The Principles of America's Founding

The Newberry Library

The Newberry Library

The Newberry Library

In this 5-day sequence at the Newberry Library, high school teachers will pursue an exciting inquiry into the Founders' political philosophy. Lectures, discussions, and workshops will bring to life the fundamental arguments of the Founding, which continue to animate our political life.

Readings will include core AP Government texts such as the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Federalist and Anti-Federalist Papers. We will also examine closely the thought of Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln, and the musically celebrated Alexander Hamilton. Participation promises invaluable preparation for civics, American history, and government classes.

Esteemed college faculty from around the nation, led by the seminar organizer Svetozar Minkov of Roosevelt University, will guide Chicagoland teachers in analyzing and interpreting the crucial documents of the Founding era. Exploration of rare materials from the Newberry collection and a session held at the Art Institute of Chicago will round out the week.

The seminar is free for high school teachers selected to participate, who will receive:

  • 25 hours of professional development credit
  • a $250 stipend to defray costs
  • breakfast and lunch each day, plus a group dinner on the Tuesday evening
  • a bound volume of primary source readings, sent in advance of the seminar

To apply, use the online application form linked at the bottom of this page.

Note: Participation in this program can also count toward a graduate history course at Roosevelt University, History and Philosophy of the American Founding (3 credits). Additional hours would be completed over several weekends in the Fall of 2017; scholarships are available for qualified applicants. For information, write to Professor Minkov at sminkov@roosevelt.edu.


Each Day

Coffee and Continental Breakfast: 8:45 to 9:15 am
Coffee Break: 10:45 to 11 am
Lunch: 12:30 to 1:30 pm

Monday, July 17

9:15 to 9:30 am: Newberry Introduction and Paperwork

9:30 am to 3:30 pm. Hamilton, Madison, and Jay: The Federalist Papers

Tuesday, July 18

9:15 am to 3 pm. The Declaration of Independence

3 to 4 pm: Collection Presentation of Newberry Rare Books and Manuscripts

4 to 7 pm: Reception and Dinner at the Newberry

Wednesday, July 19

9:15 am to 3 pm: Benjamin Franklin and the Scottish Enlightenment

3 to 4 pm: The National Constitution Center's Interactive Constitution

Thursday, July 20

9:15 am 2:30 pm: Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass

2:30 to 3:30 pm: Collection Presentation of Newberry Rare Books and Manuscripts

Friday, July 21

9:15 to 12 noon: Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America

12 to 2 pm: Wrap-up, Lunch, and Bus to Downtown

2 to 3:30 pm: Tour of the Art Institute of Chicago

Cosponsored with the Jack Miller Center, in partnership with the Roosevelt University Montesquieu Forum, with generous support from the Northern Trust Charitable Trust and the Harvey L. Miller Founding Civics Initiative.

Related Programs

The American Form of Government: Its Influences, Founding, and Evolution: A Summer Intensive Civics Program for High School Social Studies Teachers

The University of Chicago Graham School for Continuing Liberal and Professional Studies and the Newberry Library are offering three coordinated one-week intensive sessions. Teachers may attend each one-week session as a stand-alone course, or participate in two or all three sessions consecutively. The Newberry seminar is the second in the series.

At the University of Chicago Graham School

For information about these sessions, contact Tim Murphy, timmurphy@uchicago.edu, Assistant Director of Liberal Arts at the University of Chicago Graham School.

July 10-14, What the Founders Read: The Philosophical Influences on the American Founding

In this 5-day sequence at the University of Chicago's Graham School, teachers will engage in guided close readings and detailed discussions of the major philosophical texts that shaped the political worldview of the founding generation. Texts will include Plato's Republic, Aristotle's Politics, John Locke's Two Treatises of Government, Montesquieu's Spirit of the Laws, and Jean Jacques Rousseau's Social Contract. An immersive grappling with the big ideas that the founders wrestled with provides an essential foundation to understanding the government they created.

July 24-28, The Unwritten Constitution: The Evolution of the Congress and Presidency

In this 5-day sequence at the University of Chicago's Graham School, teachers will study the history and evolution of the American Government. The Founders set into place the basic structures of government, and subsequent generations of political leaders shaped its future forms. Week 3 will include a special session on pedagogy by a scholar from the National Archives. Topics to be covered include the crisis of the Civil War, the Progressive Era, the New Deal and Great Society, and the War Powers. Readings will include de Tocqueville's Democracy in America, Woodrow Wilson's Congressional Government, and Herbert Croly's The Promise of American Life, as well as documents by other presidents and congressional leaders.