afglogo_blacktextThe American Founding Group at the University of Georgia studies the origins of the American republic from a variety of scholarly perspectives, reviewing studies from the disciplines of political science, political theory, history, law, and economics, among others. Our group meets monthly to critique and discuss works from John Locke to Pauline Maier in an effort to broaden our understanding of the American founding and its effects on liberty.  We occasionally invite guest scholars to participate and provide an invaluable service reading and critiquing the research of our members.  Membership is open to those who want to learn more about the American founding and are willing to spend the time to read outside of their regular classes.



Members of the American Founding Group recently met to discuss research by guest Wayne Moore at Walker’s Coffee Shop. Seated from left to right is Wayne Moore (faculty, Virginia Tech), Nate Chapman (faculty, UGA law), Randy Taylor (at large), Michael Taylor (doctoral student, history), Keith Dougherty (faculty, political science), and Trevor Latimer (scholar in residence, political science). Robert Cooper (doctoral student, political science) and Sam Glaze (undergraduate) are seated outside of the picture.


*All meetings, with the exception of September 15th, are held at 10:30 am at Walker’s Pub, located at 128 College Avenue. Lunch is provided by the AFG after each meeting.  

September 15, 2017 (Constitution Day)

Location: Porterhouse Grill (459 E Broad Street) for lunch and discussion of The Framer’s Coup with Michael Klarman

Time: 11:30 am – 1:20 pm for lunch and book discussion

Klarman’s public lecture for Constitution Day will be held at 2:00 pm in the UGA Chapel, followed by a dessert reception in Candler Hall, first floor.

Reading: The Framers’ Coup – “Interpreting the Convention” pp. 238-256, The last two subsections of Chapter 6 (Ratification) pp. 530-545, and the conclusion chapter – pp. 596-631

October 6, 2017

Reading: Alexander Kaufman – “Consensualism, Voluntarism, and Democracy”

November 3, 2017

Reading: Nathan Coleman – “State Sovereignty, Interposition, and Liberty: The Constitutional Significance of Article II of the Articles of Confederation”

December 1, 2017

Reading: Joseph Ellis – The Quartet – Chapter TBD

January 5, 2018

Reading: John Milton – “Areopagitica”

February 2, 2018

Reading: Jack Rakove – “Judicial Power in the Constitutional Theory of James Madison”

March 9, 2018

Reading: Guest Speaker and Reading TBD

April 13, 2018

Reading: Paul Finkelman – “The Pennsylvania Delegation and the Peculiar Institution: The Two Faces of the Keystone State”




September 9: Bilder, Mary. Madison’s Hand: Revising the Constitutional Convention. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2015.

September 16: SPECIAL GUEST, Akhil Amar, Constitution Day, “The Constitution at a Crossroads”

October 7:  Taylor, Michael “James Wilson On the Edge of Empire”

November 11: Cornell, Saul, The Other Founders (excerpt)

December 2: Tuck, Richard, The Sleeping Sovereign (excerpt)

January 13: Onuf, Peter, The Lawyers’ Civil War  (manuscript)

February 3: Bailyn, Bernard, Ideological Origins of the American Revolution (excerpt)

March 17 : SPECIAL GUEST, Peter Onuf, Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation Professor Emeritus of the University of Virginia, “Democracy: Thomas Jefferson and Patrick  Henry”

April 14: York, Neil L., The Crisis: A British Defense of American Rights. Liberty Fund, 2016.


September 17: SPECIAL GUEST, Jack Rakove, Constitution Day, “What Did the Constitution Originally Mean? Two Interpretations”

  • Morning Discussion: Preface, A Politician Thinking: The Creative Mind of James Madison(forthcoming).

October 2: Cornell, Saul. A Well-Regulated Militia: The Founding Fathers and the Origins of Gun Control in America. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2006.

November 13: Frank, Jason. “Publius and Political imagination.” Political Theory 37, no. 1 (2009): 69-98.

January 15: Wesley Campbell, “Remaking the First Amendment.”

