The Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization (AHI) and the National Association of Scholars (NAS) have joined forces to offer four courses to a national audience, using Zoom.
AHI Resident Fellow David Frisk, Ph.D. in political science from the Claremont Graduate University, will direct two of the courses: “Thomas Jefferson as Politician and President” and “The Struggle Over the Constitution.” Former Pentagon speechwriter Lauren Weiner will offer a course on Whittaker Chambers’ “Witness, an American Classic” (1952). Timothy Minella, a historian of science and professor in the Lewis Honors College at the University of Kentucky, will direct a course on Christopher Lasch’s prescient book Revolt of the Elites (1995).
If you are interested in committing to one or more of these courses, please contact the group leader using the email address provided below. Leaders will provide a course schedule and the Zoom access link. Those interested in participating can also obtain additional information by contacting AHI President Robert Paquette at firstname.lastname@example.org. Participants who demonstrate a good-faith commitment to the course can request reimbursement for the cost of the relevant paperback volumes at the end of the semester.
Please see the overview and details of the four courses below. Advance signup for all courses is strongly encouraged.
Course #1: “Thomas Jefferson as Politician and President” (Contact: David Frisk: email@example.com , or 202-999-5751)
Overview: With Jon Meacham’s widely praised biography Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power, attendees will study the author of the Declaration of Independence, who was also America’s third president and the initiator of the Jeffersonian “Virginia Dynasty” that controlled the presidency for a crucial quarter-century.
Jefferson has been described by a prominent scholar as “the most talented politician of his generation” and “one of the most talented in our nation’s history.” Meacham’s 2012 book focuses especially on the political side of Jefferson and his public impact—which is easy to lose sight of with an American founder who was also quiet, idealistic, and fascinated by philosophy, the natural sciences, and the arts. But it also tells his life story fully, including his identity as a slaveholder.
Details: Classes will be held weekly at 7 p.m. EST for an hour and 15 to an hour and 30 minutes, beginning on Tuesday, February 1 and continuing until Tuesday, May 10. Dr. Frisk will have opening remarks followed by discussion. Attendees will begin discussing Jon Meacham’s widely praised biography Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power on the first evening. Please purchase a new or used paperback copy of the book. On Amazon, the price is around $15. About 30 pages per week will be assigned. In addition, optional extra readings will be sent to attendees to review other historians’ perspectives on Jefferson, samples of his writings, and a bit more background on late 18th-century and early 19th-century America.
Course #2: “The Struggle Over the Constitution” (Contact: David Frisk: firstname.lastname@example.org , or 202-999-5751)
Overview: With the eminent historian Pauline Maier’s book Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution, 1787-1788, attendees will examine the fascinating struggle over the final act in the American Founding—one that began to forge a nation. Americans elected statewide conventions for the express purpose of deciding whether the proposed constitution should be ratified, and thus whether there should be, in real terms, a United States.
As Maier notes, it was “one of the greatest and most probing public debates in American history … and involved far more than the handful of familiar ‘founding fathers.’ … Debate over the Constitution raged in newspapers, taverns, coffeehouses, and over dinner tables” in addition to existing governing bodies. “People who never left their hometowns and were little known except to their neighbors studied the document, knew it well, and on some memorable occasions made their views known.” Maier’s 2010 book tells the rich story state-by-state, looking closely at the most important ratification battles.
Details: Classes will be held weekly at 7 p.m. EST, for an hour and 15 to an hour and 30 minutes, beginning on Wednesday, February 2 and continuing until Wednesday, May 11. Dr. Frisk will present opening remarks followed by discussion. Attendees will begin discussing Pauline Maier’s book Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution, 1787-1788 on the first evening. Please purchase a new or used paperback copy of the book. On Amazon, the price is around $18. About 30 pages per week will be assigned. In addition, optional extra readings will be sent to attendees to review other historians’ perspectives, plus examples of pro- and anti-Constitution writings including selections from The Federalist.
Course #3: “Witness, an American Classic” (Contact: Lauren Weiner: email@example.com)
Overview: Readers of Witness are pulled right into Whittaker Chambers’s strange life: his service to Soviet military intelligence, his disillusionment and flight from the communist underground, and the condemnation he faced when he testified in 1948 against a former comrade named Alger Hiss. An instant bestseller when it came out in 1952, Witness has taken its place in the top ranks of American confessional literature. The color, emotion, and penetration of Chambers’s writing, and his deft portraits of the people he knew, also make this memoir a tour of U.S. politics, culture, and society in the 20th century. Writers have compared its impact on American conservatism to that of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin on the antislavery movement.
Details: Attendees will discuss Witness in 12 weekly sessions, beginning Monday, February 7, from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. EST, and continuing until Monday, May 2. Please purchase a new or used copy of the book. On Amazon, the price is around $16.
Course #4: “The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy” (Contact: Timothy Minella: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Overview: In The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy (1995), Christopher Lasch launched an attack on the elites of American society for what he saw as their global loyalties and failure to extend the blessings of democracy to all citizens. A historian by training and one of the most prominent social critics of the post-WW II era, Lasch infused his critique of modern American culture with insights from the American past. Nearly three decades after its publication, critics are viewing The Revolt of the Elites as a prescient statement on democracy, capitalism, and individualism in contemporary America. Attendees will consider what Lasch has to teach in an age of “populism” on both the Left and the Right. The book, his last, was written while he was dying of cancer and was published posthumously.
Details: Attendees will discuss The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy in weekly sessions, beginning on Sunday, February 13, from 5 p.m. to 6:15 p.m. EST, continuing until May 8. There will be no class on March 13. Please purchase a new or used copy of the book. On Amazon, the price is around $17.