Books that Matter: The Federalist Papers

Course No. 4010
Professor Joseph L. Hoffmann, J.D.
Indiana University Maurer School of Law
Share This Course
Course No. 4010
Sale
Video Streaming Included Free

What Will You Learn?

  • numbers Reflect on the challenges America's founders faced when setting up a new form of government.
  • numbers Survey the solution of "dual sovereignty" that the U.S. Constitution created.
  • numbers Examine the powers and limitations of the new federal government and its relationship to the states.
  • numbers Increase your understanding of the branches of government.

Course Overview

Despite their lack of official or legal status, it would be difficult to overstate the influence of The Federalist Papers. These 85 brilliant essays have served as the single most important guide to the interpretation and application of the United States Constitution for more than 230 years. Authored by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay, The Federalist Papers offer a detailed blueprint for building a successful democratic republic, investigating such topics as:

  • The danger that factions posed in a representative democracy;
  • The balance of power between the federal government and the states (“dual sovereignty”);
  • The way a bicameral legislature would prevent the rise of tyranny; and
  • The roles of the president and the federal judiciary.

Over the past two centuries, the American government has seen its share of trials and tribulations, and the 21st century has ushered in a host of new crises, from the growing surveillance state to the political polarization exacerbated by social media. Will the American system of government survive the next crisis? Are we still governed by the same system the Framers of the Constitution envisioned? What do they have to tell us about good governance today—or our political future?

Delve into these questions and more with Books That Matter: The Federalist Papers. Taught by acclaimed professor and legal scholar Joseph L. Hoffmann of the Indiana University Maurer School of Law, these 12 thought-provoking lectures take you back to the hot summer weather of Philadelphia in 1787, when the delegates from the states gathered to revise the Articles of Confederation.

What emerged from the proceedings was an entirely new Constitution representing an entirely new system of government unlike anything the world had ever seen. As you will learn, the Framers were rightly concerned about whether the 13 largely autonomous states would accept a strong, centralized federal government, and whether such a system could include safeguards to protect against the tyranny they’d just fought a war to overcome.

To answer these concerns, the authors laid out a bold vision for the new nation, drafting what became essentially the Bible of American government—perhaps America’s most significant contribution to the way that human beings choose to organize their lives, and their societies, in order to fulfill their hopes and pursue their dreams together. Books That Matter: The Federalist Papers surveys this magisterial body of work and takes you inside the strengths—and potential weaknesses—of the American government as it was envisioned in its earliest days.

Reflect on the Threat of Tyranny

Among other topics, you’ll consider what an interesting word “federalism” is. Today, we associate the word with states’ rights and the effort to limit the scope of the federal government. But when you go back in time to the Constitutional Convention of 1787, the Federalists were pushing for a strong federal government. Hamilton and Madison, in particular, believed that a loose confederation of 13 nation-states left America vulnerable, and that you needed a centralized governing power.

In The Federalist Papers, they made their case for the new Constitution and explicated their vision for a new American federal government that would be strong, yet not tyrannical. For instance, in Federalist No. 10, Madison argued that a pure democracy would lead to the rise of factions that would have the power and tendency to vote for narrow interests against the public good. A democratic republic, by contrast, would allow for the people to express their will indirectly.

The brilliance and innovation Hamilton, Madison, and Jay laid out depends upon a delicate balance of powers—between the federal and state governments; among the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of the federal government; and even within the legislature itself. It is nothing shy of astonishing how the Framers were able to construct a system so perfectly designed to protect against both the tyranny of the masses and the tyranny of a monarch.

Unpack the System of American Government

If you accept the premise that America needed a centralized federal government, what exactly is the role of this government? Professor Hoffmann takes you through Federalist Nos. 41, 42, 43, and 44, in which Madison described and defended the list of “enumerated powers” of the federal government.

To exercise these enumerated powers, the government needed several branches to operate:

  • House of Representatives elected by the people that would be able to express their direct will;
  • Senate whose members originally were appointed by the states, offering state governments a lever of power;
  • President chosen by an electoral college; and
  • Federal judiciary whose members are appointed for life.

Not only does Professor Hoffmann explore the distinct roles of each branch of government, but he also shows how these branches evolved over time. For instance, he explains the story of Marbury v. Madison, arguably the most influential Supreme Court case of all time, in which the Court declared its power to review laws for compliance with the Constitution.

He also examines how the balance of power has shifted over the years, such as the rise of the American presidency as the most powerful political leader in the world; the changing interpretations of the interstate commerce clause; and the way the Supreme Court has become politicized over the years, from President Franklin Roosevelt’s court-packing scheme to the political litmus tests of judicial appointments in the modern era.

Consider the Future of the American Experiment

One of the delights of this course is the opportunity to get inside the minds of the Framers of the U.S. Constitution. You understand their hopes and fears, and you get a window into their tactical brilliance in pitting parts of the government against each other for the good of the citizenry.

But this course truly comes alive because the continued relevance of The Federalist Papers in modern America, where questions of federalism still abound: Who should drive the reform of our educational system? Who should solve the problems of health care? When a natural disaster (or pandemic) strikes, who should come to the rescue? These matters, ripped straight from the headlines, are all about federalism, a word that ultimately refers to the balance of power between the states and the nation as a whole.

When the Framers created the new American federal system of government, they not only set in motion a brilliant plan to preserve and protect individual liberty against governmental oppression, but they also created an unparalleled model that is being studied, adapted, and adopted by people and governments around the world today.

