the time the Virginians set foot on these shores until the War of 1812.
Date published: 2017-08-09
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