LEAD 217
American Constitutionalism II: Rights and Liberties Spring 2025
Division II
Cross-listed PSCI 217

Class Details

How has the American Constitution been debated and understood over time? What is the relationship between constitutional and political change? This course examines the historical development of American constitutional law and politics from the Founding to the present. Our focus is on rights and liberties — freedom of speech and religion, property, criminal process, autonomy and privacy, and equality. The specific disputes under these rubrics range from abortion to affirmative action, hate speech to capital punishment, school prayer to same-sex marriage; the historical periods to be covered include the early republic, the ante-bellum era, the Civil War and Reconstruction, World Wars I and II, the Warren Court, and contemporary America. Readings are drawn from Supreme Court opinions, presidential addresses, congressional debates and statutes, political party platforms, key tracts of American political thought, and secondary scholarship on constitutional development. Throughout the semester, our goal will be less to remember elaborate doctrinal rules and multi-part constitutional “tests” than to understand the changing nature of, and changing relationship between, constitutional rights and constitutional meaning in American history.
The Class: Format: lecture
Limit: 25
Expected: 18
Class#: 3683
Grading: no pass/fail option, yes fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: three essays (3-4 pages, 5-6 pages, 7-8 pages), a two-part final exam, and class participation
Prerequisites: none
Enrollment Preferences: Political Science majors
Distributions: Division II
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
PSCI 217 Division II LEAD 217 Division II
Attributes: JLST Interdepartmental Electives
LEAD Facets or Domains of Leadership
POEC Depth
PSCI American Politics Courses

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