*HIST 5397: Founding Fathers, Founding Documents

Section Number: HIST 5397.01
Credit Hours: 3 hours
CRN Number: 82715
Class Time: Online Course
Semester: Fall 2012

*Teaching Faculty

Dr. Jeffrey L. Littlejohn
Office: AB4–455
Office Hours: online anytime
Telephone: 936.294.4438
Skype: deltahistory
Email: littlejohn@shsu.edu
Web: http://www.studythepast.com

*Course Description

Today, America's founding documents inspire universal awe and reverence. The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States, and the Bill of Rights are studied and emulated around the world. The original documents rest in a special wing of the National Archives in Washington D.C., half way between the U.S. Capitol and the White House. In a dimly lit sanctuary, under a sixty-foot rotunda, sits what some critics have called the altar to the "Charters of Freedom."

During the day, visitors may view the historic documents, which are, without-a-doubt, the world's most protected pieces of parchment. The pages of the Declaration, Constitution, and Bill of Rights are encased behind bulletproof glass in separate gold-plated, titanium frames, which are locked down with machined, diamond-turned seals. The atmosphere within each encasement is regulated by an NIST-integrated instrument system that maintains an internal temperature of 67 degrees and a relative humidity of 45 percent. At night, the Declaration, Constitution, and Bill of Rights are mechanically lowered into a stone vault, behind five-ton doors of steel that are designed to withstand a nuclear explosion.

The National Archives has undertaken critical work to protect what it calls the "Charters of Freedom." Like many other historic organizations, trusts, and sites around the country, the Archives is devoted to the protection and preservation of the American past. In the Archives' Exhibit Hall, however, guests encounter the Declaration, Constitution, and Bill of Rights as static objects of veneration -- relics of the early American past. Rushed along by fellow visitors and tour personnel, few people have time to read the documents they have traveled so far to see. The danger this poses is clear. To many Americans, the "Charters of Freedom" have ceased to be living documents -- to be read, interpreted, and applied. They are, instead, historic charters to be admired or worshipped.

In this course, we will remove the Declaration, Constitution, and Bill of Rights from their protective encasements so that we may study them in all their complexity. We will approach the documents through the lives of the Founding Fathers -- the men who drafted and debated the documents. It is my hope that our study of the Founding Fathers will allow us to better understand the "Charters of Freedom" and the world they helped create.

*Learning Outcomes

Students will gain factual knowledge about United States history.

Students will learn the fundamental principles of historical scholarship.

Students will learn to analyze and critically evaluate ideas, arguments, and points of view.

*Books to Purchase (In Order of Consideration)

Gordon Wood, Radicalism of the American Revolution. New York: Vintage, 1993.

Woody Holton, Forced Founders: Indians, Debtors, Slaves, and the Making of the American Revolution in Virginia. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999.

Pauline Maier, American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence. New York: Knopf, 1997.

Charles Royster, A Revolutionary People at War: The Continental Army and American Character, 1775-1783. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996.

Elizabeth Fenn, Pox Americana: The Great Smallpox Epidemic of 1775-82. New York: Hill and Wang, 2001.

Lance Banning, The Sacred Fire of Liberty: James Madison and the Founding of the Federal Republic. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1998.

Richard Beeman. Plain, Honest Men: The Making of the American Constitution. New York: Random House, 2009.

Pauline Maier, Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution, 1787-1788. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2011.

Joseph Ellis, Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation. New York: Vintage, 2002.

Annette Gordon-Reed, The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family. New York: WW Norton, 2008.

Elizabeth Dowling Taylor, A Slave in the White House: Paul Jennings and the Madisons. New York: Palgrave, 2012.


Course Readings
- Students will complete reading assignments as provided in the syllabus.

Response Statements
- After each reading assignment, students will submit a 500-word response statement to the dropbox in SHSUonline.
- Response statements are due as provided in the course schedule.

Historiographical Paper
- Students will select a historiographical topic to consider in a double-spaced, 10-page paper. The paper should be based on the available secondary literature, and it must adhere to the citation format provided in the Chicago Manual of Style.
- Students must submit a historiographical topic to the dropbox in SHSUonline by midnight on September 15.
- Historiographical papers must be submitted to the dropbox in SHSUonline by midnight on December 7.


Grading in this course will be based upon 600 possible points.

