In a few days, on September 2, I will start teaching my first course at the college level. The course will cover American history from 1760 through 1815, a busy period. Indeed, as I prepare my first lecture, on Benjamin Franklin, I realize that one could teach an entire semester-long course just on that one fascinating, complex figure and his role in the history of the period. We will look at various issues: the Stamp Act, the Declaration of Independence, a few battles of the Revolutionary War, the early phase of the Industrial Revolution.
The part I am most excited about, I confess, is the ratification process. I am reading right now Pauline Maier’s book on Ratification, a great book, and revising the syllabus to add some pages from that book. I will also be assigning the chapter on the Poughkeepsie Convention from my own Jay book. The second paper will ask the students to look at one person and his role in ratification: that is going to force them to delve in to the Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution, that great and monumental work by my friend John Kaminski and others. I have, at the moment, five class days allocated to the ratification period, probably longer than most teachers would devote to that period, but I suspect we may even spend one more day on ratification.
I am incredibly grateful to Chapman University for giving me, even without a PHD, the chance to teach this course. I am looking forward to meeting my students, nineteen signed up at this point, and exploring this period with them.