Great Debate: Advocates and Opponents of the American Constitution

Course No. 4878
Professor Thomas L. Pangle, Ph.D.
The University of Texas at Austin
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Course No. 4878
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Course Overview

"We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, ..."—U.S. Constitution

While those words were written over 200 years ago, recent years have seen an explosion of interest in and interpretation of the U.S. Constitution. Its authority and stature are routinely invoked by voices from every point on the political spectrum who seek to defend their views on issues ranging from separation of powers to the proper role of the Supreme Court to legitimate interpretations of the Bill of Rights, with frequent references to the Founding Fathers and their true "intent."

But how much do most of us really know about that intent?

The fact is, as Professor Thomas L. Pangle makes clear in The Great Debate: Advocates and Opponents of the American Constitution, many of those Founding Fathers—men who had been signers of the Declaration of Independence, leaders of the American Revolution, or delegates to the Continental Congress—were highly critical of the new Constitution and staunchly opposed it when it was first put forth for ratification by the states as a replacement for the Articles of Confederation.

Learn Which Founders Opposed the New Constitution ...

Thomas Jefferson, for example, who wrote the Declaration of Independence, was highly skeptical of the proposed constitution and was not among the Federalists who were urging ratification, although his reluctant support for it was eventually won by his good friend James Madison.

Patrick Henry, whose declaration "Give me liberty or give me death!" is arguably the most iconic quote of the American Revolution, was an eloquent voice against ratification, his oratorical skills a potent weapon of the Anti-Federalist side in his native state of Virginia.

And John Hancock, the Declaration's first signer, was still another opponent of the new constitution, but later joined with fellow critic Samuel Adams to lead the effort at compromise through which Massachusetts approved ratification, but with many substantial amendments recommended.

Joined by a chorus of notable essayists—writing, in the style of the day, under the pen names "Agrippa," "Brutus," or "Cato," meant to evoke the ideals of Classical Republicanism they favored—the Anti-Federalists formed a potent opposition.

Which Founders Led the Battle for It ...

On the other side of the argument, an equally distinguished chorus of voices—led by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay—was raised in support of the proposed constitution.

They urged that its innovative structure—a structure the Anti-Federalists considered frightening and dangerous—ought to be passed without any substantial amendments. And in The Federalist, the extraordinary collection of polemical papers organized by Hamilton, they presented their side's answer to the objections raised by the proposed constitution's opponents.

The debate that ensued—even while some states ratified the document and others rejected it—raged for the better part of two years. Each side argued to prove and persuade others to their position. And beneath its rhetorical flourishes lay not only the longest and most profound civic argument in our nation's history, but also a civics lesson that deserves to endure for all time.

And How Both Sides Helped Define the Result!

It was an argument that would result in not only the ratification of the Constitution but also of what that Constitution would become—and the finished document was a testimonial to the contributions of the "victorious" Federalist side and the "losing" Anti-Federalists as well.

Why were the nation's planners so divided? What were the concerns that caused so many passionate defenders of American independence to take such different views? And why are the answers so important to us today?

In addressing these issues—including fervently presented renditions of the great debate's most illustrious writings and speeches—Professor Pangle brilliantly revives "the great controversy out of which our Constitution was born, so that we ourselves can begin to re-enact, in some degree, the debates and thus the choices—and, more importantly, the arguments for the choices—that were made by the founding generation."

In an era when contemporary arguments on the national stage so often mirror the same conflicts debated by the Founders, our own reenactment of that original debate can enrich our ability to be active and participating citizens.

"By listening to the original critics of the Constitution," Professor Pangle notes, "and by seeing how the defenders are responding to those critics, we will have better access to the age-old, deeply puzzling problems in the very nature of Republicanism with which our founders were wrestling and trying to solve. We can see precisely what dangers this new Constitution was meant to combat and what it was designed to achieve.

"But also, and equally important, we can see what our constitutional system was not designed to achieve, what alternative concerns and goals of political life were abandoned or subordinated, what costs were consciously paid, what limitations were accepted in opting for this ... new system."

