Books That Matter: The Federalist Papers

Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good to know more about them The Federalist Papers should be considered among the more important and influential works in American History and maybe World History. At the time I took this course, I was teaching a young man about the Papers themselves. As a history teacher and in full honesty, my own understanding of them was not up to scratch. Now, however, I can say that I have a much clearer understanding of what many of the essays were talking about and what they were trying to convince its readers.
Date published: 2021-04-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great presentation of details and significance Prof. Hoffmann gave an interesting, thorough, and unbiased discussion of the Federalist Papers. He effectively related the writings to events from the original adoption of the constitution to the present times.
Date published: 2021-03-26
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Biased with at least one major faux paux The presenter is too over the top as a cheerleader for the Constitution. In 2020 I think Great Courses needs to show some more diversity in thought. And one major factual problem. In the cartoon sequence when you can "run into" delegates to the Constitutional Convention, the second person you meet in Thomas Jefferson.... He was famously NOT at the convention as he was the Minister to France and was in France.
Date published: 2021-03-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from very good introduction A great introduction to the constitution and the reasoning behind its provisions as viewed by the writers of the Federalist Papers. I learned a great deal. I throughly enjoyed this course for as far as it went. However, there were many assumptions built into the decisions of how to frame the constitution and their background rationale whose validity can be questioned by subsequent American history. A very valuable follow-up to the course would be one that examines how these assumptions and choices have actually played out. The lecturer touched on these topics in the last lecture. A fuller examination would be very useful.
Date published: 2021-03-08
Rated 3 out of 5 by from The Federalist Papers This was awesome! So much detail, I will listen to this course again!!!
Date published: 2021-03-01
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Informative Very informative and enlightening. I feel I have a fundamental understanding of the Federalist Papers.
Date published: 2021-02-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great lecture Recommended for anyone wanting to have a better understanding of the constitutions. This course can be considered necessary for those interested in constitutional interpretation.
Date published: 2021-02-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding Great lecturer and filled with many details. Made many of the essays clear.
Date published: 2021-01-31
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Books That Matter: The Federalist Papers
Course Trailer
A Blueprint for American Government
1: A Blueprint for American Government

Understanding The Federalist Papers starts with understanding who wrote them and why they were written. In this opening lecture, go back to 1787 to meet Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay to find out what challenges they faced in communicating the need for the new U.S. Constitution.

34 min
A Democracy or a Republic?
2: A Democracy or a Republic?

The Framers of the Constitution believed pure democracy was something to be feared for the way it would lead to the rise of factions, which would in turn tear apart the system. Was it possible to create a new model that offered the benefits of representative democracy without the problems of factions? See how the Framers tackled this conflict.

34 min
A Federation or a Nation?
3: A Federation or a Nation?

When the Framers gathered in Philadelphia to write a new constitution, they essentially were representing a loose federation of nation-states. Their original charge was to modify the Articles of Confederation, but there was a solid case for a strong central government. Examine this dilemma and the compromises that Madison and Hamilton made.

35 min
American Federalism
4: American Federalism

Given all the conflicts and compromises of 1787, how did the American federal system come about? How did the Framers solve the issues of the day while preserving flexibility for the future? Review the enumerated powers of the federal government and see how power was balanced between the federal government and the states.

33 min
Dual Sovereignty
5: Dual Sovereignty

The system that emerged under the new constitution gave the federal government the ability to determine the scope of its own powers. What checks did the system place on the federal government? Who gets to decide when the federal government has violated its powers? Reflect on the powers of the states and the American people.

34 min
Popular Sovereignty and States’ Rights
6: Popular Sovereignty and States’ Rights

The idea of popular sovereignty—the power of the American people—reshaped the relationship between the states and the federal government. In this lecture, consider the ever-changing relationship of the states to the federal government. See how the institution of slavery was the catalyst for a crisis.

33 min
The Separation of Powers
7: The Separation of Powers

In Federalist Nos. 47 through 51, James Madison explains why the concept of “separation of powers” is so important for the future of the American government. Dig into these five amazing essays to understand what the familiar term “separation of powers” really means—and why he was so optimistic about America’s future.

32 min
The Federal Legislature
8: The Federal Legislature

James Madison believed the legislature posed the greatest threat to the integrity of the system the Framers had so carefully designed. In “Federalist No. 48,” “Federalist No. 51,” and elsewhere, he laid out warnings about the legislature seizing too much power, as well as the solution of a bicameral legislature. Delve into this thorny issue.

32 min
The President of the United States
9: The President of the United States

Shift your attention from the legislature to the chief executive, the single most powerful government official in the world today. But, as you will learn in your exploration of The Federalist Papers, the Framers had a different view of the presidency. Review Alexander Hamilton’s essays about the office and the powers of the president.

32 min
The Federal Judiciary
10: The Federal Judiciary

Round out your study of the branches of government with an in-depth look at the federal judiciary, one of the three branches of the federal government. The Framers believed the judiciary was the branch least likely to infringe on the liberty of the American people. Reflect on its role and its power, and then review the most important constitutional law case in American History: Marbury v. Madison.

33 min
The Evolution of American Federalism
11: The Evolution of American Federalism

The story of the Constitution is one of both stability and change. In this lecture, take a look at some of the most important ways the Constitution has evolved over the past 230 years. Consider whether the changes have largely honored the original spirit of the Constitution or broken faith with the vision of the Framers.

33 min
The Future of the United States Constitution
12: The Future of the United States Constitution

What does the future look like for America’s democratic republic? As you have seen, one of the most important trends has been the gradual increase in federal power, but the tension between federal and state power remains. Is there still a future for republican government? What might a Second Constitutional Convention look like? And would we want to find out?

35 min
Joseph L. Hoffmann

Criminal law has become the sole province of the government acting on behalf of society as a whole, rather than on behalf of the crime victims.


University of Washington School of Law


Indiana University Maurer School of Law

About Joseph L. Hoffmann

Joseph L. Hoffmann is the Harry Pratter Professor of Law at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law, where he has taught since 1986. He received a J.D. (cum laude) from the University of Washington School of Law. After law school, Professor Hoffmann clerked for the Honorable Phyllis A. Kravitch of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit and for then-associate justice William H. Rehnquist of the U.S. Supreme Court. Professor Hoffmann is a nationally recognized scholar in the fields of criminal law, criminal procedure, habeas corpus, and the death penalty. He was a co-principal investigator for the Capital Jury Project, the largest empirical project ever to study jury decision making in capital cases, and has been a consultant in criminal and death penalty cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. At Indiana University, Professor Hoffmann has been recognized with the Outstanding Junior Faculty Award, the Leon H. Wallace Teaching Award, the Trustees’ Teaching Award, the Teaching Excellence Recognition Award, and the Gavel Award. Professor Hoffmann is the co-author of two of the leading casebooks used by law students across the United States: Defining Crimes and Comprehensive Criminal Procedure. In 2007, Professor Hoffmann appeared in the PBS series The Supreme Court.

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