Exhibits on American History

Constitutional Convention – The year was 1787. The place: the State House in Philadelphia, the same location where the Declaration of Independence had been signed 11 years earlier. For four months, 55 delegates from the several states met to frame a Constitution for a federal republic that would last into “remote futurity.” This is the story of the delegates to that convention and the framing of the federal Constitution.

The Federalist-Antifederalist Debate – Between 1787 and 1788, a vigorous public debate occurred between the proponents of the ratification of the Constitution of 1787, and those in opposition. Organized by Alexander Hamilton and aimed primarily at the people of New York, the Federalist Papers offer arguments in favor of ratification as well as a guide to interpretation of the new Constitution. Though less organized, a series of essays would be published by various opponents, ultimately known as the Anti-Federalist Papers, which warned Americans of the threat the Constitution posed to their newly won liberties. This is the story of that “out-of-doors” debate and how the United States is still guided by these opinions offered more than 200 years ago.

The Ratification of the United States Constitution – The years were 1787 and 1788. The places: “out-of-doors” in newspapers and pamphlets throughout America’s thirteen states and “in-doors” in the state ratifying conventions. Following the Constitutional Convention, a great debate took place throughout America over the Constitution that had been proposed. This is the story of the debate over the ratification of the United States Constitution.

The Bill of Rights – This site chronicles the creation and adoption of the U. S. Bill of Rights starting with the English and Colonial tradition, and working its way through the American Revolution, the State Ratifying Conventions, and finally ending with the debates over Madison’s 39 Proposals in the First Congress. With the assistance of original sources, secondary commentaries, visual aides, modules, and Excel print outs, the site offers us the opportunity to rethink a number of issues connected with the original and refined Bill of Rights.

From Bullets to Ballots: The Election of 1800 — The Ashbrook Center, with the permission of The Claremont Institute, is pleased to bring John Zvesper’s monograph From Bullets to Ballots to TeachingAmericanHistory.org. The American founding did not end with the ratification of the Constitution. The experience of political party making in the 1790s set into motion the regime created by the constitution-making of the 1770s and 1780s. Americans can learn important things about their politics today by reflecting on the experience of the 1790s. And if American political experience has lessons for other democracies, some of the most important of those lessons can be found here. For Zvesper’s own view of how his book differs from other works on the 1790s, see this book review.

Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial —– February 12, 2009 marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln. Born to poor farmers in a humble backwater, Lincoln lacked the distinguished pedigree of many of his presidential predecessors. This product of a border state caught between the free North and the slave South, however, represented the last, best chance to ensure, “that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” We present here a collection of resources on Abraham Lincoln. Included are many of Lincoln’s most notable speeches and letters, commentary and lectures by leading historians and political scientists, original lesson plans developed by history professors and master classroom teachers, and links to addition web resources.

The Civil War Sesquicentennial –— The Civil War began on April 12, 1861 at 4:30am when Confederate troops opened fire on Fort Sumter in South Carolina. Those shots marked the beginning of a nearly four-year struggle that ultimately determined whether our nation would honor the principles upon which it was founded or be ripped asunder by the conflicts that had existed between principle and practice since the founding. We present here a collection of resources on the Civil War. Included are many of the era’s most notable speeches and letters, commentary and lectures by leading historians and political scientists, original lesson plans developed by history professors and master classroom teachers, and links to additional web resources.

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