This two-week National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Institute for College and University Teachers offers a comprehensive examination of westward expansion and the Constitution in the early American republic, one that focuses on the role of government and constitutional limits in a nation that aggressively extended its borders. During the first week we begin with colonial antecedents, trace the story through the American Revolution and the establishment of the Constitution, and then explore how Americans interpreted that Constitution in the first half of the nineteenth century as the nation reached across a continent. The second week continues with the saga of expansion but also examines two essential constitutional issues raised by that expansion: the treatment of Native Americans and the institution of chattel slavery. The Institute ends with a discussion of the Mexican-American War. Without describing this great story of American history as the inevitable triumph of a mystical manifest destiny or offering a politically inspired critique, this Institute portrays American expansion as a halting, debated, and contingent set of experiences that included crucial questions central to citizenship, race, ethnicity, and, of course, the Constitution.
Faculty: Kevin Butterfield (co-Director), Paul Gilje (co-Director), Amy Greenberg, Peter Kastor, Peter Onuf, Lindsay Robertson, Alan Taylor, and Fay Yarbrough