Books That Matter: The Federalist Papers (DVD and Guidebook)
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.
The Great Courses
The Federalist Papers, American founding, separation of powers, American Constitution, ratification, branches of government
Constitutional Law | Law | Law and Philosophy | Law and Politics
Hoffmann, Joseph L., "Books That Matter: The Federalist Papers (DVD and Guidebook)" (2020). Books & Book Chapters by Maurer Faculty. 288.