The Constitution in
    American Political Development
Political Science 3390 & Honors 3030
      Fall 2003

     "The past is never dead; it's not even past."
                                                        -- William Faulkner, Requiem for a Nun

     Seton Room, Honors College, 2:00-4:30, Mondays

      Professor Dave Robertson

     Office: 800 Tower; Phone 314-516-5855, Fax 314- 516-7236


     Office Hours, 12:00-2:00pm Wednesday, 7:00-8:00pm Monday & Wednesday


Here are links to the draft chapters of

The Constitution and America's Political Destiny
Preface * Chapter 1 * Chapter 2 * Chapter 3 * Chapter 4 *

Chapter 5 * Chapter 6 * Chapter 7 * Chapter 8 * Bibliography

These are required reading for the first 1/4 of the course.

1. The Course Agenda

The Constitution is a solution, but what is it a solution to? This course explores the politics of designing the U.S. Constitution, and the way the Constitution changed the path of America’s political destiny. It examines the underlying interests of the framers, the issues that united and divided them, their negotiations over these issues, the compromises that resulted in specific Constitutional provisions, and the effects of those provisions on the subsequent evolution of American political parties, political institutions, and public policy.

2. Required Books

Five books are required for the course. These are available at the University of Missouri - St. Louis bookstore.

q       Richard Franklin Bensel, The Political Economy of American Industrialization,
(New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000); ISBN 0-521-77604-x

q       E.J. Dionne, Why Americans Hate Politics: The Death of the Democratic Process
   (New York: Touchstone Books, 1992); ISBN 0671778773

q       John Gerring, Party Ideologies in America, 1828-1996

          (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001); ISBN 0521785901

q       Byron E. Shafer and Anthony J. Badger, eds., Contesting Democracy:

          Substance and Structure in American Political History, 1775-2000

          (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2001); ISBN 0-7006-1139-8

q      Stephen Skowronek, The Politics Presidents Make: Leadership from John Adams
    to Bill Clinton
(Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 1997); ISBN 0674689372


In addition, you will read the draft chapters of Constituting American Politics, which are available for downloading (see above).  Several historical documents are also required, and are available in electronic versions  (see below). 

 3. Grading

q    Participation: 20%

Three Short (2-3) reaction papers, 10% each

q    Research Paper: 30%   

q    Final Exam: 20%

 4. Participation

This is a seminar style class.  Its success depends on your preparation and participation.  You are expected to participate in all seminar sessions and to contribute thoughtful and informed questions and comments to the discussion. If you do so you will receive an "A" for this part of the grade. Remember, this seminar will succeed only to the extent that you participate.

Questions for the following week will be assigned the week before each class session.

5. Short Reaction Papers

You will write three short papers reacting to a week's readings. Each paper should be 2-3 pages long (typed).  Each should summarize the reading's argument in a paragraph or two, and then critique the strengths and weaknesses of the argument in two or three paragraphs. Papers are due at class.  The due dates are staggered by groups as follows. Groups will be assigned the first day of class.
        Group A: Papers due September 8, October 13, November 17
        Group B: Papers due September 15, October 20, November 24
        Group C: Papers due September 22, October 27, December 1
        Group D: Papers due September 29, November 3, December 8
        Group E: Papers due September 8 (option: September 15), October 6, November 10

6. Research Paper

You will write a research paper on a topic of your choice.  A one paragraph statement of the paper topic is due on September 29.  The paper is due in my mailbox December 3.

You are encouraged to use the American Political Development Bibliography for additional readings in your area of interest and additional research resources.  The American Political Development Website at the Miller Center is a great resource for further information. For U.S. Congressional documents to 1875, click here.

7. Final Exam

The final exam is a "take-home" exam due at my office.  It will consist of two questions.  Here is one question:


    1. How much does the Constitution explain about "why Americans hate politics"?


The other question will be assigned later. You will be expected to write a 5-10 page answer in response to each question.

Detailed Course Schedule

August 25 (Monday): Introduction / What did the Framers Intend?

September 1 (Monday):          Labor Day; Class does not meet.


September 8 (Monday): Aspirations for the Constitutional Convention

September 15 (Monday):  The Constitution and American Politics

September 22 (Monday): America's First Political Cycle

September 29 (Monday): The Beginnings of Modern Political Parties

                Paper Topic due


October 6 (Monday):  The Republicans and the Gilded Age


October 13 (Monday):  Party Competition and Industrialization

October 20 (Monday):  Democracy, Development and Public Policy

October 27 (Monday):  Republican Consolidation

                                    Stephen Skowronek, The Politics Presidents Make, pp. 228-285 


November  3 (Monday): Democratic Opposition

November  10 (Monday):   New Deal and Republican Opposition

[November 11  (Tuesday): Last day that students may drop a course]

November 17 (Monday):  The Decline of the New Deal political order

November 24 (Monday): The Origins of Contemporary Politics: The Democrats


December 1 (Monday): The Origins of Contemporary Politics: The Republicans       

December 3 (Wednesday): ---  Research Paper Due in my mailbox

December 8 (Monday): Where are We At?

December 15 (Monday): --- Final Exam Due in my mailbox




Plagiarism means taking the written ideas of someone else and presenting them in your writing as if they were your ideas, without giving the author credit.  Plagiarism (a word which comes from the Latin word for kidnapping) is deceitful and dishonest.  Violations that have occurred frequently in the past include not using quotation marks for direct quotes and not giving citations when using someone else's ideas; using long strings of quotations, even when properly attributed, does not constitute a paper of your own.


Plagiarism in written work for this class is unacceptable. The University's Student Conduct Code classifies plagiarism as a form of academic dishonesty.  Depending on the severity of the plagiarism, punishment can include receiving no credit for the assignment, failing the course and referral for university disciplinary action.