The Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization (AHI) is pleased to announce its Ninth Annual Summer Conference: “Defending the Constitution:  The Federalist,”  co-sponsored with the Department of Political Science, Baylor University.  The conference will take place at AHI headquarters, 21 West Park Row, Clinton, NY, on June 15-16.   James W. Ceaser, Harry F. Byrd Professor of Politics at the University of Virginia, will serve as discussion leader.  His books include Presidential Selection (1979), Liberal Democracy and Political Science (1992), Reconstructing America: The Symbol of America in Modern Thought (2000), and Nature and History in American Political Development (2008).

As in years past, David Nichols and Professor Mary Nichols, both senior professors in Baylor’s Department of Political Science, have organized the conference.  Participants this year include AHI Resident Fellows Mary Grabar and David Frisk as well as AHI co-founder Douglas Ambrose, Professor of History at Hamilton College.

“Mary and David Nichols rate high on my pantheon of outstanding teacher/scholars,” observed AHI Executive Director, Robert Paquette.  “The products of their skilled mentoring can be found in political science departments across the country. They embraced the mission of the AHI from the beginning, and our organization could not have better friends.  Thanks to their efforts, the annual summer conference, co-sponsored with Baylor’s Department of Political Science, has become a highlight of the AHI’s annual programming. This year, the conference features Dr. James Ceaser, one of this country’s leading constitutional scholars.  We are looking forward to the intellectual feast.”

The conference is open to the public, but seating is limited. Please call 315-292-2267, or contact Robert Paquette at to reserve a seat.

AHI Ninth Annual Summer Conference:  Defending the Constitution: The Federalist
21 West Park Row, Clinton, NY
June 15-16, 2017

Professors David & Mary Nichols
Department of Political Science, Baylor University

Discussion leader:
Professor James W. Ceaser
Professor of Government, University of Virginia

List of participants

Recommended text of The Federalist Papers, intr. and notes by Charles R. Kesler, and ed. by Clinton Rossiter, Signet Classics (Penguin, 2003) (copies available on Amazon)

Thursday, June 15

9:30 Breakfast at AHI

10:45 Welcome and Introduction – Robert Paquette and Mary Nichols

11:00-12:30    Session 1:  Introduction, Founding, What Makes a People?

Readings: Fed. 1 (first paragraph); Fed. 14 (last paragraph); Fed. 38 (first 3 paragraphs); Fed. 49; Jefferson letter to Kercheval (attached); Fed. 2, Fed. 40

Introductory questions:

  1. What kind of book is The Federalist? Political pleading? Political theory?
  2. Who is the intended audience of The Federalist?
  3. What was the objective of The Federalist? To obtain ratification? To teach about the meaning of the Constitution? To achieve renown for the authors?

Fed. 1, 14, 38 Was America “founded”?  What does it mean to be a lawgiver or a founder? Do America’s lawgivers fit the model of founders? Who were America’s founders? Were the founders innovators?

Fed. 49 and Jefferson letter to Kercheval   Did the founders create the idea of regarding the constitution as semi-permanent?  Did they create the idea of venerating the Constitution? Can the spirit of veneration or reverence be squared with the spirit of innovation?

Fed. 2   What are the elements that make a people a people? That create unity?

Fed. 40  Were the founders justified in writing a new Constitution?

12:30-1:30   Lunch at AHI

1:30-3:00     Session 2:  Reasons and Requirements for Union:

(a) Foreign menaces and domestic divisions 
(b) problems in the states

Readings: Feds. 3, 6, 23, 24; 10, 51, 15, 28, 41 (first five paragraphs), and 35 (last six paragraphs, beginning p. 210, “The idea of representation…”)

Feds. 3, 6, 23, 24  What kind of world do we live in? What it is the character of foreign affairs? What alternative to a single nation existed in America?

Feds. 10, 51   How do the problems within the states threaten republican government? What areas of jurisdiction might need to be given to the national government to solve or address the problems of republican government? How does a large republic operate to make republican government safer and surer than in a smaller sphere?  What are purposes of a modern representative government as contrasted with ancient democracy?

Fed. 15  How must a real union be put together?  What is/are the essential feature(s) that distinguish(es) the Constitution from the Articles of Confederation?

Feds. 28, 41   What are the powers of the national government?

Fed. 35     Who would likely be our representatives?

3:30-5:00     Session 3:  The structure of the federal government

Readings:    Fed. 47, 62, 63, 70, 78, 68, and 27

Fed. 47       How should the theory of separation of powers inform the division of power among the branches of the government?

Fed. 62, 63  What was expected from the senate?

Fed. 70        What was expected from the presidency?

Fed. 78        What was expected from the judiciary?

Fed. 68       What was expected from the 4th national institution—the presidential selection process?

Fed. 27       What is the importance of strong administration?

6:30 – Picnic at Hatch Lake, hosted by the Nichols and sponsored by the Alexander Hamilton Institute

Friday, June 16

 9:30 Breakfast at AHI

11:00-12:30     Session 4:  Some philosophical points and general theoretical statements

Readings: Fed. 11 (last paragraph), 31, 37, and 39

Fed. 11: What was the so-called degeneracy thesis, and how does Publius respond?

Fed. 31   Is there a unified science governing all things, or are there different sciences for different realms?

Feds. 37, 39  A lot of things to think about…

12:30-1:30    Lunch at AHI

1:30-3:00     Session 5: Conclusion

Readings:  Federalist 54, 42 (three paragraphs, p. 262, begins “The regulation of foreign commerce”) 84, (part that begins p. 512, “It has been several times truly remarked…” end top of 514, with “all of our rights.”) and 85

Feds. 54, 42            How is the case for defending slavery made?

Fed. 84         Do we need a bill of rights?

Fed. 85         Some concluding remarks