American Government

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Medium:
Syllabus
Course Level:
100
Course Length:
15 Weeks
Credits:
3
Tags:
  • none

Course Description:

Writing in defense of the newly proposed Constitution for the United States, Alexander Hamilton declared in 1787 that “the science of politics . . . like most other sciences, has received great improvement.” In this introductory American government course, we will begin by considering what exactly Hamilton had in mind. What was the new science of politics that underpinned the American Founding, and how did it influence the early development of American government? Against the backdrop of the American Founding, we will then explore various constitutional protections for civil liberties and civil rights, the development and operation of American political institutions, and the creation and implementation of economic, foreign, and defense policy. 

Course Objectives:

Upon successful completion of the course, students should be able to demonstrate a basic knowledge of:

1. The theoretical foundations of American politics

2. The basic structure of American government as outlined in the United States Constitution

3. Important cases and debates regarding constitutional protections for civil liberties and civil rights

4. The development and operation of American political institutions

5. The political processes that lead to the creation and implementation of domestic and foreign policy

6. Key concepts about voting, political parties, campaigns, and other forms of political participation

 

Required Texts:

1. James Q. Wilson, American Government: Brief Version, 9th ed. (Wadsworth, 2009) ISBN: 9780495794295

2. Jay Dow, Sean Nicholson-Crotty, and L. Marvin Overby, eds. Readings in American Government, 3rd ed. (Pearson Custom Publishing, 2009) ISBN: 9780558338039

3. Course Packet: Additional primary source documents are compiled in one PDF document posted on Blackboard (www.blackboard.missouri.edu) under the folder “Course Documents”

 

Part I: Foundations of American Government

Week 1

1. Introduction

a. Syllabus

b. James Q. Wilson, “What Should We Know About American Government?” (Wilson, American Government, pp. 1-7)

 

2. Natural Law and Natural Rights

a. Mayflower Compact (Dow, et al., Readings, pp. 3-4)

b. John Locke, “State of Nature, State of War” (1690) (Course Packet, pp. 1-7)

a. Samuel Adams, “The Rights of the Colonists” (Dow, et al., Readings, pp. 5-8)

b. Declaration of Independence (Wilson, American Government, Appendix, pp. A1-A3)

 
Week 2

3. Religion and Government

a. Virginia Declaration of Rights (1776) (Course Packet, pp. 8-9)

b. James Madison, “Memorial and Remonstrance” (1785) (Course Packet, pp. 10-14)

c. George Washington, Thanksgiving Day Proclamation (1789) (Course Packet, pg. 15)

d. Excerpt on religion from George Washington’s Farewell Address (1796) (Course Packet, pg. 16)

e. Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Danbury Baptist Association (1802) (Course Packet, pg. 17)

 

4. Making the Constitution of 1787

a. James Q. Wilson, “The Constitution” (Wilson, American Government, pp. 8-25)

b. U.S. Constitution (Wilson, American Government, Appendix, pp. A4-A21)

 
Week 3

5. Constitutional Debates

a. Brutus, “Antifederalist I” (Dow, et al., Readings, pp. 45-50)

b. Federal Farmer, “Federal Farmer to the Republican” (Dow, et al., Readings, pp. 51-54) 

c. Madison, “Federalist No. 10” (Dow, et al., Readings, pp. 31-34)  

d. Madison, “Federalist No. 51” (Dow, et al., Readings, 35-38)

e. Hamilton, “Federalist No. 78” (Dow, et al., Readings, 39-44)

f. Excerpt on the separation of powers from George Washington’s Farewell Address (1796) (Course Packet, pg. 18)

 

6. The Constitution and Slavery

a. James Q. Wilson, “The Constitution,” (Wilson, American Government, pp. 25-29)

b. Frederick Douglass, “We Have Decided to Stay” (Dow, et al, Readings, pp. 227-232)

c. Excerpts from Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857) (Course Packet, pp. 19-23)

d. Abraham Lincoln, “Speech on the Dred Scott Decision” (1858) (Dow, et al., Readings, pp. 233-240)

e. Excerpt from Stephen Douglas, “Speech at Springfield” (1858) (Course Packet, pp. 24-25)

 
Week 4

7. Federalism

a. James Q. Wilson, “Federalism” (Wilson, American Government, pp. 71-89)

b. Madison, “Federalist No. 39” (Dow, et al., Readings, 57-60)

c. McCulloch v. Maryland (1819) (Dow, et al., Readings, pp. 61-64)

d. Missouri Constitution (Skim document at http://www.moga.mo.gov/const/moconstn.htm; pay attention particularly to Articles I-IV and Article VII)

 

8. Exam I

 

Part II: Civil Liberties and Civil Rights 

Week 5

9. Liberties, Rights, and American Citizenship

a. U.S Constitution, Amendments 1-10; 13-15 (Wilson, American Government, Appendix, pp. A4-A21)

b. Alexis de Tocqueville, “Author’s Introduction,” Democracy in America (1835) (Dow, et al., Readings, pp. 9-16)

c. Abraham Lincoln, “Gettysburg Address” (1863) (Course Packet, pg. 26)

d. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, “Declaration of Sentiments” (1848) (Course Packet, pp. 27-28)

e. Susan B. Anthony, “Women’s Right to the Suffrage” (1873) (Course Packet, pg. 29)

f. Frederick Douglas, “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” (1852) (Course Packet, pp. 30-32)

 

10. Freedom of Speech, Press, and Association

a. James Q. Wilson, “Civil Liberties” (Wilson, American Government, pp. 32-39)

b. Excerpts from landmark Supreme Court cases related to the freedom of speech (Course Packet, pp. 33-34)

 

