Graduate Liberal Studies Program

Course Description

GLS 592: Visions of the Republic: Classical and Modern Sources in the Formation of American Government

Instructor: John L. Godwin

This course will focus on major developments in the history of the American Revolution, culminating in the establishment of government under the U.S. Constitution of 1787. The course will involve an examination of the words and actions of the founding generation in an effort to uncover the vision of government and society that defined the Revolution and the Early Republic. How did the republic of the founding generation give definition to the American vision, involving such concepts as freedom and slavery, virtue and corruption, tyranny and democracy, factional interest and the public good, republicanism and human rights? How did such notions reflect a cultural inheritance deriving through Classical and Renaissance sources? What made the new republic truly Modern by comparison? What role did the question of slavery play in the drafting of the constitution and the creation of the new republic? The course will call upon students to attempt to put the Revolutionary era into the perspective of tradition and modernity in Western culture, involving the contrasting claims of religion and science, freedom and family, and an economy that included free markets, state capitalism, the metropolis and slave labor.

A broad array of sources and an interdisciplinary method will be used to accomplish this. Students will study representative examples of the literature of the era, in addition to the personal correspondence, public speeches and legal documents that provide direct insight into the outlook of the founders. Students will also study the works of leading scholars who have offered interpretive accounts of how the American Republic was established. The course will also involve consideration and some use of Classical, Renaissance, and Enlightenment sources that influenced the political understanding of the founding generation. Finally, the course will close with some consideration of what meaning such "visions of the republic" may still hold for us today.

Course Readings

Required Books:

Joseph Addison, Cato: A Tragedy, and Selected Essays (Indianapolis, Liberty Fund, Inc. n.d.) Paperback ISBN-10 0-86597-443-8 ISBN-13 978-0-86597-443-2 Paper

Bernard Bailyn, Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, (Harvard University Press, 1992) ISBN 0-674-44302-0. Paper

Lester J. Cappon, ed.,The Adams-Jefferson Letters, (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1988) ISBN 0-8078-4230-3 Paper.

Joseph J. Ellis, His Excellency: George Washington (N.Y.: Vintage Books, 2004) ISBN 1-4000-3253-9 Paper.

Olaudah Equiano, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, Written by Himself 2nd Edition, Robert J. Allison from the Bedford Series in History and Culture (Boston, N.Y.: Bedford Books of St. Martins Press 2007) ISBN-10: 0-312-44203-3 ISBN-13: 978-0-312-44203-3 Paper.

Anthony Everitt, Cicero: The Life and Times of Rome's Greatest Politician (N.Y.: Random House, 2001) ISBN 0-375-75895-X 364 pgs. Paper.

Eric Foner, Tom Paine and Revolutionary America (London: Oxford University Press, 2004) ISBN 0195174852 368 pgs. Paper.

Drew McCoy, The Elusive Republic: Political Economy in Jeffersonian America (Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 1980, 1996) ISBN 0-8078-4616-3. paper.

Gordon S. Wood, The Americanization of Benjamin Franklin, (N.Y: Penguin, 2004) ISBN 0-14-303528-2. Paper.

Required Articles:

Joyce Appleby, "What Is Still American in the Political Philosophy of Thomas Jefferson?" William and Mary Quarterly, 1982, (39) 2: 287-309.

Lance Banning, "Jeffersonian Ideology Revisited: Liberal and Classical Ideas in the New American Republic," William and Mary Quarterly, 1986, (43) 1: 3-19.

Robert F. Berkhofer, Jr. "Jefferson, the Ordinance of 1784, and the Origins of the American Territorial System," William and Mary Quarterly, 29 (1972): 231-

Timothy H. Breen, "John Adams's Fight Against Innovation in the New England Constitution: 1776," The New England Quarterly, Vol. 40, No. 4. (Dec., 1967), pp. 501-520.

James M. Farrell, "John Adams' Autobiography: The Ciceronian Paradigm and the Quest for Fame," The New England Quarterly, Vol. 62, No. 4. (Dec., 1989), pp. 505-528.

William W. Freeling, "The Founding Fathers and Slavery," American Historical Review, 77 (1972): 81-

Akiyo Ito, "Olaudah Equiano and the New York Artisans: The First American Edition of the Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African," Early American Literature, 32, 1 (1997): 82-101.

Jean Butenhoff Lee, "The Problem of the Slave Community in the Eighteen C. Chesapeake," William and Mary Quarterly, 43 (1986): 333-

Howard V. Ohline, "Republicanism and Slavery: Origins of the Three-Fifths Clause in the United States Constitution," William and Mary Quarterly, 28 (1971): 563-

Stephen S. Webb, "Army and Empire: English Garrison Government in Britain and America," 1569-1763," William and Mary Quarterly, vol. 34, no. 1 (1977): 1-31.

Dr. John L. Godwin is author of Black Wilmington and the North Carolina Way: Portrait of a Community in the Era of Civil Rights Protest, (Lanham, MD. University of America Press, 2000). He is also editor and publisher of Carolina Civic Voice, a Wilmington news and issues alternative magazine, available at

Last Update:February 10, 2008