Adam Tate

Adam Tate is professor of history and chair of the Department of Humanities at Clayton State University in Morrow, Georgia.

Jeffersonian Public Relations

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American politics operates through building narratives to create certain impressions that spur people to action. Stories about our history, particularly “the Founding,” have long shaped our self-understanding and influenced government. Was the American Revolution radical or conservative? Was the U.S. Constitution a counter-revolution to the Declaration of Independence? Was the Union formed in 1776, in 1781, or in 1789? Controversy over each of these questions has a history dating back to the early years of the Republic. Partisans of each position crafted an account that supported their answers and used it to explain the way that U.S. politics and institutions developed,…

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Remembering Forrest McDonald


Though modern Americans spend many years as students, most will readily admit that a good teacher is rare and thus memorable. I had the good fortune to have a great one in Forrest McDonald, who passed away last month at the age of 89. Others more qualified than I can speak of his tremendous scholarly achievements; and his personal friends, I am sure, can praise his virtues. I wish to honor Professor McDonald as a teacher. He was great because of his devotion to the discipline of history and his generous spirit.

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This Republic of Federalism

Timothy Sandefur’s The Conscience of the Constitution contributes to the debate over the best way to limit the powers of the United States government in order to secure liberty. Sandefur, a lawyer and legal scholar, believes that Conscience“American constitutional history has always hovered in the mutual resistance of two principles: the right of each individual to be free, and the power of the majority to make rules.” (1) For Sandefur adherence to the natural rights theory of Declaration of Independence manages the tension between the two principles.

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The Fallacies of Marshallian Nationalism

The Fallacies of States' rights

In this spirited polemic, Prof. Sotirios Barber defends the American nationalist constitutional tradition, particularly the thought of John Marshall, from the attacks of both states’ rights advocates (who he calls “dual federalists) and process federalists, those who believe national power should be used in expansive ways to protect individual rights without working to establish one specific American society. Barber uses Marshall’s 1819 decision in McCulloch v. Maryland as the starting point for nationalist analysis. Hence, he mentions only briefly the important clashes between nationalists and their opponents during the first three decades of the Early Republic. In explaining the rationale…

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Are My Federalists His Antifederalists?

Gordon Lloyd has spent much of his career studying the Founding period.  One of the many fruits of his diligent work has been his four excellent websites designed to teach the Philadelphia Convention, the Federalist-Antifederalist debates, the Ratification Conventions, and the Bill of Rights to students. To say that Lloyd knows the Founding well is an understatement.  In his essay, Lloyd argues that a return to the thought of the Founders, who envisioned a federal republic, is a potential solution to confronting the Neo-Progressives who promote a national democracy, a “centralized Administrative State,” an imperial presidency, and an activist judiciary.  He…

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Partly National, Partly Federalist

106411931Oliver Ellsworth’s moderate federalism advanced the Connecticut Compromise at the Constitutional Convention of 1787, the Judiciary Act of 1789, and helped ameliorate the blunt edge of the Alien and Sedition Acts with jury nullification. He is now remembered only by scholars of the era. Perhaps his legacy should be reconsidered.