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Political Philosophy of the Founders (Ewald)
Fall 2019   LAW 986-001  

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Meeting Times/Location
W 4:30PM - 6:30PM
Silverman Hall M28

William Ewald

Professor of Law and Philosophy

Additional Information

Skills Training
Oral Presentations
Expository Writing

10% Participation,
90% Paper

Satisfies Senior Writing Requirement

With Permission of Instructor

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.

- Class sessions are regularly recorded. If you are absent due to illness or some other unavoidable circumstance, email me and I can send you an email with instructions for accessing the recording for the class session(s) you missed.



This seminar will investigate the political philosophy of the American founding, 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, The Federalist, James Wilson's Lectures on Law, and selections from Blackstone, Montesquieu, and Adam Smith).

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 drafting of the US Constitution.

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

"Historical Law Tracts" by Lord Kames
Publisher: Liberty Classics
ISBN: 9780865976177

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

"Lectures on Jurisprudence" by Adam Smith
Publisher: Liberty Classics
ISBN: 9780865970113

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

"The Whole Duty of Man" by Pufendorf
Publisher: Liberty Classics
ISBN: 9780865973756

"The Law of Nations" by Vattel
Publisher: Liberty Classics
ISBN: 9780865974517