Graduate Liberal Studies Program

Course Description

GLS 592: 1787: Constitutional Players

Instructor: Dave Shuster

U.S. Constitution - 1 U.S. Constitution - 2

What happened in Philadelphia's State House (now Independence Hall) that summer? Who attended? Who did not? Why not? Who were the heavy hitters…and light hitters? What were the underlying issues and how did they emerge out of the colonies' 180-year economic, social, religious, cultural and geo-political history?

Why, only 11 years after signing the Declaration of Independence, and approximately five years after ratifying the Articles of Confederation, could a relatively few people get away with such a bloodless coup?

What great contradictions festered within this document and social milieu…with what impact today?

Finally, where do we now stand constitutionally? Are the Constitution's core principles alive and well…or withering under the onslaught of (in economist Joseph Schumpeter's words) "…the winds of creative destruction?"


This course is an entirely collective effort. No standard text is assigned, with the exception of the pamphlet listed below. Students should order it from the government printing office and bring it to the first class session.

Students, singly or in small groups, will (under a class-appointed editorial board) divide research (by elected topics), writing, editing and production labors, and merge their deliverables into a comprehensive reader…and, perhaps, other media and presentation formulae.

Diverse student backgrounds, education, experiences and interests are, therefore, sought and welcome in this enterprise…from sculpture and music to chemistry and quantum physics…and all intermediate disciplines.

The final product will be submitted for publication (after critique and revision) under every participant's name.

Pamphlet: The Constitution of the United States of America, As Amended, Unratified Amendments, Analytical Index, Printed by Mr. Ney, June 20, 2003, U.S. Gv't. Printing Office, Washington: 2003
ISBN 0-16-051424-X. Phone 866.512.1800, Fax: 202.512.2250

Suggested Preliminary Readings/Websites for those whom have asked:


Patriots, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin: An American Life, The Founding Brothers


Samuel Adams, Alexander Hamilton, George Washington, Benjamin Rush, George Mason, Thomas Jefferson, etc.


History/charters/founding settlers of each colony, slavery origins and development in each colony, religious foundation, music, economy, socio-economic/women's status, ommunication/transportation, inter-colony relations, colony governments, etc.

Some Web Sites: (Tons of stuff…signers biographies, documents, wives, issues, etc.)

Images courtesy of

Last Update: September 7, 2017