February 26: Nathan Chapman, “Due Process Abroad”

March 18: SPECIAL GUEST: Wayne Moore, Virginia Tech University (discussion leader)

  1. Walker’s, 10:30am (discussion): Moore, Wayne D. “Variable Constitutional Authority: Madisonian Founding Perspectives.” American Political Thought 2, no. 2 (2013): 217-258.
  2. Baldwin Hall, 3:30pm (presentation): “Civic Constitutionalism and Civil Rights: Citizens as Agents of Constitutional Change.”

April 1: Waldman, Steven. Founding Faith: Providence, Politics, and the Birth of Religious Freedom in America. New York, NY: Random House, 2008.

April 29: Trevor Latimer, “Subsidiarity and Freedom.”


September 12: Rossiter, Clinton ed. (2003) The Federalist Papers, Nos. 9, 10, 15, 51. Signet Classics, 1st ed.

October 10: Ketcham, Ralph (1993). Framed for Posterity. University of Kansas Press, American Political Thought Series.

November 7: Dougherty, Keith (n.d.). “Creating America’s Parties”.

December 5: Aldrich, John (2011). Why Parties? University of Chicago Press, Chapters 2-3.

January 9: Amar, Akhil (2000). The Bill of Rights. Yale University Press, Chapters. 1-2, 10-11.

February 6: Emer de Vattel (2008). The Law of Nations. Liberty Fund, Book I, Chapter XVII, and Book II, Chapters IV, XII, and XIII

March 6: SPECIAL GUEST: Ralph Ketcham, Syracuse University (discussion leader)

  1. The Federalist, Nos. 10, 39, 55, 57, 63, 68
  2. “Democracy and Ralph’s Pretty Good Grocery Store”, John Mueller (American Journal of Political Science, Nov. 1992)
  3. “James Madison: Republican or Democrat?” Robert Dahl (Perspectives on Politics, Sep. 2005)
  4. Letters from Melancton Smith: 21 June 1788, 23 June 1788
  5. The Anti-Federalist Papers, 342-349, ed. Ralph Ketcham, 2003

April 10: Charles de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu (1989). The Spirit of the Laws. Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought, Book 11.

May 1: SPECIAL GUEST: Dan Coenen, University of Georgia Law (discussion leader).

  1. Coenen, Dan (2007). The Story of the Federalist: How Hamilton and Madison Reconceived America. Twelve Tables Press, pp. 145-181, Chapters 10-12.

September 17: SPECIAL GUEST: Jack Rakove, Stanford University (keynote speaker, Constitution Day 2015)


September 13: Amar, Akhil R. (2012). America’s Constitution: A Biography. Random House LLC, Chapters 1-6.

October 4: Read, James H. (2000). Power Versus Liberty: Madison, Hamilton, Wilson, and Jefferson. University of Virginia Press.

November 1: McGuire, Kevin T. (2004). “The institutionalization of the US Supreme Court.” Political Analysis, 12(2), 128-142.

December 3: Wood, Gordon S. (2005). The Americanization of Benjamin Franklin. Penguin, Chapters 3-5.

January 17: Robertson, David B. (2013). The Original Compromise: What the Constitution’s Framers Were Thinking. Oxford University Press (whole book).

February 14: Ackerman, Bruce A. (2000). We the People: Transformations (Vol. 2). Harvard University Press, Chapters 1-3.

March 6: SPECIAL GUEST: Iain McLean, Oxford University (discussion leader)

  1. The Federalist, Nos. 10, 39, 55, 57, 63, 68
  2. David Hume, “Digression Concerning the Ecclasiastical State,” History of England.
  3. James Madison, “Memorial and remonstrance against Religious Freedom,” “Vices of the political system of the United States,” and “Federalist No. 10.”
  4. Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations, “Institutions for the Education of the Youth” through “Support them by the Arms of All the Other Detachments.”
  5. Adam Smith, “Lectures on Jurisprudence: report dated 1766”
  6. James Wilson, “Plan and General Principles…” in his Lectures on Law, delivered in the College of Philadelphia.
  7. John Witherspoon, “An address to the natives of Scotland residing in America 1778.”
  8. Iain McLean, “Adam Smith, James Wilson, and the US Constitution” Forthcoming in the Adam Smith Review.

April 11: Ackerman, Bruce A. (2000). We the People: Transformations (Vol. 2). Harvard University Press, Chapters 5-6.

