Professor William R. Long 10/11/04
The US Constitution on the Internet
You recall that my first point on my Educational Theory mini-essay was that the future of education will be Internet-driven. I would like us to try to implement that principle of my philosophy in class today. That means that the discussion (on codification) that was planned for today will be put off until Thursday. I want you to bring your laptop (or a friend's) to class so that you can report on the assignment for the day.
What you will do before class is to select a topic from the list below and research it for an hour. You will then give a "report" on your work to the class on Tuesday. You will write down what you find out in notes (not necessarily a connected essay), and you will turn in the results of your work at the end of class.
The topics for the day revolve around the adoption of the US Constitution in 1787 (the Convention) and in the States (1787-88). Some topics are from earlier days and some from days after the Convention but the reason for the exercise is twofold: (1) that historical knowledge about our Constitution-generating events is crucial to our self-understanding and to American jurisprudence; and (2) that we do almost no serious research on the history surrounding the US Constitution in a formal way at this school. It seems to me that since we are trying to understand a constitution in law school, we should have at least some rudimentary exposure to important historical/jurisprudential material and themes about the US Constitution.
Choose a topic from the list below. You will have 45 minutes to research it on the Internet. More than one of you may choose the same topic, but no topic should have more than three people on it.
1. What are online primary documents/sources for the study of Congressional Activities from 1774-1795. There are some very rich and significant resources here. This is a sort of "bibliographic essay" of Internet sites.
2. The Virginia Statute of Religious Liberty (January 1786). What led up to it? What influence did it have? What did it provide?
3. Some Leading Thoughts from the Federalist Papers. What were they? When written?
4. Details from the Constitutional Convention of 1787. That is, how many states were represented? Were was it? When? How many delegates? Subjects of debate? Schedule? Who didn't sign?
5. The Virginia Declaration of Rights of 1776 and its Influence.
6. James Madison's Notes on the Constitutional Convention. Get an overview of the Notes and report on them. What is the tone? When were they written? Revised?
7. The Idea of a Bill of Rights and the Process of Ratification of the Bill of Rights. Why wasn't it included in the original Constitution? Do we really need one? Or, is it enough just to have the Tenth Amendment with the protection of State Constitutions?
8. The Debate Over Slavery and the Ratification of the United States Constitution in 1787.
9. The Debate over Separation of Powers. What is at Stake? What other models were considered? What actually does the Constitution say about the "powers?" Why is the Judicial Article so scanty?
10. The Debate over the Powers of the President at the Constitutional Convention of 1787. Were other models considered?
11. The Judiciary Act of September 24, 1789. We read a good deal about the importance of this Act in many Supreme Court decisions, but I would venture to say that not many of you have ever read this Act. Find the text of it online, read it, and report back on what its provisions say and where the "pressure points" or difficulties in interpretation are in the Act.
12. A Primer on the Articles of Confederation. Read the Articles and summarize them. What were its leading provisions and deficiencies, in the mind of the members of the 1787 Convention? When were the Articles approved by the Continental Congress? When ratified by the States?
13. The Northwest Ordinance of July 13, 1787 was a significant piece of legislation for the settlement of the "Old Northwest" (now parts of the Midwest). What were the provisions of this Act and what was its significance?
14. Eleven of the thirteen original colonies wrote state constitutions from 1776-1780. What was going on? Find some of these constitutions and read some of their provisions. Which states/colonies did NOT write a constitution in these years?
15. Describe the "12" proposed Amendments to the Constitution introduced on March 3, 1789 and discuss the process leading to adoption of the 10 Amendments in the Bill of Rights.
16. Compare Justice Rutledge's view of religion in American history in Everson (1947) with Justice Rehnquist in Wallace (1985).
Copyright © 2004-2007 William R. Long