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12 lectures
 |  Average 31 minutes each
  • 1
    Significance and Historical Context
    We introduce the major players in the debate over the Constitution's ratification. Most important are those who took part in the struggle in New York—where some of the most thoughtful Anti-Federalist writings were produced and later responded to with the influential Federalist papers organized, and in substantial part written, by Alexander Hamilton. x
  • 2
    Classical Republicanism
    The Anti-Federalists attack the proposed constitutional order, saying it departs too much from the traditionally revered Greco-Roman ideal of virtuous participatory republicanism. We clarify the Anti-Federalist objections and explore their own reservations about classical republicanism. x
  • 3
    The Anti-Federalists' Republican Vision
    The participatory and virtue-centered vision of the Anti-Federalists dictates a more decentralized arrangement than the more consolidated national government proposed by the Federalists. We introduce the Federalists' response, highlighting their focus on the demands of national security and foreign policy. x
  • 4
    The Argument over National Security
    Articulating a need for sound defense and foreign policy, The Federalist critiques the existing constitution, the Articles of Confederation, and then moves to a general critique of the inadequacy of confederacies. Anti-Federalists counter by suggesting that Federalists may be falling prey to visions of an empire. x
  • 5
    The Deep Difficulties in Each Position
    Anti-Federalists accuse Federalists of giving national security pre-eminence over republican freedom. Federalists reply by claiming that Anti-Federalists fail to face up to what union and national security truly require. x
  • 6
    Debating the Meaning of "Federalism"
    The Federalists' defense of "Federalism" reveals that the state governments are to be strictly subordinate to the central government—thereby intensifying the Anti-Federalist critique. x
  • 7
    The Madisonian Republic
    How do the Federalists propose to prevent despotism in the central government? Their answer, articulated by James Madison, rejects the classical republican ideal of a confederacy of small, fraternal democracies in favor of a vast, representative republic, animated by competition among mutually hostile "factions." x
  • 8
    The Argument over Representation
    Madison identifies majority faction as the overriding danger in republics and calls for a new conception of representative government removed from the populace—a call that echoes, although in a more aristocratic way, the emphasis upon virtue found in the classical tradition. x
  • 9
    Disputing Separation of Powers, Part 1
    For Anti-Federalists, the proposed House of Representatives is too weak and will be overpowered by more powerful branches of government. For Federalists, the House is the most dangerous part of government and therefore most in need of being checked and balanced. x
  • 10
    Disputing Separation of Powers, Part 2
    Anti-Federalists argue that a federal-level "separation of powers" would be merely artificial, with no reliable basis in social reality; they argue instead for state governments to check the federal government. They also argue for a small executive council instead of the proposed presidency. x
  • 11
    The Supreme Court and Judicial Review
    Hamilton's expectation of a virtuous national leadership is most evident in his defense of the unelected, life-tenured Supreme Court and its historically unprecedented power of "judicial review." The Anti-Federalists predict abuse of this power and insist on a court that includes elected officials. x
  • 12
    The Bill of Rights
    The addition, by the first Congress, of the 10 amendments that constitute the Bill of Rights, is the one great victory of the Anti-Federalists—but it is won at the ironic cost of giving much more power to a Supreme Court that they fear. x

