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Framing of the Constitution (Ewald)
Fall 2020   LAW 986-001  

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Meeting Times/Location
W 4:30PM - 6:30PM

William Ewald

Professor of Law and Philosophy

Additional Information

Skills Training
Oral Presentations
Expository Writing

10% Participation,
90% Paper

Satisfies Senior Writing Requirement



Class meets online.

Course Continuity
Students are encouraged to stay home if you are ill or experience flu-like symptoms. If you miss a class for any reason, it is still your responsibility to make up the work missed.

I offer the following to students who miss class due to illness:

- Class sessions are regularly recorded. I will make these recordings routinely available on the course site to everyone in the class.

- When you are better, please make an appointment to meet with me and I will review/answer questions about what you missed.



This seminar will investigate the drafting and ratification of the US Constitution, with a special focus on the contributions of James Wilson. We shall be reading several important secondary works (the exact texts to be chosen in our first meeting). But the seminar will concentrate on the primary source material (and, in particular, selections from Madison's Notes of the Constitutional Convention, The Federalist, James Wilson's Lectures on Law, and selections from the Ratification Debates).

I shall be searching for electronically-available texts: so the list of readings below should be regarded as provisional. I should have better information by July.

Because there is a great deal of material to cover, and because some of it is difficult, I shall spend the first hour of each class summarizing and presenting it, and leave the second hour for discussion. (That means no student presentations; but an expectation that you will have read the week's materials, and will participate in the discussion.)

Some of the material, especially on Wilson, is at the frontiers of current research. For especially ambitious students, there is the possibility of undertaking a more substantial research paper (likely in combination with an independent study).

This seminar is open to students who attended last year's seminar on the political philosophy of the Founders.

Course Concentrations

Constitutional Law Learning outcomes: Demonstrate a core understanding of constitutional law; Perform legal analysis in the context of constitutional law; Communicate effectively on topics related to constitutional law; Demonstrate an understanding of constitutional law affects other areas of law.

Perspectives on the Law Learning outcomes: Demonstrate an understanding of how the law affects, and is affected by, the individual course topic; Perform legal analysis in the context of the individual course topic; Communicate effectively on the legal and other aspects of the individual course topic; Demonstrate the ability to use other disciplines to analyze legal issues relevant to the individual course topic, including economics, philosophy, and sociology, as appropriate.


"Collected Works" by James Wilson
Publisher: Liberty Fund
ISBN: 086597683X

"Essays" by David Hume
Publisher: Liberty Classics
ISBN: 9780865970564

"James Wilson" by Charles Page Smith
Publisher: Oxford University Press
ISBN: 0807897809

"The Federalist" by Hamilton, Madison and Jay
Publisher: Liberty Classics
ISBN: 0865972893