The Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization (AHI) and the National Association of Scholars (NAS) have joined forces to offer three courses to a national audience, using Zoom. Due to our classes’ popularity, advance signup directly with the individual course instructor is strongly recommended.

Course #1. “Leading Up to the Civil War”

AHI Resident Fellow Dr. David Frisk will offer a class next semester on the United States in the years just before the Civil War. A reading group focused mainly on one book, the class will meet by Zoom on Wednesday evenings from September 7 through December 7, from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Eastern time.

Sign up/ Contact: or 202-999-5751, or AHI President Robert Paquette at

We will read 25 to 30 pages per week. Some weeks, a reading from another scholar or Abraham Lincoln will be provided as an optional supplement. Class sessions begin with a brief informal lecture, then move to questions and discussion. We take a five-minute break near the midpoint.

Our book will be America in 1857: A Nation on the Brink, an intensively researched major work by the prominent historian Kenneth Stampp. The group is free and open to the public. Participants are asked to purchase the book.  If need be, AHI will purchase the book for you.

From its Amazon page:

“The Supreme Court outraged northern Republicans and abolitionists with the Dred Scott decision … And when a proslavery minority in Kansas Territory tried to foist a proslavery constitution on a large antislavery majority, President Buchanan reneged on a crucial commitment and supported the minority, a disastrous miscalculation … ”

“In America in 1857 … Stampp offers a sweeping narrative of this eventful year, covering all the major crises while providing readers with a vivid portrait of America at mid-century … He examines the outrageous political frauds perpetrated by proslavery Kansans, Buchanan’s calamitous response and Stephen Douglas’s break with the President (a rare event in American politics, a major party leader repudiating the president he helped elect) … ”

“1857 marked a turning point, at which sectional conflict spun out of control and the country moved rapidly toward … the Civil War. Stampp’s intensely focused look at this pivotal year illuminates the forces at work and the mood of the nation as it plummeted toward disaster.”

Dr. Frisk, a resident fellow at AHI since 2013, holds a Ph.D. in political science from Claremont Graduate University. He has taught one or more classes each semester on a wide range of topics in history, political science, and political philosophy. The book for this reading group is history, but its central topic—the conflict over slavery—also relates to political philosophy.

Course #2. “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and America”

Lauren Weiner will direct a course “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and America.”  The group will meet via Zoom on Tuesdays, from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern time. The first session will be held on September 13, the final session on November 22. (No class on October 4, which is Yom Kippur.) Ms. Weiner will be using the Norton Critical Edition of the book. If need be, use the one you prefer; AHI will purchase the book for your use.

Sign up/Contact:

“Yes, high and fine literature is wine, and mine is only water, but everybody likes water.” —Samuel Langhorne Clemens, a.k.a. Mark Twain.

Mark Twain occupies a special place in the hearts of reading Americans, and among his many writings, none plumbs the essence of the nation better than Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. This 1884 novel abounds in incongruities. Written in the genre of the “boy book,” it confronted one of pre-Civil War America’s most wrenching issues, the fate of fugitive slaves, which the adult fiction of the time studiously avoided. It was entertainment for the general reader, but came to be studied by scholars as “high and fine” literature. The characters speak in vernacular, but the story is full of sophisticated authorial moves. The book is light yet profound.

Over the course of 10 one-hour sessions, we will explore the literary qualities of Twain’s book even as we try to discern what Adventures of Huckleberry Finn says about the United States of America. The controversies that swirl around it today will also be part of the discussion.

Lauren Weiner’s writing life has taken her to jobs as an editor, reporter, Capitol Hill staffer, and Pentagon speechwriter. She has written literary reviews as well, and these have appeared in such publications as the Wall Street JournalCommentary,, the Weekly, the New Criterion, the Washington Times, and the Baltimore Sun.

Course # 3. Plato’s Republic (Allan Bloom translation).

Dr. Timothy Minella, a historian of science and professor in the Lewis Honors College at the University of Kentucky, will direct a course on Plato’s Republic.   The cluster will meet Monday, September 12, to Monday, November 28, 2:45 p.m – 4:00 p.m EST. No meeting will be held on Monday, October 24. A copy of The Republic of Plato, translated by Allan Bloom, is required (currently $12 on Amazon). If need be, AHI will purchase the book for your use.

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The Republic is the greatest of the Greek philosopher Plato’s dialogues, exploring timeless themes of justice, truth, and the pursuit of the good life. In the dialogue, Socrates (Plato’s teacher) leads a conversation about the origin and nature of justice. This inquiry takes the discussants on an epic journey through the founding of a “city in speech,” culminating in an argument for the necessity of philosophy for the pursuit of justice in the political community. Reading The Republic is a rewarding adventure, for all is not as it seems in this strange and challenging text. Participants in this cluster will read and discuss the entirety of the dialogue.

Dr. Minella earned a B.A. with a double major in Physics and Government at Hamilton College in 2009. He holds a Ph.D. in History from the University of South Carolina. He has taught courses in the history of science, American history, and the humanities. Minella’s scholarship examines the Enlightenment in early America by analyzing how the philosophy of mind shaped scientific practice in agriculture, natural history, politics, and other fields. He has a wide range of publications, from Republican populism to scientific authority in Early Nineteenth-Century America.