August 2023 meeting of the AFG

The 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.

2023-2024 MEETINGS

All meetings are at 11:30 am at DePalma’s unless otherwise specified. Lunch is provided by the AFG.

Sept 15 – 11:30 am – 1:00 pm, DePlama’s Cafe. Discussion Leader: Mary Sarah Bilder, “The Soul of a Free Government: The Influence of John Adams’s A Defence on the Constitutional Convention.”

Oct 6 – Jeffrey Lenowitz. 2022. Constitutional Ratification Without Reason, excerpt

Nov 3 – Anne K. Heffernan. 2023. Disability: A Democratic Dilemma, excerpt

Dec 1- Andrew Coan and David Swartz. 2023. “Interpreting Ratification,” American Constitutional History

Jan 12- ZOOM. Farley Grubb. 2023. The Continental Dollar: How the American Revolution was Financed with Paper Money

Feb 2- Peter Hoffer. “John Jay and St. George Tucker. Lawyers and the Road to the Civil War”

Mar 1- Phillip Hamburger. 2011. “Judicial Office,” Journal of Law, Philosophy and Culture

Apr 5 – “Republic of Georgia. Ordinance of Secession,” passed January 19, 1861; and “Alexander Stephens’ Cornerstone Speech”

May 3- ZOOM: Michael Taylor. 2023. “Philadelphia and America Celebrate: July 4, 1788”



Sept 16 — 11:30am-1:00 pm, DePlama’s Cafe. Discussion Leader: Sandy Levinson, “Loyalty and Disloyalty to the Constitution: Meditations on 1776, 1861, and 2022.”

Oct 7 — Zoom 12:00-1:00 pm. Discussion Leader: Greg Ablavsky, “How Native leaders engaged with the Constitution.”

Nov 4 — 12:00-1:30 pm, DePlama’s Cafe. Peter Hoffer. 2022. “Wendall Philips, Public Interest Lawyer.”

Dec 2 — 12:00-1:30 pm, DePlama’s Cafe. Schneer, et al., 2022. “Popular Origins of Legislative Jurisdictions.”

Jan 13 — 11:30 am-12:30pm, DePlama’s Cafe. Kylie Hulbert. 2022. The Untold War at Sea: America’s Revolutionary Privateers.

Feb 3 — 11:30 am-12:30pm, DePlama’s Cafe. Akil Amar. 2022. The Words that Made Us (excerpts).

Mar 3 — Zoom 11:30 am-12:30pm. Discussion Leader: Jeremy Pope, BYU, TBD.

Apr 7 — 11:30 am-12:30pm, DePlama’s Cafe. Tanner Huff. “U.S. Military Action and Undeclared War Prior to the Civil War.”

May 5 — 11:30 am-12:30pm, DePlama’s Cafe. Sean Wilentz. 2019. No Property in Man: Slavery and Antislavery at the Nation’s Founding, Ch 2, “The Federal Constitution and the Curse of Heaven.”


September 17 –

  • 11:30-12:30 pm. Discussion Leader: Annette Gordon-Reed lecture “On Juneteenth” (registration link will be forwarded next week)
  • 1:30-2:30 pm. Discussion of Annette Gordon-Reed, 2000, “Engaging Jefferson: Blacks and the Founding Father.”

Oct 1 – Discussion Leader: Peter Hoffer, “Alexander Hamilton and Instrumental Constitutionalism.”

Nov 5 – Discussion Leader: Nathan S. Chapman and Michael W. McConnell, Agreeing to Disagree: How the Establishment Clause Promotes Religious Pluralism and Preserves Freedom of Conscience (excerpt).

Dec 3 – Discussion Leader: Jeremy Pope and Soren Schmidt. 2021. “Father Founders: Did Child Gender Affect Voting at the Constitutional Convention?”

Jan 7 – Discussion Leader: Donald Johnson. 2020. Occupied America: British Military Rule and the Experience of Revolution.

Feb 4 – Discussion Leader: Michael J. Faber. 2019. An Anti-Federalist Constitution: The Development of Dissent in the Ratification Debates (excerpt).

Mar 4 – Discussion Leader: Jonathan Gienapp, Stanford History (guest)

Apr 1 – Discussion Leader: Michael Taylor. 2021. James Wilson the Anxious Founder (excerpt).

May 6 – Discussion Leader: David Gelman. 2018. “Ideology and Participation: Examining the Constitutional Convention of 1787.”


September 17 – Discussion Leader:  Michael Zuckert, Notre Dame; “Judicial Duty in the Natural Rights Republic: James Madison and Judicial Review.”

October 2 – Discussion Leader: John P. Kaminski, University of Wisconsin; Abigail Adams: An American Heroine.

Nov 2 — Discussion Leader: Peter Hoffer, University of Georgia, “The Seward Doctrine.”

Dec 4 — Discussion Leader: Bradley Thompson, Clemson; America’s Revolutionary Mind.