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Your professor

Thomas L. Pangle

About Your Professor

Thomas L. Pangle, Ph.D.
The University of Texas at Austin
Dr. Thomas L. Pangle holds the Joe R. Long Chair in Democratic Studies in the Department of Government at The University of Texas at Austin. He earned his B.A. from Cornell University and his Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Chicago. Before joining the faculty at The University of Texas, Professor Pangle taught at Yale University, Dartmouth University, the University of Chicago, and the …cole des...
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Great Debate: Advocates and Opponents of the American Constitution is rated 4.6 out of 5 by 149.
Rated 3 out of 5 by from My Review for Great Debate: Advocates and Opponent Information and instructor credentials outstanding. Audio only delivery was difficult to listen to. Very choppy, as if reading sentence fragments from a teleprompter. Information not nuanced with relative importance as every sentence fragment delivered at the same breathless level of importance. Even so, I'm going to listen to it again.
Date published: 2018-11-30
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good but could have been better This course would be much better if the lecturer had spent a lot more time lecturing and less time reading the essays from the time. When he stops to lecture, he's much better; simply reading from a text is always less interesting. This is especially true with the texts like the "Federalist." The language from the late 18th century is pretty arcane to 20th and 21st century ears.
Date published: 2018-11-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful course It is an insightful and balanced treatment of the great debates our country experienced during the ratification the Constitution. The points of the federalists and Anti-Federalists are well-explained
Date published: 2018-11-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Marvelous Summary I have not considered the Federalist Papers since college, and this course extended my knowledge and appreciation greatly. The founding fathers were true geniuses in how they absorbed the lessons of history and applied them to building a new kind of governing structure and rules of operation. It is especially interesting to listen to this course material in the present environment and see how the issues that dominated the Great Debate appear in the present age.
Date published: 2018-11-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Great Start These lectures are a deeper dive into the foundation of the UNITED States. Prof Pangle adroitly summarizes the debates that raged (mostly in print) from October 1787 and April 1788 (Federalist Papers range) in which the discussions between the Federalists (most notably Madison, Hamilton and Jay...jointly known as Publius) and the Anti Federalists (notably Clinton, Winthrop, Adams and Yates) focused on what form of government should replace the Articles of Confederation. SPOILER ALERT: the Federalists won...sorta. The debate resulted in the formation of a set of elaborate blueprints for our new republic, expertly created by James Madison, but largely designed by Alexander Hamilton, and appeared in the well-crafted Federalist Papers. From the opposing Anti Federalists a less clear agenda was proposed that limited the Federalist's strong central government, giving individual state governments closer controls. While the constitution was eventually approved by all thirteen states the issue of the absolute powers of state governments was not settled until the Civil War. I found these lectures to be a great stimulus to read more carefully the "Federalist Papers", as well as "The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787" (Max Farrand)...a daily log of the proceedings as recorded by Madison (mostly). In addition, I found the biography of Alexander Hamilton (Chernow) to be helpful in fleshing out the fundamental ideas of Hamilton's vision of this new form of government. Highly recommended, and don't debate long when there's a sale and a coupon available.
Date published: 2018-10-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Debate: Advocates and Opponents of the Ameri Very appropriate for our current times - US year 2018. If you have any questions and/or concerns with US current administration, it is a must course. The insights of the Great Debate show us the thought process and concerns then are very real even today. Thank you Hamilton and Madison ... and a free Press!
Date published: 2018-08-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very informative about history I had not known. Have only watched the first three lectures; have earned that a lot of what I knew wasn't so! Great.
Date published: 2018-08-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Federalist Papers should be required learning Great detail and insight into the root documents. The founder's wisdom of various forms of government is impressive.
Date published: 2018-08-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Awesome course I´m studying many works of some of the great writers on liberty, good government forms etc. as I´m trying to deepen my grasp on these issues. This course, through presenting the debate that happened back in the late 1780s regarding our Constitution, opened my eyes to so much we in 2018 aren´t in touch with. Both sides of the debate were brilliant, surprising to me was that I actually learned more from the Opponents arguments than I did from the Advocates. The professor did an outstanding job. I´ve taken apx. 50 Teaching Company courses and this one was simply the best. And that´s saying a lot as the Teaching Company has put out a bunch of great courses.
Date published: 2018-07-25
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Thorough and balanced This is an excellent short course on the debate over ratification of the American Constitution. Professor Pangle thoroughly and clearly covers the major issues dividing the federalists and anti-federalists as they wrangled over how to fix the Articles of Confederation which had led the united colonies through the Revolutionary War. His coverage includes the philosophical backdrop of “classical republicanism,” i.e. how the early Americans viewed the ancient Greco-Roman republics and how republicanism was reinterpreted by Montesquieu. He discusses the various aspects of the new constitution’s proposed government and how the House of Representatives, the Senate, the executive, and the federal judiciary were all points of contention for the anti-federalists. He presents the arguments of the participants in clear language, and when he does use direct quotations, he selects ones that are understandable to people of our time or he paraphrases them to make them intelligible. I consider myself a reasonably well educated person, but I have read the Federalist Papers, and they are often difficult for me to follow. Professor Pangle makes extensive use of them, but he makes them clear to laymen. Professor Pangle does not draw contemporary political conclusions from the eighteenth century debates, but one cannot help ponder carefully the arguments of the anti-federalists who raised concerns about a very powerful central government with unlimited taxing power, a powerful executive, and a completely unaccountable judiciary. Some of those concerns have been borne out, although it has taken many generations for them to come to pass. It made me wonder whether, if I could go back in time, I would have been on the side of Publius or the anti-federalists. In summary, this is a well-organized, informative, and thought-provoking course.