May 16: Ackerman, Bruce A. (2000). We The People: Transformations (Vol. 2). Harvard University Press, Chapter 4.


Gordon Ballingrud and Keith Dougherty (n.p.)
“Coalitional Stability: Apportioning the Legislature at the U.S. Constitutional Convention” University of Georgia, Athens GA

We determine which rules of apportionment were coalitionally stable at the U.S. Constitutional Convention of 1787, assuming delegates wanted to maximize their state’s vote share.  We determine coalitional stability by comparing vote shares for all apportionment rules proposed, both for a unicameral or a bicameral legislature. This allows us to determine whether the apportionment rules adopted were in equilibrium among those considered, to identify principles which a majority of states preferred to those enumerated in the Constitution, and to provide clear examples of preference cycling.

Robert Cooper and Keith Dougherty

“The Consistency of James Madison’s Politics,” forthcoming in American Political Thought

James Madison’s mid-career shift from nationalist to Democratic-Republican launched a debate about his political behavior and the consistency of his political thought (Banning 1995; Sheehan 2004, 2009; Gibson 2002, 2005; Matthews 2005). This paper evaluates Madison’s political behavior by comparing his voting record to the voting record of other legislators of his time. Using roll call votes from the Congress of the Confederation and the first four federal congresses, we show that Madison’s politics changed but the change was not atypical. We also provide some evidence for and against various explanations for his mid-career shift. Our study compliments numerous works which use Madison’s political behavior as a backdrop for studying the consistency of his political thought.

Keith Dougherty, Jac Heckelman, Paul Carlsen, and David Gelman 2012

“A New Dataset of Delegate Positions on all Substantive Roll Calls at the U.S. Constitutional Convention,”Historical Methods, 2012, 45(3): 135-141.

Delegate level analysis of the U.S. Constitutional Convention has been limited because the Convention did not record delegate votes. In this article, we introduce the Constitutional Convention Research Group Dataset, which contains 5,121 inferred delegate votes on 620 substantive roll calls at the Convention. The Constitutional Convention Research Group Dataset represents a significant improvement over previous datasets such as those compiled by McDonald (1958) and Dougherty and Heckelman (2009), and datasets based on votes recorded for state blocs (Jillson 1981, 1988).

David A. Gelman and Robert A. Cooper

“The Party’s Over: Party Decline in the Era of Good Feelings”

The period of national one party dominance in the U.S. in the early 1800s (often called the Era of Good Feelings) remains an under-explained political phenomenon in American political development .  We assess several possible explanations that might explain the demise of the Federalist party during this time.  These explanations includes Aldrich’s great principle theory, the importance of factors like the War of 1812, as well as the possibility that fundamental demographic changes irrevocably shifted the electorate against the Federalists.

Trevor Latimer

Vetoes in the Early Republic: A Defense of Norms

The first six presidents (1789-1829) vetoed bills far less frequently than their successors. Previous literature affords two competing explanations for this phenomenon. The “constitutional norms” approach contends that the early presidents used the veto power only to reject unconstitutional legislation, whereas later presidents rejected legislation on both constitutional and policy grounds. The “veto bargaining” approach argues that the early presidents vetoed fewer bills because the electoral conditions under which vetoes typically occur had yet to emerge. This article accepts the insights of the veto bargaining approach, but defends a modified version of the norms account. The account says that in the early republic, a veto was only considered legitimate when the legislature passed unconstitutional or hasty legislation, or interfered with executive prerogatives. The emergence of the modern veto required the legitimation of vetoes for partisan purposes. Modern vetoes, as described by the veto bargaining approach, require both electoral and ideological preconditions.


Professor Keith Dougherty, Director, American Founding Group:

Trevor Latimer, Scholar-in-Residence, American Founding Group:

Constitutional Convention Research Group:

American Constitution: 225th Anniversary of the Ratification Conference:

Jack Miller Center:

UGA Constitution Day:


For more information, visit: 


Michael J. Klarman, “The Constitution as a Coup Against Public Opinion”


Akhil Amar, “The Constitution at a Crossroads”


Jack Rakove, “What Did the Constitution Really Mean? Two Interpretations”