Jan 8 — Discussion Leader: Robert George, Princeton; Federalist Papers.

Feb 5 —  Discussion Leader: Max Edling, Kings College London; Perfecting the Union.

Mar 5 — Discussion Leader: William Barclay Allen, Michigan State University; TBD.

Apr 2 — Discussion Leader: Keith Whittington, Princeton; Repugnant Laws, Chs. 2-3.

May 7 — Discussion Leader: Jean Yarbrough, Bowdoin College; TBD.


Unless otherwise noted, meetings convene at 11:30 am at Porterhouse Grill, 459 E. Broad St. in Athens, with lunch following:

Monday, September 16 (Constitution Day) – special schedule
12:15 pm – Lunch at Porterhouse Grill with guest speaker Alan Taylor
1:30 pm – Keynote Lecture in UGA Chapel
Reading: Click here

Friday, October 11
Reading: Keith Dougherty and Aaron Hitefield, “Success at the Constitutional Convention.”

Friday, November 1
Reading: Peter Hoffer, Mr. Webster’s Constitution (excerpt).

Friday, December 6
Reading: Jonathan Gienapp, “The Foreign Founding:  Rights, Fixity, and the Original Constitution.”

Unless otherwise noted, meetings convene at 12 noon at DePalma’s Italian Cafe, 401 E Broad St in downtown Athens, with lunch following:

Friday, January 10
Reading: Mark E. Neely Jr., “Lincoln and the Triumph of the Nation.”

Friday, February 7
Reading: John Ferejohn, Jack Rakove, and Jonathan Riley, Constitutional Culture and Democratic Rule (excerpt).

Friday, March 6 
Reading: Kurt Lash, “James Madison’s Celebrated Report of 1800.”

Friday, April 3 
Reading: Jack Greene, Peripheries and Center (excerpt).

Friday, May 1
Reading: John W. Shy, “A People Numerous and Armed.”


August 24: Maier – “The Strange History of All Men Are Created Equal”

September 17: Berkin’s public lecture for Constitution Day

October 5: Baude – “Constitutional Liquidation”

November 2: Onuf – “Reflections on the Founding: Constitutional Historiography in Bicentennial Perspective”

November 30: O’toole – “The Historical Interpretations of Samuel Adams”

January 11: Nelson – The Royalist Revolution: Monarchy and the American Founding

February 1: Sherry – “The Founders’ Unwritten Constitution”

March 1: Special Guest Speaker

May 10: Paul – Chapter 14 – The Jonathan Robbins Affair, in Without Precedent: Chief Justice John Marshall and His Times


September 15: Klarman’s public lecture for Constitution Day

October 6: Alexander Kaufman – “Consensualism, Voluntarism, and Democracy”

November 3: Nathan Coleman – “State Sovereignty, Interposition, and Liberty: The Constitutional Significance of Article II of the Articles of Confederation”

 December 1: Joseph Ellis – The Quartet

January 5: John Milton – “Areopagitica”

February 2: Jack Rakove – “Judicial Power in the Constitutional Theory of James Madison”

March 9: SPECIAL GUEST, Elizabeth Beaumont, UC Santa Cruz (discussion leader)

April 13: 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
“Coalitional Instability and the Three-Fifths Compromise,” forthcoming in the American Journal of Political Science.

Were the initial apportionments of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate inevitable? This paper determines the coalitional stability of apportionment rules considered at the Constitutional Convention assuming the Convention limited itself to the rules proposed. Using each state’s vote share as a measure of state preference, we find that the stability of legislative apportionment depended upon the states making decisions. Equal apportionment was in equilibrium with thirteen states present, as in the Continental Congress, but when Rhode Island and New Hampshire were absent during the first third of the Convention all rules were in a top cycle. With New York departing near the middle of the Convention, equal apportionment and the Three-Fifths Clause both became stable, and the Great Compromise was reached. We conclude that the Great Compromise was partly the result of historical contingency (i.e., which states participated), rather than necessity.

Robert Cooper and Keith Dougherty

The Consistency of James Madison’s Politics,” American Political Thought, 2017, 6(2), 201-227.

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:

Constitutional Convention Research Group:

American Constitution: 225th Anniversary of the Ratification Conference:

Jack Miller Center:

UGA Constitution Day:


The winners of the 2019 AFG paper competition are:

  1. Caleb Morris – “The American Throne”
  2. Tanner Huff – “Blood, Sweat, and Literacy Tests: Chronicling Voting Rights in America”
  3. Drew Young – “Whose Revolution?  Inequality in the Colonial Americas and the Framers Intent for a More Just Society”

We thank our winners and all other participants for some really great submissions.

The winners of the 2018 AFG paper competition are:

  1. Andrew Young
  2. Sam Hayes
  3. Tanner Huff

Undergraduate Paper Competition Information