Political Science 252

Winter 2001

  AMERICAN POLITICAL THOUGHT

Professor: Kimberly Smith

Willis 418

Phone: x-4123

Email: ksmith@carleton.edu

Office Hours

According to Louis Hartz, America was born liberal and her liberal consensus has never been seriously challenged. Is he right? Are American political traditions fundamentally individualistic and egalitarian? If so, how do we explain race and gender hierarchies, socialist influences and the long-standing ideal of the godly "city on the hill"? This class will explore representative texts in the American political tradition, concentrating on the Founding through the nineteenth century. We will attempt to evaluate Hartz's thesis and competing descriptions of American political thought.

Texts:

Franklin, Autobiography

Douglass, Narrative

Sumner, What the Social Classes Owe

Bellamy, Looking Backwards

**Other readings on reserve

This is primarily a discussion course. You are expected to complete the assigned readings before class and be prepared to discuss them thoughtfully and insightfully. You are expected to bring the assigned text to class every day.

Your grade will be calculated as follows:

Paper #1:

35%

Paper #2:

35%

Paper #3:

15%

Participation:

15%

SUGGESTED PAPER TOPICS

Papers should be double-spaced, 12-pt font (please!) with normal margins.

For the first two papers, you may write on the following topics or choose your own, as long as you clear it with me first. The topic of the third paper is not optional.

You may rewrite your papers as often as you like, for a new grade.

The purpose of these papers is to achieve and demonstrate a good understanding the texts, to develop your own critical insights into American political thought, and to hone your reading and writing skills until you are the envy of all your peers.

I will be looking for a clearly stated, interesting thesis; good support drawing liberally on the texts for quotes and examples; and the other standard expectations of a good essay: clear organization, lively, polished prose, brief but effective introduction and conclusion, etc. You do not need to do any outside research for this paper, and you do not need to include a bibliography. However, when you refer to the text you must cite the page number.

Paper #1: 5-7 pages

1. What is the meaning of American individualism? Compare Franklin, Thoreau and Douglass. In what sense are they individualists? In what ways do their individualisms differ?

2. Was the American founding democratic? Consider the founding documents we examined and the critical perspectives on American democracy offered by Thoreau, Grimké, and Douglass.

3. What is the relationship between Christianity and American democracy, judging from the texts we've examined? Is American democracy founded on, independent from or in conflict with religious values?

Paper #2: 5-7 pages

1. Compare and contrast Grimké, the Seneca Falls Declaration and Gilman on women's equality. Can they all be classified as liberal? How do their positions differ?

2. Is there a legitimate role for passion and violence in American politics? Compare Thoreau, Douglass and Lincoln on this point. You may also want to review the Federalist Papers.

3. Have Americans successfully reconciled the reality of economic inequality and the value of political equality? Consider Sumner, Bellamy and the Washington/DuBois debate on this point.

Paper #3: 3-4 pages

Drawing on what you've learned in this class, please evaluate Roger Smith's argument. Is liberalism the dominant value in American political thought, or does it make more sense to think of American political thought as composed of multiple, competing traditions? Or is there another alternative?

SYLLABUS

I. Introduction: Interpretations

Class 1: Introduction

Class 2: Hartz, The Liberal Tradition in America, pp. 3-14

Roger Smith, Beyond Tocqueville, APSR 87 (Sept.): 549 (1993)

II. The First American Founding: Covenant

Class 3: Winthrop, Model of Christian Charity

III. The Second American Founding: Constitution

Class 4: Franklin, Autobiography

Class 5: Franklin, Autobiography, cont.

Class 6: Franklin, Autobiography, cont.

Class 7: Bailyn, Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, Ch. 2

Zuckert, Natural Rights and the New Republicanism, pp. 18-25

Class 8: Declaration of Independence

Paine, Common Sense (pp. 23-50)

Goodrich, The Principles of Civil Union and Happiness Considered

Class 9: The Constitution of 1789

Federalist Papers 10, 48, 51

Class 10: Federalist Papers 39, 57

Anti-federalist papers (Centinel I, Federal Farmer VII; Brutus I)

IV. The Third American Founding: Conflict

Class 11: Thoreau, Civil Disobedience

Class 12: Douglass, Narrative, Preface - Ch. IV

Class 13: Douglass, Narrative, Ch. V - Ch. X

Class 14: Douglass, Narrative, Ch. XI - end

*Paper 1 due

Class 15: Angelina Grimké, Appeal to Christian Women of the South

Class 16: Grimké cont.

Seneca Falls Declaration

Class 17: Lincoln, Speech to Young Men's Lyceum, First Inaugural Address

Reconstruction Amendments

V. The Fourth American Founding: Cleavages

(A) Capitalism and its critics

Class 18: Davis, Life in the Iron Mills

Class 19: Populist Party Platform, 1892

Sumner, What the Social Classes Owe To Each Other, Intro - Ch. 3

Class 20: Sumner, Ch. 4 - 7

Class 21: Sumner, Ch. 8 - end

Class 22: Bellamy, Looking Backwards, Preface - Ch. 5

Class 23: Bellamy, Ch. 6 - Ch. 14

Class 24: Bellamy, Ch. 15 - end

*Final rewrites of Paper 1 due

(B) Equality

Class 25: Washington, Atlanta Exposition/DuBois, Souls of Black Folk, pp. 36-50

Class 26: Gilman, The Yellow Wallpaper; If I Were A Man

*Paper 2 due

(C) Progressivism

Class 27: John Dewey, Liberalism and Social Action, Ch. 2

Jane Addams, The Subjective Necessity for Social Settlements

Class 28: Dewey, Addams cont.

*Paper 3 due

*Final rewrites of Papers 2 & 3 due Tuesday, March 13 at 12:00