Week 6

11. Religious Liberty

a. James Q. Wilson, “Civil Liberties” (Wilson, American Government, pp. 40-45)

b. Excerpts from landmark Supreme Court cases related to religious liberty (Course Packet, pp. 35-37)

 

12. Crime and Due Process

a. James Q. Wilson, “Civil Liberties,” (Wilson, American Government, pp. 45-54)

b. Mapp v. Ohio (1961) (Dow, et al., Readings, pp. 211-214)

c. Excerpts from landmark Supreme Court cases related to crime and due process (Course Packet, pp. 38-39)

 

Week 7

13. Equal Protection: Race and Education 

a. U.S. Constitution, Amendments 13-15 (Wilson, American Government, Appendix, pp. A4-A21)

b. James Q. Wilson, “Civil Rights,” (Wilson, American Government, pp. 55-66)

c. Missouri ex rel. Gaines v. Canada (1938) (Dow, et al., Readings, pp. 241-246)

d. Brown v. Board of Education (1954) (Dow, et al., Readings, pp. 247-250)

 

14. Equal Protection: Civil Rights and Affirmative Action

a. Martin Luther King, Jr., “Letter From Birmingham Jail” (Dow, et al., Readings, pp. 271-280)

b. Civil Rights Act (1964) (Dow, et al., Readings, pp. 281-282)  

c. Excerpts from landmark Supreme Court cases related to civil rights and affirmative action (Course Packet, pp. 40-43) 

d. Linda Greenhouse, “The Supreme Court: Justices Back Affirmative Action” (Dow., et al., Readings, pp. 255-258)

e. “The Supreme Court: Excepts from Justices’ Opinion on Michigan Affirmative Action Cases” (Dow, et el., Readings, pp. 259-270)

 
Week 8

15. Liberty and Privacy

a. James Q. Wilson, “Civil Rights” (Wilson, American Government, pp. 67-70)

b. Griswold v. Connecticut (1965) (Dow, et al., Readings, pp. 215-216)  

c. Excerpts from landmark Supreme Court cases related to liberty and privacy (Course Packet, pp. 44-50)

 

16. Exam II

 

Part III: American Institutions 

Week 9

17. Origins and Development of Congress

a. U.S. Constitution, Article I (Wilson, American Government, Appendix, pp. A4-A21)

b. James Q. Wilson, “Congress” (Wilson, American Government, 195-198)

 

18. Operations of the Modern Congress

a. James Q. Wilson, “Congress” (Wilson, American Government, pp. 199-229)

b. Joseph F. Zimmerman, “Congressional Regulation of Subnational Governments” (Dow, et al., Readings, pp. 65-70) 

 
Week 10

19. Origins and Development of the Presidency

a. U.S. Constitution, Article II (Wilson, American Government, Appendix, pp. A4-A21)

b. James Q. Wilson, “The Presidency” (Wilson, American Government, pp. 230-236)

 

20. Operations of the Modern Presidency

a. James Q. Wilson, “The Presidency,” (Wilson, American Government, pp. 236-262) 

b. Richard Neustadt, “The Power to Persuade” (Dow, et al., Readings, pp. 179-188)

  

Week 11

21. Origins, Development, and Operations of the Federal Bureaucracy

a. James Q. Wilson, “The Bureaucracy” (Wilson, American Government, pp. 264-287)

 

22. Origins, Development, and Operations of the Judiciary

a. U.S. Constitution, Article III (Wilson, American Government, Appendix, pp. A4-A21)

b. James Q. Wilson, “The Judiciary” (Wilson, American Government, pp. 288-316)

c. “History of Merit Selection” (Dow, et al., Readings, pp. 193-198)

 

Week 12

23. The Institutional Function of Political Parties and Interest Groups

a. James Q. Wilson, “Political Parties and Interest Groups” (Wilson, American Government, pp. 123-157)

b. Paul Allen Beck, “A Tale of Two Electorates: The Changing American Party Coalitions, 1952-2000” (Dow, et al., Readings, pp. 137-146)

 

24. Exam III

 

Part IV: Public Policy and Political Participation

Week 13

25. Fiscal and Monetary Policy

a. Daniel Yergin, “The Delayed Revolution: America’s New Balance” (Dow, et al., Readings, pp. 299-324)

 

26. Domestic Policy

a. James Q. Wilson, “Making Domestic Policy,” (Wilson, American Government, pp. 318-334)

 

Week 14

27. Foreign and Defense Policy

a. James Q. Wilson, “Making Military and Foreign Policy,” (Wilson, American Government, 336-348)

b. George Washington, “Neutrality Proclamation” (1793) (Course Packet, pg. 51)

c. Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, “Pacificus-Helvidius Debates” (1793) (Course Packet, pp. 52-56)

d. U.S. Congress, “Authorization for Use of Military Force” (Course Packet, pp. 57-58)

e. U.S. Congress, “Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq” (Course Packet, pp. 59-63)  

 

28. Campaigns and Elections

a. U.S Constitution, Amendments 15, 17, 19, 23, 24, 26 (Wilson, American Government, Appendix, pp. A4-A21)

b. James Q. Wilson, “Campaigns and Elections” (Wilson, American Government, 159-194)

c. Michael Munger, “Senate Testimony on Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act of 2002” (Dow, et al., Readings, pp. 127-136)

 

Week 15

29. Enduring Issues in American Politics

a. James Q. Wilson, “How American Government Has Changed,” (Wilson, American Government, pp. 350-356)

b. Alexis de Tocqueville, “What Sort of Despotism Democratic Nations Have to Fear” (Course Packet, pp. 64-67) 

c. Robert Putnam, “Bowling Alone: America’s Declining Social Capital” (Dow, et al., Readings, pp. 107-116)

d. Thomas L. Friedman, “It’s a Flat World, After All” (Dow, et al, Readings, pp. 291-298)

 

30. Final Exam