  8 Response Statements from 9 Choices  
  50 points each  
  1 Historiographical Paper  
  100 points each  
  Total points  

Scale: A=500-450 B=449-400 C=399-350 D=349-300 F=299-0

As part of this class, you will be expected to check your university email and our SHSUonline page regularly. To email me, you can either go to SHSUonline or send directly to littlejohn@shsu.edu.

I will also be available on skype during business hours most days. My username is deltahistory. If you would like to chat about the reading or assignments, then please don't hesitate to contact me.

*Academic Dishonesty

The University expects all students to engage in all academic pursuits in a manner that is above reproach. Students are expected to maintain complete honesty and integrity in the academic experiences both in and out of the classroom.  Any student found guilty of dishonesty in any phase of academic work will be subject to disciplinary action.

5.31 The University and its official representatives, acting in accordance with Subsection 5.32, may initiate disciplinary proceedings against a student accused of any form of academic dishonesty including, but not limited to, cheating, plagiarism, collusion, and the abuse of resource materials.
"Cheating" includes the following and similar actions:
(1) Copying from another student's test paper, laboratory report, other report, or computer files, data listings, and/or programs.
(2) Using, during a test, materials not authorized by the person giving the test.
(3) Collaborating, without authorization, with another student during an examination or in preparing academic work.
(4) Knowingly, and without authorization, using, buying, selling, stealing, transporting, soliciting, copying, or possessing, in whole or in part, the contents of an unadministered test.
(5) Substituting for another student, permitting any other person, or otherwise assisting any other person to substitute for oneself or for another student in the taking of an examination or test or the preparation of academic work to be submitted for academic credit.
(6) Bribing another person to obtain a test or information about an unadministered test.
(7) Purchasing, or otherwise acquiring and submitting as one's own work any research paper or other writing assignment prepared by an individual or firm. This section does not apply to the typing of the rough and/or final versions of an assignment by a professional typist.

5.32 "Plagiarism" means the appropriation and the unacknowledged incorporation of another's work or idea into one's own work offered for credit.
5.33 "Collusion" means unauthorized collaboration with another person in preparing work for credit.
5.34 "Abuse of resource materials" means the mutilation, destruction, concealment, theft or alteration of materials provided to assist students in the mastery of course materials.
5.35 “Academic work” means the preparation of an essay, dissertation, thesis, report, problem, assignment, or other project that the student submits as a course requirement or for a grade.


2.01 Procedures for discipline due to academic dishonesty shall be the same as in disciplinary actions specified in The Texas State University System Rules and Regulations and Sam Houston State University Student Guidelines except that all academic dishonesty actions shall be first considered and reviewed by the faculty member teaching the class. The faculty member may impose failure or reduction of a grade in a test or the course, and/or performing additional academic work not required of other students in the course. If the faculty member believes that additional disciplinary action is necessary, as in the case of flagrant or repeated violations, the case may be referred to the Dean of Student Life or a designated appointee for further action. If the student involved does not accept the decision of the faculty member, the student may appeal to the chair of the appropriate academic department/school, seeking reversal of the faculty member's decision.

2.02 If the student does not accept the decision of the chair of the academic department/school, he/she may appeal to the appropriate academic dean. The chair of the academic department/school may also refer the case directly to the academic dean if the case so warrants. 

*Students with Disabilities

It is the policy of Sam Houston State University that individuals otherwise qualified shall not be excluded, solely by reason of their disability, from participation in any academic program of the university. Further, they shall not be denied the benefits of these programs nor shall they be subjected to discrimination. Students with disabilities that might affect their academic performance are expected to visit with the Office of Services for Students with Disabilities located in the Counseling Center. They should then make arrangements with the instructor in order that accommodations can be made to assure that participation and achievement opportunities are not impaired.  SHSU adheres to all applicable federal, state, and local laws, regulations, and guidelines with respect to providing reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities. If you have a disability that may affect adversely your work in this class, then we encourage you to register with the Counseling Center and to talk with us about how we can best help you.  All disclosures of disabilities will be kept strictly confidential. Please note: No accommodation can be made until you register with the Counseling Center and provide us with proper documentation.

*Instructor Evaluations

At the end of the semester, students will be asked to complete an evaluation of the course, but I welcome feedback about readings, assignments, and my instruction throughout the semester. Let’s work together to make this a successful and rewarding learning experience for everyone.

*Changes to the Syllabus

This syllabus is your contract for the course. I will not change the nature of the course, the number of assignments, or the grading system. However, I reserve the right to update the course schedule and reading assignments.


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