Date published: 2018-05-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very informative I enjoyed seeing how the constitution came about, and how the framers tried to balance to powers of the central government and the states
Date published: 2018-04-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding This is a terrific course, well presented by someone who has deeply researched the subject and the period. It's greatest strength is going beyond the pro-Federalist point of view and the well-worn Federalist Papers to deeply examine the anti-Ratification literature of the time. Very enlightening even for someone with an excellent grasp of the subject and period.
Date published: 2017-11-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from learned a lot This course covers thins I was never taught in my formal education. It covers the negative side of the US constitution as it was being debated at its origin. It's very enlightening that the faults we find in our government today were predicted at its origin
Date published: 2017-09-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from In depth, insightful, thoughtful. Maybe because I like the subject, but this was fascinating. Sent me back to the Federalist and anti-Federalist papers. Most Americans would benefit greatly from this course. Most particularly those who think they know what is and is not Constitutional and is intended by the 'Fathers.'
Date published: 2017-06-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Lectures on the Constitution I purchased this and watched the lectures. I was more than pleased with the quality and depth of the discussion, especially the balance in presenting all sides of the arguments as they were presented. While I had a working knowledge of this topic, the professor delved more deeply into the debates than I had ever done. It was truly enlightening. BTW: I have a degree in history, so I am not a novice to the subject. However, I never took a course in this particular topic.
Date published: 2017-06-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Two points of view Fantastic course. I am not a history buff, so almost everything in this course was new and very interesting to me. Gave me a whole new perspective on the issues in writing the Constitution and also made me wonder a bit whether some of the ideas of the Federalists weren't actually right.
Date published: 2017-05-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Content is just like the title I was curious about the claim of staying true to the Constitution by people who have opposing political views. This course helps me understand.
Date published: 2017-05-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Superb Content, Timely, and Forcefully Presented I have taken well over 100 of the Teaching Company’s courses and I cannot recall another as cogently argued, or more riveting in content and delivery, than this one. This course contains valuable insight into some of the most fundamental questions of political order and governance that remain vital – even urgent – for us today. Persons of all political persuasions should find Professor Pangle’s presentation of the most central arguments of the proponents of the Constitution – the Federalists – and those opposing the Constitution – the Anti-Federalists – absolutely relevant to the issues that still challenge and divide us today. Dr. Pangle does not, in any way, “take sides” on the issues under discussion but, rather, lays out – using the words from the writings of the contending Founders themselves – the most clearly and powerfully presented arguments, both pro and con, on the central features of the newly proposed Constitution. In doing so, he enables us to better follow the logic – and occasional gaps in – those arguments as well as to more clearly understand both the many areas in which these opponents shared common principles as well as those matters where they disagreed. There were times when I found that the Anti-Federalists had the better of the argument, or – at least – had posed significant challenges or questions that were either insufficiently answered by the Federalists or, most often through changing the subject, deflected. At other times I came to be in greater agreement with the position taken by the Federalists. The greatest contribution of this marvelous course is its demonstration of how powerfully alive the Constitution remains. While some may be tempted to dismiss these arguments is being too limited because all of the personages involved were white, upper-class men – and, therefore, could little understand, nor be able to speak for, the concerns of women or nonwhites – that would be a grave error. The reason is that the Founders were quite knowledgeable about human nature, and had few illusions about it. In preparing the Constitution – and in the opposition by some to it – they wrestled with such fundamental, universal matters as how to guard against the oppression by some – the powerful, for instance, but at other times a majority – of others, the honoring of majoritarian decisions while preserving the voice and rights of minorities, the corralling of greed, ambition, and heated passions in order to serve the larger good. These are matters that are universal concerns, albeit ones that can be shaped – in their expression and management – by cultural forces. They all believed in republican government, but differed as to what this meant in practice; they all wanted an effective central government – for which the original Constitution, the Articles of Confederation, proved to be insufficient – but disagreed about how to achieve the proper balance between the central government and those of the states, about how best to ensure individual liberties, the most effective structures that would ensure sufficient checks and balances to