FT 010-I Founding Brothers & Revolutionary Characters
Professor Scott D. Himsel, Department of Political Science, 9:45 TTh
Aaron Burr shot and killed his arch-rival Alexander Hamilton in a duel. Burr loved conflict. Thomas Jefferson hated conflict. Indeed, he settled a dispute over the national debt and the location of our national capitol during a dinner party. James Madison was so gentle and shy that he often achieved amazing feats without offending anyone. John Adams was so talkative and blunt that he offended almost everyone and sometimes defeated his own purposes. We often worship our Founders, forgetting that they were real people with gifts and faults like our own. By treating the Founders as real people and drawing on their dramatic experiences, we will seek help in answering questions that still challenge us today. How should we deal with people whose values or personalities differ from our own? Should we collaborate to get the benefit of differing views? Or should we fight because our principles demand no less? We will also ask whether this entire enterprise makes any sense. Can the wisdom of the Founders of the Eighteenth Century help us resolve our battles in the Twenty-First Century over the growing size of the federal government, our intense partisanship in Washington, our wars in foreign lands, or the separation of church and state? Should our past guide—or even control—our future? We will search for answers in the Founders’ own words, the words of their critics, portrayals of them in film and television, and with the help of their very best biographers. Their answers may surprise you.