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Books That Matter: The Federalist Papers

See what the 85 essays that make up The Federalist Papers can tell us about American government from its founding to today.
Books That Matter: The Federalist Papers is rated 4.7 out of 5 by 134.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from wonderful content, excellent presentation A very informative discussion. A deep, yet accessible presentation of what our brilliant founding fathers were thinking as they created our Constitution. Highly recommended. Fair and balanced . Delightful. One of the best courses I have viewed, among the dozens I have watched.
Date published: 2024-01-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from EXCELLENT I learned so much about what happened after the end of the war and what our Founding Fathers fought for to give us the country we enjoy today.
Date published: 2023-08-19
Rated 3 out of 5 by from The Federalist I just started this course. I was watching lecture 4 when Professor (?) Hoffman was talking about the framers in the convention hall. He said there's Benjamin Franklin and the small man in the corner is James Madison. The tall man is Thomas Jefferson. I think Thomas Jefferson was in France at this time. Otherwise I am enjoying course so far.
Date published: 2023-07-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Mandatory Civic Class Excellent class discussed the founding principles and logics of American Republic and Federalism. This should be civic requirement for all high schools and college students.
Date published: 2023-07-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazingly informative, relevent to current events This was viewed as part of a life long learning activity consisting of mostly retired professionals, all with advanced degrees in STEM. This was chosen for it's brevity and ability to fit between two longer topics. What a joy to find it so engaging and relevant. Most of us considered ourselves well versed in civics, having been educated in a time when that was part of general education, plus having studied this historical era in other courses. We learned a lot. Our usual post lecture discussions that usually drift to current hot topics had a natural segue from the lecture that was eerily prescient of today's concerns. Highly recommended.
Date published: 2023-05-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding summary of an important subject Professor Hoffman provides a very clear summary of The Federalist Papers, including the background that gave rise to the publication of the essays comprise them and the influence they have had in shaping the federal and state governments in the United States of America. His lecturing style is smooth and articulate, and the lectures were easy to listen to.
Date published: 2023-05-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Highly informative Although I’ve read a lot of American history, I’ve never been able to get through the arcane language of the Federalist Papers. This course presented an excellent overview. I found it informative and thought-provoking. The professor is an excellent speaker, and presented challenging ideas in a way that’s easy to follow. It was particularly interesting to see how the country has evolved since its founding. Times are very different than they were 230+ years ago, and our ideals of republicanism and democracy have had to adjust along the way. The founders couldn’t predict everything, but they did a superb job of creating a system that is resilient and flexible, to grow with the nation.
Date published: 2023-03-16
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good presentation of the Federalist Papers Several years ago I read the Federalist Papers. If I am being honest I did not get a lot out of that reading. I found them very dry and dense, and I really had to work to get through the book which I wanted to do given their historical significance. I got much more out of watching this class, and I definitely have a better feel of what were newspaper editorials written to promote the passage of what is now our constitution and to promote a new style of government. But I do wonder though, how they were received in their times. One has to assume that folks were used to reading this type of prose. The presenter, Joseph L. Hoffmann, did an excellent job of explaining these documents and their historical roots and significance. I did find the presentation a bit dry at times, but sometimes you need to work a little to learn something. If you have an interest in American history, or the history of our constitution, I believe you find this course valuable and worth your time.
Date published: 2023-01-30
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Overview

Books That Matter: The Federalist Papers gives you the chance to delve into one of the most influential guides to the U.S. Constitution. Taught by acclaimed professor and legal scholar Joseph L. Hoffmann of the Indiana University Maurer School of Law, these 12 thought-provoking lectures unpack the 85 brilliant essays by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay that serve essentially as the Bible of American government.

About

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.

INSTITUTION

Indiana University Maurer School of Law

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.

By This Professor

Books That Matter: The Federalist Papers
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Law School for Everyone
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Books That Matter: The Federalist Papers

Trailer

A Blueprint for American Government

01: 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?

02: 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?

03: 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

04: 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

05: 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

06: 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

07: 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

08: 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

09: 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