prevent concentrations of power, and the duties of the judiciary. I ended this course with a new respect for the depth of knowledge and intellectual vigor for that remarkable generation, as well as reaffirming my appreciation for how persons of good will can, nonetheless, find themselves disagreeing with each other about both ends and means. These debates should also reacquaint us with how matters of fundamental disagreement can be civilly discussed, in sharp opposition to the level of political and civic discourse we so frequently sink to today. The Founders show us how important it is to clearly identify the issue(s) separating us, then to lay out – in detail and through the use of reasoned arguments – both the options before us as well as the pros and cons of various courses. If this approach is taken, reasonable men and women – operating with the larger good of the Republic in mind – can make decisions even on the toughest issues. But where this is not attempted, where, instead, reason is abandoned for slogans and rigid ideologies and opponents denounced as fools or worse, then little can be understood, let alone resolved, and we will inevitably sink back further into the kinds of tribal warfare which the Founders identified with the religious and civil wars of their immediate past. My thanks to the Teaching Company and to Professor Pangle for this high-quality lecture series!
Date published: 2017-05-03
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Great Debate: Advocates and Opponents of the Ameri Several tapes were warped. A second set was sent and again there are warped tapes.
Date published: 2017-04-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A must have course on American Constitution Best discussion ever of Federalist and Anti-Federalists debates. You know know nothing about the American Constitution until you understand the ratification debates. After years in college and law school, I felt like I finally got it.
Date published: 2017-04-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Overview I think this is one of my favorite courses to date. The risk I think you run into by taking a course on politics is that the bias of the professor will leak through and become obvious where their personal beliefs are at. That was not the case here. The professor did a fantastic job of showing both sides of the debate with equal argument so that the student could make up their own mind. I went into the course thinking I would immediately default to one side of the debate, but often found myself being pushed back the other way and then vice versa. To me that is the mark of a great teacher that causes to to truly move back and forth among ideas and concepts constantly thinking and re-thinking positions. To work out in your mind how you feel. Absolutely fantastic course!
Date published: 2017-03-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Thoughtful, interesting, and beautiful Anyone with a passing familiarity with US history knows about the drafting of the US Constitution in 1787 and the subsequent debates, including the arguments in what we now call The Federalist papers, as the Constitution was ratified. Prof. Pangle does a superb job in this course, diving deeply into the discussion, quoting extensively from Hamilton, Madison, and Jay and the anti-Federalist counter-arguments. It's truly deep and exciting material, and the course makes one realize just how radically different the American Republic was to be from all previous republics, and why so many were so skeptical. Listening carefully to every lecture, I came away with an even deeper appreciation for the genius of the Founders and Framers, and what they have given us. I also gaze in wonder at a citizen body capable of reading about and discussing the many back-and-forth volleys of argument on both sides, given the poor level of civic engagement and discourse we see today. Indeed, 'A republic - if you can keep it.'
Date published: 2017-02-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great course Fascinating review of the debate about the constitution giving great insight into the deep thinkers who shaped the constitution. Where are they today?
Date published: 2017-02-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Absolutely great This course provides and in-depth analysis of the motivations and trains of thought of the advocates and opponents of the American constitution. Professor Pangle’s central point, in my opinion, is that this process, for the first time in history, was a conscious effort to “design” or “engineer” the right political mechanisms so as to provide a long lasting and well governed republic – where all previous efforts at this same goal have ultimately failed. The central documents in the course are, of course, the Federalist Papers and the responses to them by the so-called “anti-Federalists. I have heard many references to these papers in history courses but, not being American myself, have never had the opportunity to study them in detail. In this respect, the course provided a lot of valuable information for me. I found it absolutely fascinating to understand how, even at this early stage of American development, the people who were steering the process had a profound understanding of the stakes at hand, but also a mature and comprehensive political philosophy. Many of the central points that were argued during the debates are still being debated in the USA and elsewhere - so I found their relevance a bit surprising. One particular aspect whose centrality in the debates I found particularly surprising was the extent of federal governance that should be prescribed in the constitution. The centrality of this aspect, then and now, is peculiar to the United States whereas in other political systems (Israel being one good example) this aspect is almost not mentioned. Overall, I feel that Professor Pangle provided a wonderful, in-depth, quite technical discussion about the motivations and beliefs of the designers of the constitution, as well as their overarching strategy and “battlefield” tactics. The course was rigorous, not particularly entertaining or humorous, but straight to the point and enlightening. A great course indeed…
Date published: 2016-12-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from interesting course I just began listening to the lectures. I am interested to learn about the debates on the making of the constitution.
Date published: 2016-11-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Debate: Advocates and Opponents of the Ameri The professor is terrific. One of the best I have had since taking courses years ago. He is very engaging.