By the end of Books That Matter: The Federalist Papers, you will gain a sense of what Hamilton, Madison, and Jay might make of America today, whether the American experiment has gone astray, and what The Federalist Papers might be able to teach us to solve the problems of today—and tomorrow.

Hide Full Description
12 lectures
 |  Average 33 minutes each
  • 1
    A Blueprint for American Government
    Understanding The Federalist Papers starts with understanding who wrote them and why they were written. In this opening lecture, go back to 1787 to meet Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay to find out what challenges they faced in communicating the need for the new U.S. Constitution. x
  • 2
    A Democracy or a Republic?
    The Framers of the Constitution believed pure democracy was something to be feared for the way it would lead to the rise of factions, which would in turn tear apart the system. Was it possible to create a new model that offered the benefits of representative democracy without the problems of factions? See how the Framers tackled this conflict. x
  • 3
    A Federation or a Nation?
    When the Framers gathered in Philadelphia to write a new constitution, they essentially were representing a loose federation of nation-states. Their original charge was to modify the Articles of Confederation, but there was a solid case for a strong central government. Examine this dilemma and the compromises that Madison and Hamilton made. x
  • 4
    American Federalism
    Given all the conflicts and compromises of 1787, how did the American federal system come about? How did the Framers solve the issues of the day while preserving flexibility for the future? Review the enumerated powers of the federal government and see how power was balanced between the federal government and the states. x
  • 5
    Dual Sovereignty
    The system that emerged under the new constitution gave the federal government the ability to determine the scope of its own powers. What checks did the system place on the federal government? Who gets to decide when the federal government has violated its powers? Reflect on the powers of the states and the American people. x
  • 6
    Popular Sovereignty and States' Rights
    The idea of popular sovereignty-the power of the American people-reshaped the relationship between the states and the federal government. In this lecture, consider the ever-changing relationship of the states to the federal government. See how the institution of slavery was the catalyst for a crisis. x
  • 7
    The Separation of Powers
    In Federalist Nos. 47 through 51, James Madison explains why the concept of separation of powers" is so important for the future of the American government. Dig into these five amazing essays to understand what the familiar term "separation of powers" really means-and why he was so optimistic about America's future." x
  • 8
    The Federal Legislature
    James Madison believed the legislature posed the greatest threat to the integrity of the system the Framers had so carefully designed. In Federalist No. 48," "Federalist No. 51," and elsewhere, he laid out warnings about the legislature seizing too much power, as well as the solution of a bicameral legislature. Delve into this thorny issue." x
  • 9
    The President of the United States
    Shift your attention from the legislature to the chief executive, the single most powerful government official in the world today. But, as you will learn in your exploration of The Federalist Papers, the Framers had a different view of the presidency. Review Alexander Hamilton's essays about the office and the powers of the president. x
  • 10
    The Federal Judiciary
    Round out your study of the branches of government with an in-depth look at the federal judiciary, one of the three branches of the federal government. The Framers believed the judiciary was the branch least likely to infringe on the liberty of the American people. Reflect on its role and its power, and then review the most important constitutional law case in American History: Marbury v. Madison. x
  • 11
    The Evolution of American Federalism
    The story of the Constitution is one of both stability and change. In this lecture, take a look at some of the most important ways the Constitution has evolved over the past 230 years. Consider whether the changes have largely honored the original spirit of the Constitution or broken faith with the vision of the Framers. x
  • 12
    The Future of the United States Constitution
    What does the future look like for America's democratic republic? As you have seen, one of the most important trends has been the gradual increase in federal power, but the tension between federal and state power remains. Is there still a future for republican government? What might a Second Constitutional Convention look like? And would we want to find out? x

Lecture Titles

Clone Content from Your Professor tab

What's Included

What Does Each Format Include?

Video DVD
Instant Video Includes:
  • Ability to download 12 video lectures from your digital library
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE video streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps
Video DVD
DVD Includes:
  • 12 lectures on 2 DVDs
  • Printed course guidebook
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE video streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps
  • Closed captioning available

What Does The Course Guidebook Include?

Video DVD
Course Guidebook Details:
  • Printed course guidebook
  • Photos & illustrations
  • Suggested readings
  • Questions to consider

Enjoy This Course On-the-Go with Our Mobile Apps!*

  • App store App store iPhone + iPad
  • Google Play Google Play Android Devices
  • Kindle Fire Kindle Fire Kindle Fire Tablet + Firephone
*Courses can be streamed from anywhere you have an internet connection. Standard carrier data rates may apply in areas that do not have wifi connections pursuant to your carrier contract.

Your professor

Joseph L. Hoffmann

About Your Professor

Joseph L. Hoffmann, J.D.
Indiana University Maurer School of Law
Joseph L. Hoffmann is the Harry Pratter Professor of Law at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law, where he has taught since 1986. He received a J.D. (cum laude) from the University of Washington School of Law. After law school, Professor Hoffmann clerked for the Honorable Phyllis A. Kravitch of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit and for then-associate justice William H. Rehnquist of the U.S. Supreme...
Learn More About This Professor
Also By This Professor

Reviews

  • bvseo_sdk, p_sdk, 3.2.0
  • CLOUD, getContent, 7.12ms
  • REVIEWS, PRODUCT
  • bvseo-msg: HTTP status code of 404 was returned;

Questions & Answers

Customers Who Bought This Course Also Bought

Buy together as a Set
and
Save Up To $300.00
Choose a Set Format
$88.90
$129.90