Date published: 2016-11-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from factionalism by design I can't add much to the excellent, recent reviews and comments, especially the featured review by JimCobb, except to say we all should review this course every election cycle. It makes it clear that the factional conflict of our political system was foreseen and built into the system by the founders, for better or for worse. One more thing, I found the almost passing comments about the powers of the Supreme Court and the comments of the anti-federalist very enlightening.
Date published: 2016-10-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Essential, relevant, and timely In this presidential election year of 2016, questions about the extent of the federal government in our national life are being discussed as vigorously as at any time in my life. Professor Pangle sheds a tremendous amount of light on this discussion, packing in a lot of information into 6 hours. I have been reading much debate this year among the factions of the conservative movement. It turns out that their concerns were echoed in the debate between the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists. Professor Pangle persuasively provides the arguments for both sides, and shows how each contributed to our current polity. I encourage every citizen to spend 6 hours to understand the legitimate arguments of both sides of this debate. I came away understanding that the optimal polity learns from both sides.
Date published: 2016-08-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent and Relevant Today AUDIO DOWNLOAD I had postponed listening to this TC course as it is on a topic I thought I knew a good deal about, though much of that knowledge is dated. Hardly an expert, I do know enough to appreciate this course as a top-notch treatment. Professor Pangle does an excellent job in resurrecting the voices of dissent to the proposed US Constitution. He does this by deftly treating major topics of concern raised by the “best” of the Anti-Federalists, and noting how those concerns are answered by the authors of ‘The Federalist Papers’ (primarily James Madison and Alexander Hamilton, but also John Jay). Professor Pangle shows us that these Anti-Federalists were not cranks or folks on the margins, but men (and at least one woman, Mercy Otis Warren) of substance and eminence, including Patrick Henry, John Hancock, and New York Governor George Clinton. The fact that sixteen of the fifty-five members of the Constitutional Convention did not sign off on the proposed constitution is an indication that the adoption of the US Constitution would face opposition. The Constitution represented a radical departure from classical republicanism, and this troubled many who decried its centralizing and undemocratic elements. Professor Pangle is best at describing the debate between the Anti-Federalists and the authors of the ‘The Federalist Papers’, providing extended quotations of both sides and references the appropriate ‘The Federalist Papers’ entry numbers. This makes for a lively course, made even more so by the background Professor Pangle provides about the participants and their positions. In this regard, he even points out some possible naiveté on the part of Madison and occasional glib or misleading arguments by Hamilton. It has often been assumed that though the Anti-Federalists failed to revise or derail adoption of the Constitution, they at least succeeded in securing a Bill of Rights. But here the success was “bittersweet” (audio, lecture 12). This is so, according to Professor Pangle, because Madison, in drafting the set adopted, avoided inclusion of any of those more radical elements earlier adopted by states (championed by, among others, Thomas Jefferson) that would have materially affected the operations of the Constitution. In fact, “Madison’s Bill of Rights strengthened the new Constitution and even gave to the central government important additional power contrary to the intention of the Anti-Federalists” (Course Guidebook, Page 58). Despite the seeming aura of failure that hangs over the Anti-Federalists, Professor Pangle succeeds in showing how “…those who opposed the constitution also contributed to an ongoing dialogue that has helped to define and enrich the American political tradition” (page 4). In this regard, I was sometimes surprised at how prescient the Anti-Federalists were about such present-day concerns about and debates on such matters as an activist Supreme Court or the reach of the Federal government into local and personal matters. The debate does indeed continue. This is a truly interesting course enlivened by a very good presenter who has crafted a set of lectures that keep one’s attention from beginning to end. The eighty-two page course guide book is exemplary.
Date published: 2016-07-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent elucidation Professor Pangle presents the debates between the Federalist and Antifederalists in an exemplary manner. He quotes amply from each side of the debate and shows how certain arguments eventually won out, including some of the Antifederalist arguments. His Lecture 11 on judicial review is especially compelling, as he examines Hamilton's nuanced views in The Federalist, responding to Antifederalist arguments. Hamilton's arguments for judicial review in The Federalist were later channeled by Chief Justice John Marshall in Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. 137 (1803). Pangle's Lecture 7 on the Madisonian Republic is also outstanding, as are many other analyses throughout this course. Professor Pangle is an expert in the history of political philosophy, and he shows how the various arguments of the Federalists and Antifederalists relate to that history, especially the political philosophy of Montesquieu and the views of the classical republicans of ancient Greece and Rome. Pangle, perhaps rightly, does not attempt to relate the eighteenth-century debate over the Constitution to later developments in American history, for example, the effect of the Industrial Revolution and advanced transportation and communications technology on federalism and, indeed, on the entire logic of Jefferson and the Antifederalists in favor of small and local government. That omission might leave some viewers and readers of these lectures with the misimpression that one can simply apply the debates of 1787-91 to today's circumstances. As Pangle observes, however, even Jefferson remarked that one generation's understanding of constitutional and other law should not bind subsequent generations. With this caveat, I strongly recommend this lecture series, which is accessible not only to scholars but also to others genuinely interested in one of the most important debates in American history.
Date published: 2016-07-24
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